I’ve been thinking about the difference between self-care that feels like a chore, and self-care that is actually restorative. Although we are often taught that self-care an antidote for stress, it can actually compound the problem. I have found that there are 4 key issues that can make self-care complicated:
1. It’s very easy to create an overwhelming list of things you should be doing for self-care. The list then becomes a source of added stress rather than wellness.
2. We often assume that we should just be able to do it – as if building new habits is easy.
3. Self-care and wellness resources can sometimes feel like the burden of achieving wellness is solely placed on the individual, without acknowledging the structural and systemic barriers to wellness for that individual.
4. We often focus more on what we think we should be doing rather than on what actually feels good or restorative.
For example, I should be doing 30 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes of meditation, getting at least 64 oz. of water, and eating around 1500 calories daily. These seem like reasonable and healthy goals, and, I have struggled with these for most of my life. Since the pandemic has started, I’ve given myself permission not to try so hard to give a little more space for my emotional wellness. What I have found is that walking feels good – I want to do it most days. Eating foods I like and am in the mood for feels good – when I allow myself this variety, I naturally eat less because I am satisfied. I actually got so stressed out during the pandemic that I was able to commit to a 10-minute mindfulness practice with Headspace, which I do before work every morning.
For this week’s wellness practice, I encourage you to take stock of the things you are doing for self-care and really consider what works and doesn’t work for you. Give yourself permission to explore different paths until you find the ones that are right for you rather than focusing on the “shoulds.” If you like the accountability of habit tracking or need some help figuring out what makes you feel good, I recommend the Daylio app (I am not affiliated with this app in any way – I just like it). Daylio allows you to easily track what activities you did during each day by selecting from pre-populated, customizable lists (e.g., chores, walking, water, relaxation, etc.) and you’ll also rate your mood. The app will show you what activities occur on the days when you feel the best and a pattern should emerge over time.