Okay, sometimes it’s a salt bath and a piece of chocolate.
Sometimes it's staying home.
But in my experience, real self-care isn’t set in stone. It changes as you change. It’s changing your focus, habits and priorities when what used to work for you doesn’t work anymore.
And what you need right now, it’s not always pretty or popular...
What Self-Care Really Means
“Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.” Something American author Brianna Wiest wrote.
“It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.” (Brianna again, from her article, which inspired this one.)
For me, right now, self-care is having a day job so I can have a home and release some financial pressure and treat my writing like the passion project that it is. It’s removing alcohol from my life for a long while, and caring for myself like I’ve never done before. It's reading fiction. Leaving my phone behind.
It’s making those decisions from a place of love instead of fear, so that they’re decisions I can own no matter how hard it gets.
For you, self-care won’t be what it used to be back then. It won’t look like self-care for everyone. It will look like what you need, today, right now.
It will be letting go of what you don’t need and embracing something new. It will mean becoming the person you want to be, one deliberate step at a time.
Real self-care is recognizing your own exhaustion for what it is: trying to be everything to everyone; ignoring your body’s signals for rest; not being honest about what you need.
Then, it’s giving yourself what you need. It’s an offering at the altar of your own heart.
And, sure, that could be a salt bath. Or easing up on the drinks. Going to bed earlier. Giving yourself more time in the morning. Meal prepping. Prayer. Spending less, saving more. Spending less time with people who can't understand you.
You might have to set boundaries that serve your long-term wellness. You might need to take up a new hobby, or an old one. You might need a break every single day.
Not the fancy things. Not the expensive things. The little things -- pay attention to those.
The small victories -- celebrate those.
The moments -- take care of those.
Pay attention to what heals you, and stay close to it.
Brianna Wiest: “A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.”
There’s a lot of truth in that.
The pressure you feel to be everything and do everything, all the time, is underlying fear you'll have to work through. It’s an overarching expectation you'll have to turn on its head. It could be cultural messaging, but no matter, it's something you have to heal from the inside out.
Truly taking care of yourself is a decision you have to make on your own, and then claim even when things get difficult.
Building a life on the foundation of your own self-worth is inner work that isn't always outwardly beautiful.
You can’t cure everything with a bath. But then again…
“You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you're dirty and rattled.” That’s Anne Lamott in her book Small Victories.
There’s a whole lot of truth in that, too.
Self-care isn’t what “they” say it is. It’s not what I say it is. It’s what you honestly feel it to be.
. . .
Which part of this did you need the most today? What does self-care mean to you, right now?
Tell me in the comments. I read every single one, and I'd love to know!
P.S. Get my book Sleep Rituals to inspire how you take care of yourself. There are so many ways!