Self-care. What exactly is it? We hear the phrase so often these days that I wonder if we truly understand what it means. I did a very small, very unofficial study by posting in a Facebook group and asking people what they thought self-care was. Overwhelmingly the answers indicated that most people took self-care to mean some kind of indulgence or frivolity. I dug a little deeper and found that many felt like these little indulgences may or may not even be deserved. People even went as far as explaining how hard they work and how much stress they are under to prove that they are somehow worthy of the reward they are calling self-care, when in fact, at that point those activities are what I’ll call after-care.

Our culture, this grind hard, little sleep culture, is antithetical to what it means to live life as a whole, healthy human. Day to day life is so exhausting that things like manicures, mimosas, and massages are looked at as a kind of retreat from the heaviness of life. This retreat from the heaviness of life is what most (at least in my small unofficial study) called self-care. But is it? Let’s unpack this idea. These activities are most often occurring after the person has been worn out or burnt out. I suppose that on some level caring for oneself after burning out could be seen as self-care. But I wonder what would happen if we looked at self-care as burnout prevention? What if we viewed self-care as activities and habits, we engage in that are nurturing, sustaining, and allow us to live our best lives? Not just sometimes, but all of the time? Take a look at the chart below and let’s see what self-care can look like as burnout prevention.

Self-care

  • Restful sleep 6-8 hours per night
  • Nutritive food at consistent times
  • Ensuring home is orderly and clean
  • Having a satisfying vocation
  • Cultivating community
    • Friends
    • Partner and/or family
  • Some form of spirituality
  • Mental enrichment
  • Paying bills on time
  • Setting and keeping boundaries
  • Emotional regulation
  • Physical maintenance
    • Dr./dental appointments
    • Exercise/activity
  • After-care

    One-time experiences

    • Manicures
    • Massages
    • Bubble baths
    • Salon visits
  • Overindulgence

    • Decadent foods
    • Alcohol/drugs
    • Sex
    • Entertainment
    • Sleep (as an escape)
    • Shopping sprees

So… what did you think? If you thought the self-care items were boring, you are not by yourself. But it is often these seemingly simple habits and activities that help us create lives we don’t need an escape from! It doesn’t mean you can’t also engage in some of the things listed under after-care for fun, but that’s quite different than engaging in them from exhaustion and stress, looking for relief.

If thinking about self-care this way is a re-frame for you, we are curious as to which self-care habit you want to try first! If you want the help of a therapist in this journey to create a life rooted in self-care, give us a call to schedule an initial appointment (or a free phone consultation).

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