We have recently been inundated through all types of publications and media with messages of the need for people to practice Self-Care. Scouring the internet, I found titles such as:
Self Care challenges
Self care routines
Self care revolution
Self Care Restart
Real Self Care
Self Care Sundays
― Audre Lorde- a writer and activist is quoted stating:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I am a therapist that practices in Brooklyn and Long Island New York. Many of my clients feel as though they experience internal warfare with their anxious thoughts. The majority of my practice consists of professional Black women who are overwhelmed, over worked, suffering with wanting more of a personal life, suffering with loss, depression, anxiety, physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, having difficulty raising children, desperately wanting children, feeling stuck, feeling like there’s so much on their plate , while others feel lost and confused with no direction. All of my clients experience some level of anxiety and I offer self-care as one of their tools to assist in decreasing levels and intensity of their anxiety.
I would like to put my proverbial two cents in to the Self Care discussion. I think it is important and essential to intentionally make time to take care of self in all sorts of ways. In ways that takes up lots of time, a little time, physically doings things, not doing anything physical at all, finding ways to do things throughout your day as well as finding time and space to only self-care.
Many of my clients get frustrated with the thought of having to find time to add anything else to their “To DO list, even if it is labeled “Self-Care”. Some clients are also concerned with thoughts of if they only take care of themselves then they won’t want to do for others and most definitely won’t have any time to do for others. There are other schools of thought that state that putting in time with and for others shows love and self-caring will take away from their efforts of being loving and that’s not acceptable. Other clients feel like self-caring is financially taxing, time consuming and can even be anxiety producing. According to an article written in heathline.com, Kristi Pahr (2018) explains that self-care can trigger guilty feelings which bring up questions like: Why am I wasting time doing this for myself when I have so much other real things to get done?
I say lots of the therapeutic work , and or self -work, needs to be around understanding and opposing those thoughts. Those thoughts are not helpful, but can in turn actually be very harmful and doesn’t nurture but depletes one’s self. Feeding yourself and filling your days with making opportunities to inject joy, good food, peace and oxygen, leads to being able to help others in a more peaceful, productive, and energetic manner. There will always be work to do for others (especially if you have children) and a plethora of tasks to complete but there MUST be time for Self-Care.
I know that this has been stated so many times by so many people but I always use it and I’m going to state it now again. When on an airplane the flight attendants explain to the passengers that if the cabin loses air pressure the oxygen masks will drop. If with a CHILD (in this life or death situation) please be sure to put on your mask first before helping the child and or others.
Wow! Let’s just sit with this information for one second.
I think it is very important that we relate the airplane instructions to our lives. Putting on the oxygen mask over your head and then over your face so that you can get the oxygen to your brain first. This oxygen can assist with being able to sustain life, ability to think clearer, follow directions, make better decisions and execute in a quicker and more effective manner. Some may think it would take too much time to pull the mask to you, put the elastic band over your head and then place the mask over your face. One may think it would make more sense to try to fit the mask on a loved one, especially their child, first and then even others that may seem to be fumbling with the mask or others that are expecting the passenger to be helpful and then try to get back to their mask and try hard to get in the oxygen they need before going to help others again.
This very scenario can trigger increased levels and intensity of anxiety but even in this dire situation pulling out the trusty tool of deep breathing and breathing exercises can help to calm down racing thoughts, excessive heartbeat and increased lack of oxygen. Putting on the mask can increase oxygen flow, slower breather and clearer more decisive thoughts and actions can be a result. Ladies and gentlemen, Self-care is putting your oxygen mask on FIRST.
The ways to self-care are so vast and yet specific to an individual’s needs, wants and enjoyments; but I can share some examples:
It can include a spa day but I would like to identify more everyday ways such as lighting a scented candle while catching up on paperwork, doing a breathing exercise before picking up the screaming baby, making time for your doctor appointment too, stretching in your office in between clients, find time to journal your thoughts and wants, find time to clean out your space, play your favorite music or listen to that book you’ve been wanting to read while sitting in that insane traffic, stop what you’re doing and think or write down 3 things you’re grateful for, drink more water, make a list of what brings you joy and make a real effort to get those things done.
The short list of things are just a tiny window into how you can care for yourself so that you are filled with energy, calm, decisiveness, joy love and of course oxygen. Lack of self-care can have you operating from a space that’s depleted, filled with anger, intense anxiety, resentment, confusion, scarcity and of course lack of well flowing oxygen.
It’s not easy to find ways to care for yourself or change your mindset or combat the incessant guilty feelings that get in the way of understanding and believing the necessity of caring for yourself before and while taking care of others. Maybe Audrey was right when she stated that it is a political warfare to preserve self but aren’t you worth the fight!?
I think you are.
Self- care can look very different for each individual but the significance of caring for self should be universal.