Earlier this week, I asked my social media portals for an idea for a blog. One of the responses was “Self Care.” It was a popular suggestion. I thought it was a good topic, too. I started writing this post at 6:00 a.m., yesterday. First, I realized I honestly didn’t have a good definition for what self-care actually is. I asked my good friend, The Internet, and found that the University of Kentucky defines self-care as “any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health.”
I thought about what I might say about Self-Care. And then I realized I was far too exhausted to write about them.
I felt like I’d been beat up with a bag of hammers. Maybe it was the cold I had last week that was still lingering, or maybe it was the jet lag. Maybe I’d overdone it the day before. Maybe I was just tired.
I called in sick, went back to bed, and slept another six hours.
For a long time, the idea of Self-Care really irritated me. I am an able-bodied person; gainfully employed, with access to clean water and healthy food at all times. The notion of Self-Care reminded me of prissy women, pampered by wealthy partners, who needed cuticle lotion and Enya tracks to get through their already indulgent days. That wasn’t me. I am a worker. I’ve worked two jobs for years, while running a Coven, and trying to write once in awhile. I travel for work. I travel for writing. I attend conferences on Tarot and teach at Pagan festivals. I do this for others, to help improve lives. I do this for me, because I like doing it. Self-Care seemed indulgent or for weaker people, who didn’t have the stamina or drive that I did. My drive was my identity. Without my productivity, who was I? If I needed self-care, then it was obvious that there were limits to what I what I was able to accomplish.
In addition, Self-Care seemed wasteful. I found this article bouncing around social media portals and much of it made some sense (excepting asking friends to cook for you–that seems like just adding to the plate of stuff for everyone…ABSOLUTELY no pun intended). Self-Care seemed to be about buying things.
Eventually, I had to conjure up some Self-Care. Or I would fail at everything and probably make myself really sick.
Skipping my own Magick practice because I was “so busy” undermined my ability to teach others. Staying up late to work on a committee project and getting up early to try to write meant I was turning in crappy work all around as we can’t provide quality when we’re over-fatigued. Allowing stress to overwhelm me meant emotional meltdowns that affected my loved ones. I needed to improve my Self-Care not only out of my own interests, but out of the interests of those I care about.
But enacting quality self-care? That’s tough. Also, I know I’m far from the only person who struggles with this.
I don’t have the answer for how to enact quality self-care. But I do have some thoughts as to why so many of us need it:
1.) We never feel like what we do is enough. We may work, but there’s always one more title or tax bracket above us that we think we JUST HAVE TO REACH. We may cook a meal for a sick neighbor, but we then look at the people building water cisterns in impoverished places and think our own contributions are menial. We hit a fitness goal, but only see the new goal ahead of us, not the progress we’ve made. Some of this is evolutionary. Humans seem to naturally want to do better and bigger. We keep pushing ourselves to do more.
2.) We are finite. None of us are unlimited resources. But we sometimes pretend to be. Do we overbear the earth’s resources because we naturally overbear ourselves? Or vice versa? I don’t know. But I know it’s a problem for many.
3.) We are brainwashed into believing that we need more to exist. More prestige, more money, a deeper impact. I’m a total sucker for all of the above. My biggest fear is that I’ll only be a blip in history and will be forgotten quickly after I go. Or worse, someone will write on my tombstone: Here lies Courtney. She really tried and meant well. I hope I leave a legacy. But whether I do is largely out of my control.
I’ve finally developed a Self-Care routine and I do my best to stick to it. Usually, it goes like this:
Exercise five days a week. Getting my heart rate up keeps the depression at bay, which can get really bad around Moon Time. This is not just for me–it’s for the people in my life. I’m a better partner, worker, friend, and Priestess when my mental and emotional health is balanced. There was a time when I would have said I don’t have time to exercise this much. But once I put exercise further up the priority chain, I not only found that I did have the time, I still had the time to do the other stuff.
Prayer and meditation every night. I take my troubles to my altar and hand them over to my Gods. I pray for people who have pissed me off as it’s hard to stay angry at someone for whom you’re praying (Sometimes that list is quite long…). Anger breeds resentment and resentment wears me down. Praying for the well-being of people I’m pissed at is not me being anywhere near enlightenment. It’s part of my self-care. I meditate to still my mind after having stuffed it with stimuli from work, social media, and living in the city. I sleep better when I do. Sometimes, I’m so tired I just go to my altar and say, “I’m here but I’m going to bed.” The routine is what counts. Some days are a better altar day than others.
Cooking It’s cheaper than eating out, it’s healthier, and I like doing it. Preparing food is grounding to me.
Cleansing rituals on my Moon Time and on the New Moon. Many Witches believe that the New Moon is the best time for cleansing rituals. I don’t know if they’re actually energetically better, but I know I like doing them on the New Moon. I find that by spending that time with myself, I gain more clarity in dreams. Sometimes that clarity has helped me heal from an old wound. Sometimes that clarity points out where I’ve done harm and prompts me to make amends. Both of those things and in the interest of my Self-Care. When my soul is lighter, I am happier, more present, and an overall better person to be around.
I turn off the world and watch Netflix with my husband. That one speaks for itself. 🙂
And sometimes, my regular routine isn’t enough. This past few weeks, I crossed a couple of time zones to climb to the mountains to be the “Servant for the Servants.” I had a nasty sinus infection which ambushed my inner ears. I had a sick cat and dismissed a Covener, both of which were emotionally exhausting experiences. I needed more. I needed sleep.
After a full day in bed, I’m having an easier time writing about Self-Care.
I’m not advocating my routine as THE routine everyone should follow. I only mention it because it’s all I’ve got to offer at the moment. There are people with less flexibility in their schedule and fewer resources than I have, for whom taking a day off work to sleep just isn’t possible. There are people with more flexibility and more resources who could take an entire week whenever they feel like it. I think the key with Self-Care is paying attention to your own needs and doing what you can to address them, with methods and resources that are feasible for you. Maybe that includes a five minute break from your job, going outside and breathing some fresh air. Maybe you’re one of those lucky bastards who can afford a one-month silent retreat in India.
I can say that I’m getting better at it. When I periodically put my needs first, I find it’s easier to be present for the needs of others.
What about you? What do you use for Self-Care?