Self-improvement (or personal development or self-help) seems, on the face of it, like a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be better? We should all be better, right? (This should not be confused with “be best”, something that will never not make me laugh.)
One of the biggest learnings I’ve taken from therapy and probably the thing I share the most with others is the idea of nurturing vs indulgence when it comes to self-care.
Often when we see self-care talked about on the internet or talk about it amongst friends we’re talking about indulgence. These are the things that feel fabulous in the moment (wine and Netflix, cake, leaving the sink full of dishes for tomorrow) but don’t necessarily set us up for success and sustainability long term.
Nurturing self-care, on the other hand, is a lot less fun. It’s going to therapy, setting healthy boundaries, prepping your lunch the night before, going to bed early, washing the pile of laundry in the corner so you have something to wear this week. These are things that aren’t generally much fun but set you up for the long term.
Ideally we’ve got a good balance of mostly nurturing self-care with some indulgence thrown in–there is certainly space for Netflix (ask me how I’ve spent my Sunday morning!) and ice cream, but we need a base of healthy, sustainable habits to keep us going in our jobs, our activism, the onslaught of horrible news coming rapid-fire out of the US, and just our lives more generally.
What that looks like will be different for everyone, and sometimes the same activity might fit nurturance and indulgence at different times depending on what else is going on in your life.
I try to make active decisions around indulgent self-care but sometimes I find myself three episodes into something with a bowl of popcorn before I stop to ask myself “Is this indulgence or nurturance? What do I need right now?”
Indulgence is wonderful and fun and can help recharge, but if I’m staying up too late on a work night to do something indulgent I’m going to feel it the next day and probably not be pleased with Past Me’s choices. When I find myself doing something indulgent past the point of self-care–that is, it feels good in the moment but I’ll regret it tomorrow–I try to call on my Gentle Parent Voice to help steer me toward better choices.
My feeling is that a lot of people are struggling with self-care in general these days, and are likely leaning more on the indulgent side than the nurturant side when they can manage self-care at all. That is kind of to be expected. Indulgent self-care is a lot easier and a lot more fun. So I just wanted to give a gentle reminder that it’s the not so fun, not so easy self-care that sets us up for sustainable mental and physical health, and that provides us the habits that keep us going.
In an effort to support nurturant self-care and thanks to Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh I’m hosting a giveaway for a $25 (USD) gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Whether you need a new sports bra or yoga block or running shorts or cute AF running tights, all you gotta do to be entered in the giveaway is comment below with EITHER what you would buy if you won the gift card OR some kind of self-care you do regularly (indulgent or nurturant).
Here’s the fine print: Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh are providing the gift certificate and, in lieu of payment to me for hosting the giveaway, have generously made a donation to an organization of my choice. The giveaway is open to everyone and will be open until February 26th when a winner will be chosen at random.
**UPDATE: The giveaway is being extended to Saturday, March 4th. Comment below to be entered!**
If you have found your way to this blog you are likely, like me, devastated. And afraid. You made it through a never-ending campaign of bigotry and hatred and boasts of sexual predation only to be faced with four more years of it, with an emboldened contingent of racists and misogynists and rapists who will see themselves reflected in the White House come January.
Just about everyone I know is struggling right now–between brutal acts of police violence against Black people in the US, the Orlando shooting, climate catestrophe, the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency, Brexit, and everything else we’re inundated with constantly, people are struggling with self-care, mental health, and just being okay.
Because I talk a lot about self-care people seem to assume I’m a champ at it. Rather, I talk a lot about it because it’s something I struggle with, and something I see as a fundamental part of doing justice work. So in that spirit, I’m offering a few of the things I’ve been using in the hopes they may be helpful for others. They may not ring true for you and that’s totally cool, we all have different needs and histories and self-care will look different for all of us, but they’re here if you want to give them a go. Continue reading “Seven Self-Care Strategies for Those Struggling”→
Put your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. And so on and so forth. These are familiar refrains for anyone who talks about self-care, who encourages others to take care of themselves (as I do, with one-on-one clients, in workshops, and with the people in my life. Oh, and this here blog too).