Total Therapy Blog
Self-Care and Self-Love
Self-care is a term that I’ve been seeing a lot on social media in the last few years. When I hear the term, my first thoughts go to the “treat yoself” scenes from the hit tv show Parks & Recreation. But it’s much more than material things, isn’t it? Self care is defined as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with the illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider” (WHO, 2021) according to the World Health Organization. To me however, self-care is much less clinical. Self-care seems more like doing what is necessary to ensure my mental and physical well-being. That’s where I feel the WHO definition fails a little. Now I’ll be the first to admit, that in my case one of those aspects has been a lot easier to manage than the other. But this is one of those instances where it’s more about the journey than the destination.
By now, you could probably guess that my own journey with self-care and self-love hasn’t been easy. It’s hard to take care of yourself when you don’t love yourself – the two concepts go hand in hand. Therapy has definitely helped me, but I understand that it’s not a feasible option for many people. Our healthcare system, as great at it is, does have its flaws. One of the largest barriers being lack of access to affordable mental health care for so many Canadians. So what can we do? What’s helped me in the past is finding things I love to do and actually making the time to do them. For example, reintroducing myself to hobbies I once enjoyed immensely, like cooking, reading, and FINALLY starting to take care of my body. What’s been hard though, is learning to do those things guilt-free.
One thing to ask ourselves is: how do we do the things we love without feeling guilty about taking the time to do so? Too bad there isn’t a quick fix. As I said before, therapy has helped a lot, but it’s also taken me a lot of self-talk in the way of affirmations (seriously, I’m constantly talking to myself – sometimes you just need an expert opinion). I feel guilty about saying no to people and I feel just as guilty about taking time for myself. In the height of my mental health struggles, I had a hard time doing anything. Some days simple tasks were akin to climbing a mountain. I got some advice that really resonated with me: when it seems like going about your day is more daunting than the crew of the USS Enterprise dealing with the Borg or Q, break everything up in 2 or 3-minute tasks. Do what you can in 2-3 minutes, and take breaks as you need to. Making the bed can be done in under 3-minutes. Maybe do that. Maybe your morning routine takes too long, but brushing your teeth can be done in 3-minutes. It made sense to me then, to adopt this same technique when it came to enjoying my hobbies guilt-free. I adjusted the time frame a little. I broke up my tasks into 30-minute chunks. It was easy to convince myself of enjoying those tasks when I knew there was a time limit. Maybe I didn’t have to finish a book in 3 days, but I could read for 30-minutes a day. It was easier to justify enjoying my hobbies when I did them in moderation.
I could wax poetic for pages about the value in self-care and self-love. The fact of the matter is, it’s going to look different for each of us. For me, especially during the pandemic, dissociation from the real world is what helped the most. Initially, I read a lot, watched WAY too much Netflix, and really focused on not thinking about what was going on in the world around me. Having to go into isolation in the beginning definitely made things easier too. As we’ve continued on along much the same path over the last 18 months, I’ve been forced to be introspective and consider what works for me long term. I continue to read and binge watch all the true crime stuff across multiple streaming platforms (seriously, it might be a problem), but I also recognize that taking care of my physical being has been something to help me. The iconic Elle Woods from Legally Blonde said it best: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” (Luketic, 2001 ) There’s more to that quote, and as much as I love to quote that entire line, the important part in this instance is the endorphins making me happy.
In the end, I believe that self-care and self-love is part of the human experience. Within the world stage, it seems as though we are constantly being bombarded with messaging that tells us exactly the opposite: that it’s selfish to take care of us. That shouldn’t be the case. Building the habit of allowing ourselves guilt-free time to do the things we love and enjoy goes a long way. We SHOULD be expected to take care of ourselves first and foremost, because if we ourselves are taken care of, then we will have the inner strength and compassion to take care of others as well.
If you’re reading this and struggling mentally or emotionally, please reach out; help is available if you need it. Here are some helpful resources to access, if you need to:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566
Luketic, R. (Director). (2001 ). Legally Blonde [Motion Picture].
WHO. (2021). What do we mean by self-care? . Retrieved from World Health Organization : https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/self-care-interventions/definitions/en/