I am making friends.
I am making friends because they are something my children and I will need.
I am making friends even though it is draining and often feels like a waste of time.
I am making friends even though the results won’t start to really shine for a couple of years.
I am making new friends as a form of self-care.
What do you think of when you hear the term self-care?
If you think of chocolate covered strawberries and $150 massages, then you are thinking the wrong thing.
True self-care is not about what feels good in the moment. It is often the things that we don’t want to do. It is about restructuring your life so that you don’t feel you have to run away from it. It is about creating habits that make you a healthy, energetic, centered person.
Self-care is about reducing the influence of people who you love dearly who are unhealthy and unhappy. Even if they’re not toxic to you, personally. Because they are dragging you down physically and mentally. And it isn’t correlation.
It means delaying gratification. It means working 10 to 20 minutes a day on some project or skill and seeing no results for a long time. It means reframing your thought process and not being able to take a picture of it. It means focusing on immeasurables with little to no short-term payoff and no end in sight.
While meditation may some day feel good, you might hate it. But it doesn’t matter.
While exercise may some day feel good, you might resent it. But it doesn’t matter.
While journaling may some day feel good, you might look down on it. But it doesn’t matter.
Self-care is about doing these things that make you happier and healthier in the long run.
Many of the people who do them regularly do not enjoy them. Most of the people who work out 5 times a week are not thrilled to be going to the gym again; and many of the people who meditate feel like idiots with racing minds half the time when they sit down.
But they do it any way. Not because it is fun or because they’re disciplined, but because they know they need to in order to have a life that doesn’t scare and exhaust them. They do it because they’ve created automaticity for all of these healthy habits—they’ve set up a systems that make them feel odd if they don’t do these unexciting practices.
Self-care is about creating those systems.
About adding extra steps between yourself and the easy, destructive thing you want to do; and creating fewer steps between the difficult, healthy thing you know you need to do. It means putting the soda in the garage and putting the toothpicks out right next to your toothbrush.
It means getting rid of things that clutter your house, the stuff that reminds you to be sad or to have a drink. It means setting upper limits on your sugar consumption and setting lower limits on how much time you spend walking each day.
Self-care is about recognizing the things in your life that matter and take work, and then working on them, even though you can let them slip by on any given day and it would be hard to notice.
It means putting work into your relationship each day so that you aren’t just coasting along on comfortable until your partnership succumbs to entropy.
It means seeing that you’ve addressed the healthy mind platter to make sure you’re getting all of your little mind-nutrients so that you can be fulfilled.
Treating yourself can be nice. Go get the massage, have a piece of chocolate, take a vacation.
But this is not what self-care is. Self-care is making the decision to build up the nitty gritty habits that take away what makes you feel frazzled, hectic, and beaten down, and replacing it with things that make you feel full.