Self-care is part of the journey

Recently I have felt bombarded with articles about self-care and ironically I’m going to contribute to the mass preaching for it.

Initially I felt soothed by the idea of “self-care” because I understood it as a way of being a little more lazy and unfit, like, not feeling guilty for sleeping in, or maybe having an extra slice of cake. These are easy things I can get away with doing. Slowly, though, I have felt nagged to exercise, to practice mindfulness, to cook more healthy foods, to go on yoga retreats, to bake, to buy thousands of colouring books. Eventually it stressed me out and I’ve ignored it ever since. But now I realise this was the barrier that separated me from truly practising self care. I always think desperately for justifications of having a bed day, or to write a reflective blog post, or to have a yoga session, but none truly seem to suffice, and ultimately this creates more anxiety and stress. In fact, I only allow myself a bed day when I am physically too sick to get out of bed, but this doesn’t qualify as self-care. It’s a coerced break. One that results from not taking the time beforehand to relax and recuperate. And with me, bed days due to sickness are far from relaxing. I will be tormented by intrusive thoughts involving guilt, anxiety and disappointment. The day tends to be exhausting, as being poorly tends to suck every inch of energy from your soul. I’ve now realised this is not self-care. Self-care involves a choice. It involves prioritising your health before it becomes a barrier to life. It involves acknowledging your own efforts and rewarding yourself. It relies on balance.

For me, understanding that self-care is relative has helped me embrace it as a way of life. Getting an early night and sleeping for 8 hours does not work for me as it might for others, and yet it is pushed on people to achieve. But for those who suffer from insomnia, who rely on naps during the day, who feel most creative at night time, who enjoy stargazing or drinking cuppas under blankets until 3am, they are not comforted by the emphasis on this strict, 8 hour, “healthy sleeping pattern.” It doesn’t work for me and by telling me that sleeping from 11-7 will guarantee less fatigue and more energy is futile and actually makes me feel worse for not being able to achieve it. So, self-care act number 1 is…

Sleeping when I want. Some days I may sleep at 1am and others at 4am. If I feel creative in the early hours then I am going to take full advantage and nap later. Even if I do manage an early night I will not feel guilty for needing a nap 3 hours after waking up. Oh, and I will not feel guilty for ignoring the sunshine if I want a bed day instead! I don’t have to be in the sunshine to appreciate it! #nightowl #bed4days.

 

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