Self-Care Can Take Hard Work
By Kim Burrows
Self-care is a word I hear thrown around a lot these days, most frequently coming out of my own mouth to justify my lifestyle choices. I need a block of Creamy Milk because ‘self-care’. I’m gonna leave the dishes because ‘self-care’. I’m gonna buy the $300 dress because y’know what, ‘self-freaking-care’.
But I was thinking to myself recently, while I was going through a hard time, if I’m doing so much ‘self-care’, then why do I sometimes not feel any better? Why do I not genuinely feel cared for by myself? If I’m honest, do I even know what self-care means?
To me, self-care just meant doing things I liked and that weren’t too hard for me. It meant taking some time away from things that took work or effort, wherever possible.
I’ve spent many a night in alone eating Burger Fuel and watching Downton Abbey in the name of ‘self-care’, only to find that when I closed my Netflix tab and crawled into bed, I felt just as awful as I did before. I had avoided my problems for a couple of hours while I watched the Crawleys take on theirs, but my feelings were no less real or painful.
Surely this cannot be the ‘self-care’ people so raved about.
I woke up the other morning feeling similarly low. I lay in bed scrolling Instagram because I felt too down to do anything. I felt that in my state I needed to just allow myself to do this because, yep you guessed it, ‘SELF-CARE’. I’m all about being easy on myself y’know. But then it hit me. Every time I waste my morning on my phone I feel way worse for it.
This wasn’t self-care - it was almost self-destruction.
I began to realise that my idea of self-care is actually all wrong. I sat myself up and questioned what I actually needed in this moment - what would actually make me feel better?
My house was a mess, and that really stresses me out and makes me feel anxious, so I decided to clean it. If you know me at all, you’ll know that cleaning is not something I wake up in the morning with a burning passion to do. I would have much rather stayed in bed, but dammit I knew it would make me feel more peaceful and centred to do it. And you know what, it did. Man, I hate being in the wrong but in the right simultaneously (I also love it). That day I exercised some real self-care, and it took hard work! I even cleaned mould off my ceiling! It was disgusting but deeply satisfying!!!
I started thinking about all the other ways that I avoid real self-care for what seems easy or comfortable. I’ve said no to seeing friends, even though talking and being honest with them would have helped. I’ve ordered greasy take-out, even though I usually find cooking pretty therapeutic and rewarding. I’ve not exercised or left the house, even though it helps me to clear my head. I’ve procrastinated doing work, even though it makes me so much more anxious later on. I’ve overslept, even though it makes me feel more tired. I’ve watched Gilmore Girls on repeat, even though I needed to spend some time in quiet with my own mind, thinking about whats going on up there.
There are so many things I choose to do because I think it’s good to be easy on myself and do things that ‘make me happy’, when actually they take me round and round in circles of never actually dealing with personal crises or caring for myself. This has been a real revelation for me. I’m such a feet-up, face-mask-on, wine-in-hand, all-about-the-self-care kind of gal, with a remix of Aziz Ansari’s voice saying ‘treat yo’self’ on repeat in my head.
I never thought that I was walking a dangerous path of avoidance, because I had the idea of self-care completely wrong. It can take hard work. Self-care can be getting yourself out of those routines you’ve grown so comfortable in, in order to actually deal with whats going on below the (very well hydrated, thanks to said face mask) surface.
As with everything in life, it all requires balance. I am notttt saying that a night in with Whittakers and Gilmore Girls can’t be called for, because sometimes you just need to just zone out. Sometimes staying in bed all day is all you can do, and that’s okay.
What I am saying, though, is that self-care is about listening to and being truthful with yourself, and sometimes doing things that take work but will benefit you in the long run.
If you are feeling consistently down and things don’t seem to be changing, look at how you are caring for yourself, and ask yourself what you actually need. Is it cleaning? Sleeping more? Counselling? Journalling? Running? Reaching out and being honest with people you trust?
You need to be loving and gentle with yourself, but also real and honest - the way you would with any of your friends or family members that you love and don’t want to see go down a hole.
Be that friend to yourself.