What is self-care anyway?

I feel like “SELF-CARE” is to 2018 what “authenticity” was to 2017 and what “shadow work” is shaping up to be my 2019…

It’s one of those words that is bandied about by everyone, but you’re not exactly sure what it means.  What exactly is a bath in rose petals supposed to do for you and why is it so important for your self-care? Actually, when I see some of those instagram posts of tubs filled with charcoal, flower petals and crystals all around the edge all I see is me scrubbing my bath for 30 minutes afterward and losing all that post-bath glow in the new sweat of cleaning my tub.

How I see it, self-care is the thing that you know you want to be doing for yourself but don’t do. It could be because you don’t want to take the time. Maybe you think you're not worthy. Or you think it won't make a difference. Maybe you just have given up on anything changing, so why bother.  Maybe it feels too self-indulgent. Whatever the reason, you find the want keeps seeping into your mind. You want to do… you wish you had the money… the time… the friends… the resources… the life…  the personality… whatever you feel you want to do but you don't do… that’s what self-care is for you.

Or on the flip side, self-care is the thing that makes you feel amazing, makes you feel more like yourself.. The thing that time slips away while you’re doing.  The thing that nobody understands but you. Maybe the thing you don’t want to share with anybody else.  Or maybe it's the thing  you feel the need to apologize for.

Self-care is the thing that makes a difference in your life.  A difference in what, I don’t know -- but I’m guessing you do. And I’m guessing by reading this you instantly know whether or not you make enough room for it in your life.  Either you do, or you don’t. Because the thing with self-care is you have to do the work and it’s always evolving.  

You have to do something that is out of your norm and you have to do it consistently, and there’s something that might be trying to prevent you from doing it -- this little thing I like to call the chasm.  It’s the leap between your brain and the doing. You know you want to do something, you’re excited to do that thing - but the actual doing takes a leap, falls out of your comfort zone. Creates chaos in your brain and your body.  Until you do it. Until you enter and cross the chasm and put that thing into the physical zone.

In order to change who you are, you have to change what you do.  And that is not easy to do.  That’s why you need accountability, or a friend to support you, or why you need to want it really, really bad in order to make the leap over the chasm from the thinking into the doing.

Self-care is accepting that you want to change what you do, and how you treat yourself.   And self-care is different for every single person out there.

For me:  self-care is stretching and meditating each morning, even though I would rather stay in bed and get that additional thirty minutes of sleep - I KNOW that my day is bound to go more smoothly if I take the time to meditate, so I try and do it.

Self-care for me was entering therapy.  I had never had a therapist before. I didn’t think anything about it - I just didn’t think I needed one.  Until I became a coach, and hired a coach, and started doing all this work on myself and realized that I could actually really use a therapist to help me understand how I show up.  I was sick of blaming other people for my problems and decided it was high time to figure out how I had packed my own baggage.

Self-care, for me, is taking a bath.  No, not with charcoal and 1000 rose petals, but with a cup or two of epsom salt and a few drops of essential oil.  The bath stays clean and you don’t go sliding when you try and take a shower the next day -- but I am able to close my eyes, visualize or meditate or read a good book or a trashy magazine, without anyone bothering me and all the while sweating out my toxins.  I might not be able to pinpoint how sweating out toxins physically makes me feel better, but I can absolutely tell you how that a hour (or two) in a tub completely relaxes my brain and makes me feel amazing.

There’s many more things I do for my own self-care and many more things that I would like to do, but I don’t.

Like coffee. Self-care for me is drinking tea and not eating too many carbs.  Do I actually do that? No, I don’t. Because I love coffee and my husband makes a big pot of it every morning and it’s extremely simple -- like 5 minutes more simple -- to just pour a pot of coffee than it is to brew myself a cup of tea. I KNOW that my digestion feels better, my mood is more even and I am less likely to crash when I don’t drink coffee, so every few months I give up coffee for a while - until I start feeling great and then think “oh, I’ll just have a little cup on weekends” and then the next thing you know it’s a Tuesday at  2:08 pm and I’m just pouring myself “one more”.

Another thing I think might be good for me but I am freaking scared to try is hot yoga.  I do yoga all the time, but I don’t sweat (literally I do not sweat) and I have a tendency to pass out when it’s really hot outside.  But for some strange reason I’m drawn to it - there’s something there, that I need to learn, but I’m scared to try it, because well, I don’t want to pass out in the class.  And that tells me, I should probably try it. And now that I wrote it here, I guess now I have to, g-damnit. Maybe I’m just supposed to learn that it’s ok if I pass out in class and I hate it, that’s ok, but at least I’ll know and I can stop wondering.  

Self-care is WORK, it takes what we consider to be precious time, to be completely selfish and only focus on us.  And it’s really easy, once you find yourself changing, feeling a little better to say “wow, I feel amazing!!! My life (health, money, mood -- insert adjective here) is feeling so great, so maybe i’ll skip that meditation today or maybe I’ll start drinking coffee again…”  and then three weeks later you wonder why you feel like shit again and everything is falling apart.  

Self-care isn’t an one and done.  You do it to figure out what makes you tick - what makes you feel better spiritually, physically, emotionally, romantically, financially, career-wise and then you keep at it until you find yourself changing. They call it a practice for a reason, because it takes practice figuring out what works for you and it takes practice to keep doing something that doesn’t seem to have real tangible results. Because the real tangible results will feel like YOU, just you on a really good day.  Ideas might be flowing, you might feel better in your body, you might be having new awareness about yourself, you might feel like you’re a little more lucky….  Everyone is different, every body is different, every practice is different. But what’s the same, is when you stop practicing whatever it is that makes you feel good… those real tangible results fall away too and then you can more clearly see how you used to feel, or be, or whatever.

It takes practice to make it a habit - I’ve read anywhere from 30 days to an entire year. Some of these aren’t things you are going to be daily and you’ll have to work at them a little harder or introduce new ones every now and then.

Don’t try and do all the things at once, because you will fail.  So choose one thing you’ve always wanted to try and actually do it.  Maybe it’s taking a self-defense course, or how to make homemade donuts, maybe it’s going away for the weekend by yourself even though you know it’s not convenient to the people around you, or maybe it’s taking a hot bath with charcoal and rose petals because as you lie in the tub you feel like a queen or king and you are able to still all the thoughts in your head as your body detoxifies and moisturizes itself and you sleep like the dead afterward and, unlike me, you don’t mind cleaning your tub.

Whatever works for you.  Because self-care might be a word every one tosses around, but it is actually important to how you live your life.  It’s taking the care to treat yourself first, knowing that by putting on your airbag first, you are more able to put on someone else’s airbag because you won't be passed out from lack of oxygen…  that knowing, that you are taking care of yourself, so that you can enjoy your life in the present.

The thing I want you take away from this is that self-care is a mental thing, not a doing thing.  How do you mentally feel during AND after the thing.  You might feel amazing treating yourself to a shopping trip and buying new clothes, but the shoppers remorse and guilt lay you so low the next day that it actually does the reverse.  Or you might want to go away for a weekend, but coming back is such a headache and hassle that you feel worse, that that’s not self-care. I love when my hair is freshly dyed and no grey is showing, but I hate having to get my hair done every 4 weeks, so it’s better self-care for me to do it every 3-4 months..  It’s a balancing act and it’s not judging yourself, or others, and finding how you do you, until it clicks.  

So now I'm going to find myself a hot yoga class and try not to die from heat exhaustion. What are you going to do?

photo credit Cristian Palmer Insta: icristianla

Jessica McClure