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Reclaiming self-care

Here at the headquarters, one of our biggest pet peeves is when people talk about self-care as if it’s an indulgent, extravagant activity, or an excuse to spend money. Why have we made it such a luxury?

Many of us run ourselves ragged. We try to juggle work, family, friends, exercise, hobbies, ambitions and expectations, all without dropping a ball. Somehow, we’ve managed to convince ourselves – and each other – that self-care is something to be scheduled in; that it requires props, spa days and cancelled plans. But self-care should be just that: taking care of yourself.

Self-parenting is the answer

It can help to recontextualise self-care as “self-parenting”. Think of the ways good parents care for their children – making sure they’re fed and hydrated, that they brush their teeth and go to sleep when it’s time, that they do their chores and wear the right clothes for the season. Do you care for yourself that way?

Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to tell our friends and loved ones all the ways they should take better care of themselves. But when the tables are turned, we have all the excuses ready: I’m too busy, I don’t deserve it yet, I’ll get to it as soon as this or that, what will other people think, and what about…?

Listen to your inner parent

Make a list of the things you’d tell yourself if you were your own super-parent, filled with love and care for yourself. (The personality of your actual parents is irrelevant; just be the best possible parent you can imagine.) My list looks like this:

  • Go to sleep earlier
  • Dress warmer
  • Get your shoes fixed
  • Drink more water
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Cook at home more
  • Have your annual “brain service” sessions with a therapist
  • Make time to read more
  • Everything will be all right.

Depending on your situation, your list might look completely different – the important thing is that it’s honest and true to your self-care needs. Let your inner super-parent take over and make sure you stick to the list. The steps are obligatory and unnegotiable; your inner parent told you so.

Look into your options for self-care

Of course, there may be situations, places and times in which some of the steps are impossible to follow. Looking at my list, many of the items are privileges not available to everyone. But, if you can, spend some time looking at your options. Perhaps you could go to bed earlier on certain days, maybe you can find a cobbler who can fix your shoes in exchange for some assistance, or perhaps there’s a free mental health service in your neighbourhood that can help you if you’re prepared to wait a while.

Every so often, ask yourself: Am I taking care of myself today? And should the answer be ‘yes’, double check by whispering back: Am I being a good self-parent today?

Reclaim self-care as a necessity.

You’re the only ‘you’ we’ve got.