Taking Care of You
In an effort to make my blog posts more accessible, you can now listen to me read them! Go here for the audio recording of this post.
We talk a lot about relationships on the Heirloom Counseling blog, but this week I want to talk about you.
I want to focus on you, in all of your complexity and wisdom. You, the body and mind and spirit that holds everything you have been through. You, who has transformed your pain into power and your experiences into empathy.
There is no one else like you. But you forget that sometimes. How could you not? You compare yourself to people whose lives you only catch curated glimpses of, and even though you KNOW it isn’t real, it still stands as the marker of success or enoughness.
So today I want to bring our conversation back to the very basics. And to me, that’s how we care for ourselves. It’s how we invest in our healing. As you know, it’s difficult to care for others or show up fully in a world that very much needs us when our own needs aren’t met. But what does it REALLY mean to take care of yourself? This post goes beyond bubble baths and glasses of wine because although those things can be lovely, they are not the foundation of taking good care of yourself.
In many ways, the concept of self-care has been co-opted and materialized. We see this in many places and if you are at all like me, you may have become a little confused about when and how to do self-care. It hurts my heart that this has happened, but I believe we have an opportunity to reclaim this concept and support each other in living lives that feel nourishing, sustainable, and meaningful.
Self-care is preventative. It’s what we do consistently to bring a sense of groundedness, calm, and routine to our lives. Self-care is also responsive in that when we’ve had a really terrible day, we tune in to what we know about ourselves and our needs to provide comfort, rejuvenation, and a cue to ramp up our resiliency so we can cope with the challenges we’ve faced.
How are you investing in yourself? How are you honoring your needs? How are you committing to creating the kind of life that brings you joy, purpose, connection, and community? Holding ourselves accountable for our personal work and needs isn’t easy. But the long-game perspective is the one to take here. When you are the best version of yourself, your individual relationships, your given and chosen family, and your community all benefit.
How are you staying in your integrity with yourself? When we are in relationship with others, we are aware that they are having an experience of us in the relationship—and we think about how they might be perceiving us. But what about when we are operating in relationship with ourselves? When we are caring (or not) for ourselves and no one else is holding us accountable for how we treat ourselves, talk to ourselves, or respond to our needs?
Your relationships need you. Your family (given or chosen) needs you. Our world needs you. But most of all, YOU need you. You need to set boundaries that keep you healthy. You need to make choices that benefit your highest self. You need to take care of yourself in a way that allows you to give your energy to the causes and people you care about most. You need to eat well, and enough. You need to sleep well, and enough. You deserve to receive care and kindness. You deserve this because you are a person with a beating heart; you don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to work “hard enough” to receive the reward of basic care and compassion for yourself. None of this has to be fancy to be effective. You know what is best for your body.
These are some of the pillars of self-care I use. They change in priority depending on what is going on in my life, but I have found them useful. When I’m feeling out of balance, I check back in with these aspects of caring for myself. I don’t check every box every day (because that would probably feel like a full-time job), but my goal is to make sure that over the course of a week, I have dipped into each category. The first few are the most critical for me personally and those are the ones I focus on doing daily:
Nourishment (including food, water, supplements, and treats because I have a sweet tooth ;))
Sleep (I make a concerted effort to wind down in the evening, take space from electronics, read, and engage in a sleep routine that allows me to be ready to fall asleep when I’m ready)
Movement (including stretching between clients, walking Maia, strength training, dancing in the living room, etc.)
Emotional support (reaching out to the people who love me unconditionally, being open and vulnerable about what I’m experiencing, going to therapy, taking prescribed medications, and always working toward receiving love and support with grace)
Meaningful work and activities that I really love (scheduling things I’m looking forward to, alone or with community)
Community (going to the spaces and places where I see people I know, engaging in conversations, listening, and learning with others)
Asking for help. We don’t have to do anything alone. We aren’t stuck, ever. We can even ask for help asking for help. Sometimes I reach out to my people and I say “I’m feeling stuck with this and I don’t know what to do. I think I might need help. How should I ask? Who should I ask?” And I say “thank you” A LOT.
Honoring my boundaries and saying yes to things that feel joyful and saying no to things that I dread or don’t want to do. Committing only to things that feel GOOD. Things that make me feel excited, energized, enthusiastic. And for those of you saying “well, there are things I just HAVE to do”, I would encourage you to check in about who is telling you those are required and whether there is any wiggle room in there. I bet there is.
Giving myself SPACE. I used to consistently schedule activities too close to one another, causing me to rush ALWAYS. That energy really impacts my mental health. When I have space between commitments, I can take a breath and take my time. That is important to me. I want to be able to show up to whatever my next activity, session, meeting, or event is and feel calm and centered.
And I want to clarify: engaging in self-care doesn’t mean checking out of the hard stuff. We are often faced with difficult news and realities, and we are being called to address these issues with integrity, strength, and resilience. Self-care is not an invitation to ignore the very real and immediate needs of other human beings; it is a practice to sustain us as we address those needs wisely and compassionately. When we take care of ourselves consistently, we are able to show up consistently.
When you read this list, consider your current self-care. Do you have a plan? What are your top self-care categories? Are you prioritizing them? What can you change TODAY that will significantly impact how you feel about your life? How can you move into a place of thriving?
I want you to know that I am right here loving you through the challenges and cheering you on as you prioritize your wellness. We need you to feel cared for, supported, and loved.