I’m a millennial and I work in social services so I understand and appreciate the need for self-care. I regularly ask my friends and coworkers how they plan to practice self-care after a hard week. But deep down I’ve also been grappling with the concept. First because I’ve seen folks use self-care as #justification for bad behaviour. And second because as a cisgendered white lady with a loving partner, a safe home and limitless access to kombucha, I wonder…is my life is really so exhausting?
I am the type of person who could spend my entire life focusing on others. My mental space is crammed with family dynamics, work politics, friend drama, relationship drama, my friend’s family dynamics, work politics, relationship drama, etc. During the sparse hours of the day where I am off-work and not engaging with friends or family, I spend those hours watching Netflix (fictional friend drama) or scrolling through instagram (pseudo-friend drama). So basically – I’m never alone.
So what is “self-care,” then? And why do I need it so desperately? If you ask me, it’s all about self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the ability to look inwards, and to separate oneself from your environment and other individuals. I would venture that for many of us this is a skill we practice less and less. I am desperate for moments in my day where I can stop and pay attention to myself. To remember that I have a self to begin with. To stop rushing and check-in on my body. What horrible shape have I been contorting myself into at my desk all day? To check in on my mind. If I’m obsessing about others, what fear, anger or anxiety am I distracting myself from? To check in on my environment. What is happening in the real and natural world around me vs. the world on my screen?
So the next time you reach for that facemask, I’d encourage you to ask yourself: Am I doing this because I had a such a hard day? Is that (cough *victim*) narrative really accurate? Is it helpful? Or would it be more accurate to reframe these everyday acts of “self-care” as acts of self-awareness. For myself at least, this little cognitive shift has helped me a lot, particularly when it comes to avoiding the following things:
- Splurging on $200 bucks of makeup at Sephora and calling it self-care
- Bailing on my friends and calling it self-care
- Binge watching 3 seasons of dawson’s creek and calling it self-care
You get the idea. 😉
MY FAVOURITE “SELF-AWARENESS” PRACTICES
- ESSENTIAL OILS: Whether it’s a few drops on my wrists in the morning, or slathering myself in scented body oil at night I love how calm and grounded essential oils make me feel. I’ve been savouring a bottle of this body oil by Sunday’s Company Apothecary. for the past few months.
- STRETCHING: Just a few light neck stretches before bed or a sun salutation in the morning can be all it takes to remind me not to take my precious limbs for granted. This site has some great free videos if you wanna go deep with your stretches. This shoulder stretching sequence was lifechanging for me.
- MEDITATION podcasts. I still spend many nights binging on too many episodes of dawson’s creek and passing out with my clothes on, but when I have my wits about me I take a few minutes before bed to calm my brain and it works really well for me. I should be meditating and Meditation Oasis are two personal favourites.
- NATURE: Literally all it takes for me to reconnect with whatever lilith-fair-meets-sartre-meets-dr-quinn-medicine-woman version of spirituality I subscribe to, is to get myself to the closest piece of nature I can find.
- ART: I wrote a whole post about how I channel art as a form of emotional expression. I’m no better than I was when I started and it still doesn’t matter one bit.
- MUSIC: I’ve only recently realized what a tremendous impact music can have on my mood and how much I rely on it as a form of expression and release. Everyone’s got their thing but I’m just gonna leave this Selena Gomez song right here because it has been my song lately.