6/08/20 BLOG 9: THE 'SELF' OF SELF-CARE
Hi it’s Jo here again. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the creative workshops over the last few weeks. This week I wanted to explore what we mean by the ‘self’ when we talk about ‘self -care’.
Self-care is a term that has exploded in the last few years. Nowadays it can often conjure up images of expensive leisure wear and luxury healthcare brands, making us feel that purchasing items is an essential part of any self-care routine. As Anna discussed in her blog post, the term self-care was originally used as a radical political act. In this sense self-care was the opposite of self-help. Self-help was seen as the constant striving to better yourself – always implying that you were falling short of the ‘perfect’ you. Self-care was a reaction to this – taking space, booting the idea of this ‘perfect’ self right out of the window and claiming ground for you; imperfect, unique, beautiful you. If self-help was the way to achieve the perfect lawn with each grass blade identical and uniform, in need of constant preening and adjustment; self-care was the meadow with a variety of beautiful flowers and grasses putting down roots and enjoying the sunshine and soil in order to grow and flourish. Self-care in this sense is not about bettering yourself. That said, it shouldn't stop you from growing. Just make sure if you’re learning that new language or taking that aerial yoga class that you’re doing it because it might be fun and that you want to, not because it’s productive or the latest trend, and you feel that you ought to.
So, if self-care is about grounding yourself, taking enjoyment and nourishment from the present, in order to grow strong in the future, how can we distinguish between what we want to do vs what we think we ought to do? Quite often when we think about self-care we rush into action with little thought for how we’re actually feeling and what we might need. So, my suggestion is you take a bit of time to think about how you’re feeling. Once you’ve figured out what emotions you’re experiencing then you need to decide what you want to do. Is this an emotion you want to experience more? Quite often we can link the notion of self-care with tranquillity and sereneness but it is important to recognise that all of your emotions are valid. You need to have an outlet to express your range of emotions or that’s when they can start to feel unmanageable. It’s ok to feel angry and sometimes you just need to be able to do something which lets you express this emotion – I for one love rage cleaning. It’s also ok to take a break from the emotions you’re feeling. What you need to identify is the emotion that you would like to replace your existing one with and what activities might enable you to achieve this new emotion.
Part of your first steps to a self-care routine might be taking some time to identify how you feel when you are experiencing different emotions and what activities can help you achieve this. Think about how your body feels and the sensations you can feel around you when you’re experiencing these emotions. Does your body feel heavy or light, do you feel slow or fast? Is it hot or cold? Bright or dim? Noisy or quiet? For example if you want to feel calm it might be baking something with some relaxing music on in the background or if you want to be silly and energised it might be putting your favourite music on loud and dancing around your bedroom with all the lights on and the windows open. Feeling sad? Maybe you need to get snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, watch a sad film and have a good cry. Having a list of emotions, how you feel when you’re experiencing them and activities related to them can be helpful to refer back to when you’re taking some time for self-care.
Other times self-care might be about taking the time out to understand what may be causing some of the feelings you’re experiencing. Just because something is affecting you personally doesn't mean that it’s necessarily your sole responsibility to solve. Self-care can be acknowledging the wider systems that impact on our lives. This recognition in itself can help to reduce some of the intensity of the emotions we may be finding unmanageable, giving ourselves space to feel and do something else. Other times it’s knowing that you can be part of a collective action. Raising awareness of what’s going on in your lives through the forums such as your voice in order to come together as a group to address these issues.
Self-care is important but it’s not the only solution. There are going to be occasions where you need support from others to address and change how you're feeling. This will be something which Anna explores in an upcoming blog. Self-care is not a one stop shop and it should be flexible. Sometimes it’s about doing things which allow us to express or take a break from how we’re feeling. Self-care can also be about taking the time to figure out what might be causing these emotions. Finally, recognising what you need to flourish doesn't mean that it has to be you alone who meets that need. Just because you are feeling the impact of issues around housing, childcare, money etc doesn’t mean that you have to change these systems alone. You can really make a real difference by speaking out about how these issues are impacting you. The reality is that many of the same issues are affecting a lot of individuals but one voice alone can often go unheard. Together we can raise these concerns to create change - many pebbles together can make big avalanches!
This is where collective action and coming together can be an essential part of self-care. Quite often we can feel defeated and hopeless when we think about some of the things that are impacting our lives. Speaking out about it can give you that control back but take the pressure off of you feeling responsible for solving the issues alone. Taking the time to describe what is impacting your life can be an essential part of self-care and help the emotional reaction to these issues feel more manageable and give you space and time in your life to experience other activities and emotions. If you want to speak about any of the issues that are impacting you please get in touch with us via Your Voice or you can chat with one of our CLiCK workers through the online chat or helpline.
Nice talking to you, remember you’re great as you are – you beautiful wildflower, and take (self) care!