For many, the thought of self-care sparks images of bubble baths, face masks and “treat yo self” memes. While the images conjured may be accurate, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-care.
The term has been thrown around social media platforms a lot recently and I have to say, it’s about damn time. Self-care can be perceived by many as selfish. What right do I have to relax, take a break or recharge when I have (insert your own life responsibilities here) going on in my life? Or the flip side argument…what if Karen at work judges me for taking that mental health day? I do have that deadline coming up soon…
I have one thing to say to Karen – You can’t pour from an empty cup. No matter what you say or think (or tell yourself repeatedly), you cannot fully serve or give to others, in relationships, in the workplace or otherwise, until you have taken care of yourself first. As we’re reminded on every flight, you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping fellow passengers.
Now before I get into my own self-care journey, let me be clear that I am a ritualistic face masking, bubble bathing, lush bath bomb addict. I always have been. I have always loved treating myself. I learned it from my dad. He was always the first to celebrate my victories or soften life’s blows with a sushi dinner, ice cream or takeout. He always made it known that these things were to be practiced in moderation. In my adulthood, picking up my favorite meal or sweet treat on an especially hard (or great) day is natural to me. I love a long bath accompanied by an extra-large glass of wine to unwind. Don’t even get me started on retail therapy. I still believe those methods of self-care are fine…in moderation. But what happens when you lose your ability to moderate? Here’s where my journey takes a turn.
The loss of my dad in 2018 led me down a road I never expected. I was deeply depressed. Acute major depression due to grief, or “situational depression” as the professionals say. For months, there was no self-care going on in my life. Any attempt I made to try to lift myself up was either short-lived or failed completely. I felt like I was outside of myself and just going through the motions of day to day life. Combined with regular therapy sessions, I eventually started taking an antidepressant. It took me a long time to get over the label of “depression” and even longer to come around to the idea of medicating myself. To my surprise and relief, it helped. A lot. This was a major step for my self-care, although I couldn’t see it that way at the time. After just a few weeks, I regained a lot of normalcy. I was able to feel joy again. I started turning to food whenever I felt sad, because it brought me joy. My online shopping was out of control because those things brought me joy…for a minute. Have you ever walked aimlessly around Target after a long day? I knew there was joy to be found in those aisles.
Needless to say, the wheels were completely off the bus. Fast forward a year, add 20 pounds and subtract a lot of money. It’s a bit of a gross analogy, but do you know that saying about a Band-Aid and a bullet hole? Eating and shopping were my Band-Aids. No matter how delicious the pizza was, how cute the clothes were, they weren’t going to fix the bullet hole.
My cup was so empty. My physical body was out of shape and tired. My immune system was so suppressed, I experienced various respiratory illnesses for the better part of 6 months. My mind was always foggy and my job performance was less than stellar. Have you ever tried to manage 25 six-year olds with boundless energy when you have none yourself? It’s really fucking hard.
I can’t say specifically what changed but I guess time really does begin to heal you. Side note: it’s a nice sentiment but I don’t think anyone has actually been comforted by that saying. I finally came to a point about 5 months ago where I was ready to start focusing on myself again.
Through advice from friends, personal research through books and podcasts, I have flooded myself with information and tools for self-care. I have found a workout regimen that I truly enjoy. It works for my schedule and feels like it will be a long-term lifestyle for me. I meditate daily with the Headspace app and have started digging deeply into my own spirituality. I do a journal practice every morning that includes a gratitude practice and goal setting, shout-out to Rachel Hollis! I can’t say that my nutrition is spot on all the time, but I am definitely giving myself more grace than I ever have, and that feels like a huge win.
So, even if my story doesn’t resonate with you personally, I still say take the time to fill your own cup, in whatever way that may look like for you. You deserve it! As for me, I will continue to alter my self-care practice as I keep learning and as my life changes.
I will leave you with this quote from Sophia Bush, a badass human and the host of one of my favorite podcasts, “you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”