F*#k The Bubble Bath
No, I am not anti-bubble baths. But I want to make a point of explaining that there are many different versions of self-care that don’t involve bubble baths, pedicures and facemasks (all of which are great if that’s your thing). According to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self-care” has more than doubled since 2015. And now that Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ recent decision to withdraw from some of her Olympic events has been recognized as a courageous act of self-care (hell yea it is!), I suspect that the searches will skyrocket.
So, what exactly is self-care and do you really need it? It seems like something that takes a lot of time and/or cost a lot of money…neither of which you’re ready to part with, correct? Well keep reading because I have good news for you! Self-care isn’t about time or money.
Self-care is simply anything that you do (or don’t do) to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Self-care fosters resilience and helps you to become better equipped to manage stress. Self-care differs from person-to-person. Yes, some people find bubble baths (yep, here I go again with the baths) to be physically, mentally and emotionally soothing, but some people do not. I want to use this article to discuss some less-obvious versions of self-care.
Self-care can be relaxing or it can be something intellectual or spiritual, physical or practical. Check-in with yourself. How are you feeling? What is causing you distress? Are you upset about a relationship and want to speak up for yourself but are apprehensive to do so? Assertive communication is a form of self-care. Are you burned out at work yet still agreed to take on another project? Learning to set healthy boundaries is one of my most valued forms of self-care. Do you dread going home at the end of the day because your home is disorganized or cluttered? Creating a peaceful home environment is yet another form of self-care. Tired because you stayed up too late on social media or Netflix? Disconnecting and turning off your electronic devices is a form of self-care.
So, these are all great suggestions, right? But…how, you ask. For one, ask for help! If organizing your space isn’t your forte, ask a friend for help. Are you as passive as a doormat and need to learn how to stand up for yourself? Most therapists are skilled at assertiveness training. Can’t turn off your electronics (hmm…you can but…anyway…)? Learn to meditate.
In therapy, I too often work with patients who are experiencing burnout, depression, anxiety, damaged relationships, and physical exhaustion because, in great part, of their resistance to prioritize self-care. It IS possible (and I assert imperative) to engage in some activity of self-care daily. The problem isn’t time or money but mindset. Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We live in a culture that pressures us to “keep pushing.” We glorify busyness. We believe that to be successful we must be accumulating (dollars, things, Olympic medals). We set aside activities of self-care (sleep, exercise, walking away from toxic work environments) in pursuit of “success.” The problem is that without a sufficient prioritization of self-care, you will crash. You can not function well is you aren’t well.
I often speak with my patients about finding balance (yet another obscure term that therapists love to use). My definition of finding balance is finding that sweet spot where you engage in enough self-care to ensure success (as you define it). You become the best version of yourself because of your active efforts to prioritize self-care and get those needs met.
You do not have to be an Olympic athlete to understand the feeling of having the weight of the world on your shoulders, to know that you are pushing yourself too hard, to have said yes when you probably should have said no. If you are struggling to prioritize self-care, I strongly suggest speaking with a therapist. Know that you do not need to have a mental health diagnosis to work with a therapist. Yes, some of my patient have diagnosable mental illnesses, but many are high functioning human beings who need help problem solving, learning new coping skills, and changing their perspectives. With telehealth becoming a more prevalent option, access to therapy has never been easier.
If you’re interested in psychotherapy to help you better prioritize self-care, click here.