Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 5-17-2020
“The most important decision you will ever make, is whether or not you will continue hating yourself” -EaE
Let us be honest, life is kicking our asses, now more than ever. I am going to encourage everyone to do things differently. Unlike what our parents, family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and boss tell us, I often insist self-care be our number one priority. Above money, above work, above everyone and everything else we know. We need not only ‘remember self-care’ sometimes, but we need to practice it like our life depends on it. In a perfect world mental health, cultural sensitivity and self-care would be taught in public school. Unfortunately, we are taught how to stress ourselves out physically, mentally, and emotionally, but we are not taught how to counteract the pain that comes with this type of lifestyle. To be honest, if I had read this intro in my teens or young adulthood I would have laughed and rolled my eyes. Now is different, now I am thirty years old and have received a few mental health diagnoses, have dealt with plenty of burnout episodes, physical pain due to natural aging, and fantasizing about living off of the grid and hiding from adultlike responsibilities.
My norm in my teens and early twenties was to work, study and workout like my life depended on it. Any amount of space in my day was not acceptable. My new norm, now that I am a bit wiser is ‘self-care, all day, everyday like my life depends on it.’ Honestly, because it does depend on it. Some people may say that they do not have the time or luxury to practice self-care as they have jobs, kids, classes etc. However, that is exactly why we do need self-care! Jobs, classes, kids, chores etc. We do not thrive due to the amount of chronic stress we put ourselves through, we thrive when we do things that are good for our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Unfortunately, there are quite a few barriers that often lead us to constantly forget our self-care or neglect it completely.
Barriers to Self-Care:
- Financial strain
- Family demands
- Toxic peers
- Shame/ Self-Sabotage
This list loosely covers and encompasses the majority of what get’s in the way of daily self-care. Want a nap? No time, there’s work or kids. Want some time off? No, there is still a school assignment to finish. Want to have a nice vacation? Unfortunately, we may not be able to afford it. Want to get over an addiction? How else will we cope without a ‘medicine’ that has been proven to be one of the only things that gets us through the day?! How else can we handle the life demands and stressors without getting our ‘fix’ of (fill in the blank). Want to enjoy some time in solitude? Oh, but that friend who needs help and to get bailed out of a bind they created is soliciting our help, yet again. Want to have a good and fun joy filled day with no care in the world? No, we do not deserve it. We are not good enough and must do more to be ‘worthy’ of fun or time off.
To improve our self-care, we must identify the barriers, make modifications and/ or boundaries, and learn to reduce our shame so that we know we deserve better than the stress filled life we currently have. We also need to commit ourselves to daily self-care rituals so that we may have long term benefits. For example, one day of healthy eating will not counteract 364 days of unhealthy eating. One hour of time off may not be enough if we are constantly working/ juggling life demands. We may need to allow ourselves more breaks keeping in mind that breaks do not have to be expensive!
Sometimes self-care is met with an “I can’t” attitude as well as an “I have no choice” mentality/ stuck point. Which leads to my next new big life expression: “Something has got to give”. When I am overwhelmed from juggling too many things at once, instead of forcing myself to do it anyways, I now stop and say, “something has got to give”. What must I give up and for what? Okay, honestly, I can give up my clothes shopping habit if it means I can pay my bills better and stress less about not having a savings account! I can give up cable since streaming is cheaper and I am barely home anyways, it saves me more. I do not necessarily need a side job, because if I live more frugally, then I will not have to deal with the burden of an excessive workload. Yes, I can give up the next couple hours on social media and read a book, my eyes and mind could use a break from the screen and the anxiety/ anger provoking content. I am exhausted but the apartment is a mess. Well I guess maybe I am not cleaning it right away; I do not have to do everything all the time. I do not have to be perfect.
One thing to keep in mind is self-care requires our personal permission to give ourselves a break when times get hard. It requires us to remember to do something good for us, even in small increments. Sometimes I shadowbox or do laps around my office between therapy sessions. Even if we only have 3 minutes, we should be thinking self-care in that three-minute timeframe. Color, pushups, squats, walk, deep breath, meditate, call a friend, journal, take an ultra-power nap. Whatever our bodies/ minds tell us.
Are your days balanced?
(evaluate how many hours are spent in each category and use as your own personal reference)
Exercise/ Friends/ Outings/ Chores/ Errands/ screen time/ Sleep/ Family time/ Alone time/ Hygiene/ Intimacy/ Studying/ Labor/ Caregiving/ Consuming
A part of mental health is acknowledging the things we do or let others do, that hurt us. It is important that we are honest with ourselves without shame. We are all human and sometimes we sabotage our self-care for ‘the greater good’. To make it through long hard days, we have a responsibility and dire need to put ourselves first. Yes! Even parents, a child requires 110% and they cannot be taken care of with an adult that is at 50%. The purpose is to make improvements so that we may try to avoid a cycle of chronic misery and decomposing. Self-care, as often as we can, every day.
One thought on “Self-Care, all day, every day, like your life depends on it”
This is a very good blog. I am someone who always finds themselves putting everything and everyone ahead of myself always have it’s a cycle that’s very hard to break but I am going to do my best to put some of your advice into practice. Thank you for sharing the advice
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