Self-Care: Everything Must Go
Knitters, here we are nearly at the end of summer. Everything has changed, and not enough has changed. Still, we made it to this moment. The change of the seasons is always a sort of opportunity—a good point to refresh a routine.
All kinds of routines, really, but let’s just take self-care. Here’s a chance to review what has gotten stale, outlived its purpose, or is just a burden that could be put down.
The common approach is to look at each thing we are doing, evaluate, prioritize, see what there’s still time and money for, reprioritize, and … well, I think that approach might be assuming too much. That’s how things that have outlived their usefulness dodge examination and get grandfathered in—like unused, guilt-mongering gym memberships.
It’s a personality thing, but I just have so much relish for the slate-wiping approach. It’s a way that has broad appeal right now. Don’t we all kinda just want to set 2020 on fire and start over? This is what I mean by everything must go!
So here’s how you could do that: Put your self-care routine on paper. What do you do to take care of your body and soul every day? Every week? It’s private, so there’s no one to judge you. Don’t let the Inner Judge get started, either. It’s just information.
Now, if you can’t come up with a list of what you do to take care of yourself, keep track for a few days. Almost everyone thinks they should do more, and almost everyone is doing more than they think. To remind yourself to keep track, you can set a timer to go off every couple hours if you like. (This can be a very illuminating experience. If you’re confused about “where the time goes,” you won’t be after this exercise.)
And then imagine yourself with a blank space. No obligations and no reason to pretend that everything is fine as is. (I know! It’s a real workout for the imagination, if you’re a woman and you have children and you have parents and you have a partner and you have a job and you run a household. Oh, I get it. But you know: IMAGINE.)
So without privileging anything on the list, mentally take it all off. You’re not prioritizing right now. You’re deprioritizing the very idea of prioritizing. It’s radical.
Last step: Get yourself a second sheet of paper as blank as the blank space you just strained (probably) to imagine. Make all those before things fight their way onto the new list. Let yourself know the truth of their value. Some of them don’t deserve a spot. That’s fine.
And see if your self-care routine doesn’t look nice and shiny now, with space for interesting new things. (Note: Sometimes what makes its way onto the list is a not-to-do. For instance, my phone is now in quarantine until after breakfast every day. It’s been a minor miracle.)
It bears repeating: You do you. I don’t judge, you don’t need to judge, nobody gets to judge. If Keanu is your self-care tentpole, come on in—the water’s fine. If it’s yoga every day, also cool. None of this stuff comes with brownie points or demerits. Self-care doesn’t get into the club for rocking the right look. It’s only admitted if it provides real help.
So we don’t have to evaluate anything based on how good or bad it makes us look.
As for the future: Nobody knows what is going to happen next. That has always been true, as the Buddha pointed out 2,600 years ago. But we can guess this: The coming months will be challenging, and whatever we can do to support ourselves with kindness and generosity will help us get through and better set us up to be of use to others.
Below, in the comments, I would be very keen to know what are the activities and routines that give you strength, and that you want to preserve. And I’m also curious about what used to work but no longer does.
I recommend Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. We will definitely talk more about this book/golden key soon. If you’re overwhelmed right now trying to figure out how to care for yourself, the Nagoskis can help.