During the month of January, our agency focused on the commitment of emotional intelligence, particularly self care. As an agency, we have discussed this quite a bit and encourage it regularly. The self care plan we adopted through sanctuary gives us a tool to explore what self care looks like for each of us, and to explore what works and what does not. Now, when I used to think about self care, I thought about bubble baths and pedicures, dinners with friends and movies with the husband. Self care is those things, but it is a whole lot more as well. Self care is anything I can do to prevent stress in the future, to take care of myself now so that I do not get to the breaking point. It involves tasks that are far not as enjoyable as a pedicure. Through my own adventure in self care, I have found one underlying theme in my journey: self care is hard and sometimes, it flat out sucks.
Now, self care looks easy on paper, and is easy when things are going well. It is easy to hit the gym and socialize when work is lower stress and there are few to no life issues. What I have found though is that when I need to do self care most, like when I am stressed out or feeling down, it is like pulling teeth. It requires me to sit myself down, remind myself that I am an adult, and that I need to act like it. When I get stressed out, I curl up with my cats in front of the TV and write it off as self care via relaxation. For me, small doses of this is fine, but there comes a point where I need to drag myself out of the house, even if I do not want to, and socialize with my friends, hit the gym or clean the house. I feel better afterward, but it feels impossible to get started. For example, I had had pneumonia over the holidays. I spent a couple weeks in my sweat pants watching TV and felt pretty miserable in general. One of my friends finally pointed out to me the “fake it until you make it” idea. Sure enough, shortly after I started getting up and dressed each day like normal, I started to feel a little better. I’m sure others have similar experiences with their self care rituals.
Day to day self care can be difficult as well, and the self care habits below especially require me to put on my adult pants. No one likes getting checkups at the doctor, and those who know me well know that I am worse than most 4 year olds at the dentist. However, this is an important part of self care. As is paying bills, getting out of credit card debt, planning for retirement and buying textbooks for school. I have recently taken on the task of setting a budget and sticking to it. It is hard, and it is quite far from fun, but it is important. Financial self care can relieve a lot of stress in the long run, however boring and stressful it seems in the moment.
Finally, I have found that what seems ideal on paper is does not always match what I am able to do. I spent a week recording my self care practices on a day to day basis to see what I actually do (it was annoying, but worth it!). What I ended up with is a self care plan based around what I already do instead of what I would like to do for self care. I would encourage everyone to take 5 minutes a day to log their self care for a week or two, and see how it matches up with what is on your current self care plan. The differences may surprise you!
I think it is important to recognize that self care is a lot harder to practice than it is to preach. I know I never realized that adulating is a part of self care, however necessary. It requires me to recognize that when I do not want to use my self care plan is the exact time I need to force myself to. It also requires me to reflect on what I actually do and see if it matches what I say I am going to do. If it does not match, what is the point of the plan? The intention I set for myself this year is to make my self care plan the same on paper as it is in practice, and to stop pretending that the fun stuff is all the self care I need, because in reality, it’s not.