What the Bleep is: Self-Care?

original post: 01/11/16, edited and reposted: 08/31/17

I started a series called "what the bleep is:..." where I explain counseling and psychology concepts in my own words. I really want whoever is reading this (Bueller?... Bueller?...) to follow along in future posts without having to Google or Wikipedia a bunch of phrases. Regardless of whether you are in the mental health field or not, this stuff is applicable to real life in the trillest way and even at the very least- it's some interesting stuff. *Disclaimer: I am by no means am an expert, and if you are seeking help then please inquire with a licensed mental health professional.

So, what is self-care?

It seems straight-forward, but ironically not many people know about it or practice it regularly and mindfully. To me it is: the intentional act of tending to the mind and body in hopes of changing ones mood (brightening mood, hitting the reset button, relieving tension, etc) and/or maintaining health and well-being. So basically it is one step above the basic necessities.

Would sleeping be self-care?

I think it's helpful to be more specific with what you consider self-care. Sleeping is a basic physical need, so instead of saying 'sleeping,' maybe 'taking an hour nap' would be part of your self-care routine. Sleeping could mean a full night's rest (which we should all be having anyway) or a short power nap. This also applies to eating, drinking water, and other basic necessities.

Okay, so like drinking and going out with friends (or insert your 'vice' here)? That definitely relieves stress.

Okay this is also tricky because certain activities meet the requirements of self-care but at the same time can be addicting or become an emotional crutch. For instance, maybe you had a bad day (cue music) and you want to take your mind off of whatever is bothering you. You get in bed and open your laptop. You recently started watching Sherlock on Netflix, so you innocently click the play button to continue watching. Before you know it, it's 6 am and you have hot Cheeto stains all over your fingers. *Disclaimer: This is not (I repeat NOT) from personal experience. Woah, look at all the time that passed by. You instantly feel guilty because you get a whirlwind of thoughts about the activities you could've done in that time. All signs point to this not being self-care.  Similarly, this could happen with drinking, smoking cigarettes, sex, etc. Remember, that it's all about intentionality. Self-care isn't replacing the act of dealing with your emotions or stressors but rather kind of a cushion that cheers you up or a splash of water to get you ready for what you need to do next. I hope I've cleared up any confusion.

What now?

So now you know what self-care is and what it isn't. It's time to create a list for yourself! One of my professors in grad school recommended that you should have a self-care list with as many items as your age. Seems easy enough. Before making an official list and laminating it (like Ross), just jot down everything and anything that makes you feel good, gives you more energy, or allows you to vent (yes use your support system!). Get rid of things that are too vague or obviously addictive and narrow it down.

Here are some examples from my personal list:

  1. talk toIssa Rae obviously my BFF in a perfect world) but in all seriousness my closest friends' names are here
  2. coloring book
  3. listen to that 'chill vibes' playlist on Spotify
  4. 40-60 min workout
  5. have ONE piece of dark chocolate (yes, I have to uppercase this in case I forget)
  6. art journal-ing

Having a list can make it easier to remember how to take care of yourself physically and mentally when you're too sad or stressed to think. Also, if you're in a committed relationship it would be ideal for you and your partner to know each other's lists for obvious reasons. I wished that I made a list before I was in my twenties but now that I'm aware, I'll be adding at least one new item to my list every birthday.

Ultimately, just remember to be kind to yourself.