How apropo that the latest two pieces I’ve read by a couple of our amazing FIT contributors have been about self-care and managing stress...a topic that can seem so simple at times, yet is hitting me really hard personally this week. I am a professional in this field. I am trained to literally sit with people in their distress, eventually help them unravel it, manage it, and take better care of themselves. Sounds like I should really have my act together in this department. But I am forever being humbled (sometimes smacked in the face) with the reality that growth and life is a forever evolving process, and just when I think I have ‘arrived’ and ‘wow I’ve really figured this out’, I take a big spill and have to figure out how to get myself back up again. And you know what, that process looks a little different every time, and that’s okay.
The internet and social media are full of proverbs and platitudes about self-care, and what that is, and how to do it, and when to do it, and what face mask or makeup or new workout routine to purchase so that you can do it. And to be honest, although I may be an expert in this field and I wholeheartedly believe in the theories and science behind self-care and its many benefits, I get sick of hearing even myself say that word sometimes.
What I noticed in my 20s is that someone I hardly know telling me what I needed to do, or buy, or eat, or consume in order to feel good and be healthy, was usually an easy, temporary relief, but it really never worked for me. And I don’t think it works for most people. It did, however, rack up my credit debt and my disillusionment in the self-help industry for some time….I promise this is going somewhere positive.
What I learned is that self-care is a purely personal experience, thus the items on your self-care list must be that. Personal. And the reason that can seem so “duh” yet can be so difficult to attain, is that it takes work to figure that out. It takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and insight to discover and experience what self-care actually means to you. Sometimes, self-care for me is forcing myself to put on my nikes and go to a spin class, and sometimes it’s ignoring that “just do it” voice and sitting on my couch with my dog just a little longer. It’s ever-changing. But I have to know and respect myself enough to ride that wave of change.
What I believe (and what the research shows) is that lack of good self-care is hugely detrimental to our long term physical and mental health. So whatever this may look like to you, I urge you to take some time to check in with yourself, to try different things out, check in with the part of you that is in need. Ask for help from people you really know, who really know you, and who you trust. Make a mental or literal checklist so you have some good ideas to fall back on when you’re really stressed, anxious, sad, or tired.
It’s much easier to just do what someone says works for them or what an inspo post tells you. That doesn’t mean those things are always wrong or ill meaning, they aren’t. But don’t take it all for face value. Stay curious. Stay open. Listen to your body and your intuition. And know that your list of go-tos and your needs for self-care will constantly evolve. For some really awesome ideas and motivation from your peers, check out the latest by Mackenzie and Kaylee on this page.
Written by, FIT expert contributor, Rachel Daggett, LMFT