Self care can be a glamorized topic for our generation. Scroll on instagram and you can see champagne, bubble baths, and rose petals, but I’m guessing the majority of us don’t necessarily have the time or the money to make our self care that lavish. (If you do, more power to ya.)
Self care is also something that is harped on to no end in treatment. Your treatment team has probably mentioned self care a thousand and a half times to you, and if you’re anything like I used to be, you’ve gotten pretty good at drowning it out.
I used to make the age old excuse that I didn’t have time for self care, or that I didn’t really have a lot that made me feel better. But the truth is that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I think I was afraid that if I really stopped to check in with myself about how I was feeling and what I needed, I would become inconsolable, all of my emotions would erupt, and I wouldn’t be able to get it to stop.
That has never happened.
Throughout undergrad, I did this thing where I would work my butt off all semester and then come to a screeching halt, basically implode, and spend a week at my mom’s house just to get my shit together. Not only was this exhausting, but it was really obvious to everyone around me that I was constantly running myself ragged.
The problem is that I wasn’t taking any time to do nice things for myself. Sure, I’d see friends on the weekend, or I’d take some time to do some fun things here and there, but self care was not a part of my routine. It’s not that I thought I was above it (well, maybe I did a little), it’s that I thought it wouldn’t really help me.
Boy was I wrong.
When I started grad school, I made a commitment to myself that I would take more time every week to have down time, because that’s my version of self care. With full time school and part time work, it’s easy to spend any and all “me-time” as “catching up” time with all the things I need to do. My brain operated like this: “Got some homework due in two weeks? Might as well start it.” Yikes.
I used to think that I was super outgoing. I used to be so afraid to be alone that I would do just about anything to find a friend to hang out with or something to do. I did this to hide from my shit. If I kept myself busy enough, social enough, working enough, I would never have to be sitting by myself, feeling all of the feelings that were bubbling inside.
And let’s be clear: it’s not like this was some overnight epiphany that I just snapped out of and now I’m a self care expert. Everything I’ve learned throughout my recovery has taken years of therapy, countless conversations with my loved ones, lots of self reflection, and A LOT of crying. Not always bad crying, but just “feeling my feelings” crying.
I had to get to a point where I could feel my feelings and know I was safe. I had to get to a point where I could be in a puddle on the ground, but still manage to pick myself up and be there for myself. That definitely didn’t happen overnight. But once I started doing that and learning that it was possible, taking care of myself didn’t seem so scary.
Now I realize that if I don’t get a certain amount of alone time throughout the week, I start to get super stressed, tired, and irritable. I now know that I can tolerate being alone, and if some type of feelings come up, I have a lot of different ways to process and deal with it rather than using ED behaviors.
I’ve got a decent amount of late nights this semester, so my idea of self care is sometimes just coming home and watching TV alone, having a snack (cause God knows I can’t sleep without a full tummy at this point), maybe reading, calling my parents, and just relaxing. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll paint, do a face mask, do my nails, or facetime my two best friends or my sister.
I’ve also started a weekly dinner and wine night with one of my best friends, which is a great way to just decompress, vent everything I need to vent for the week, and start fresh the next day.
(And listen, I LOVE to take baths, but I live in an apartment without a bathtub, so I only do that nowadays when I visit my mom. But champagne and rose petals have never been a part of this.)
I think our instagram culture can be super *chic* about self care. Sometimes you might not have the money to get a manicure or go out to lunch. When I’m super busy, self care can be as simple as buying myself a coffee or taking a few extra minutes in the bathroom to check my phone (seriously).
Just as it can be hard to take the time to do self care, I think we can easily get overwhelmed when we have an idle day. The past few weeks in Boston have been pretty snowy, so there have been a few days where I’ve been stuck at home.
This is something that would have sent *old me* into a tizzy. I’d basically sit around all day filled with anxiety because I didn’t have a plan and GOD FORBID I had to sit alone with my feelings. But thanks to the work I’ve done in therapy, now I can find snow days to be fun and exciting, like they were when I was a kid.
I think for so many people, having the time to take care of yourself can leave you kind of shocked. We lead such busy and crazy lives that when we actually have a second (or are forced) to stop, we look up to see the dust settling and it’s like we’re in a city we’ve never seen before.
I know I definitely felt that way when I started grad school and made a more conscious effort to take care of myself.
But what I’ve learned in this: when we’re constantly running around and trying to avoid all of the scary parts of life, we’re disconnecting ourselves from the real pieces of life that bring us true happiness.
We are wired for connection with others. But the truth is (and yes, cue my Brené Brown rant in this post) that connection is scary. And what’s more scary than connecting with other people? Connecting with yourself, owning your shit, and tolerating the crappy feelings we all have inside of us.
I believe that it’s this fear of self-connection that makes self care so hard. The more risks we take to be present with ourselves, and truly TRULY check in with ourselves, the more likely we are to feel stuff.
I have learned, however, that the more we try to run from ourselves, the worse these feelings get. It’s only when we can take a second, be present, and live in our truth that you really start to feel connected to yourself, but to others as well.
So yes, self care can be extremely difficult and even a little scary. But I can promise you this: finding a few small ways to keep yourself sane on a regular basis will feel a lot better than doing the never-ending marathon that is running from yourself.