When I think about the new "shiny" version of self-care that is being promoted by mainstream media, I can't help but think it all seems a little LUXURY. Here’s the deal, there is nothing wrong with a hot bubble bath after a long day, a glass of wine surrounded by friends, or getting your nails done. Where I believe self-care has been co-opted is through the idea that if you aren’t getting to 5 yoga classes a week, or spending 2 hours every morning meditating, you’re doing something wrong. If your concept or practice of self-care has become another barometer to measure failure, a way to escape everyday life, an excuse to indulge, or a hall pass to spend beyond your means, it may be time to do some self-exploration and reevaluation of your self-care practices.
The purpose of self-care is to integrate daily, weekly, monthly habits in a respectful way, that allows us to be present in our everyday lives, not need a break FROM them. Unfortunately, much of what we see today in the media is what I like to call “luxury” self-care. This form of self-care tends to be exclusive, expensive, and designed for a certain demographic. And, the last thing we want is for self-care to feel like another space where we aren't measuring up. Ever found yourself comparing your hectic morning to someone’s zen Instagram photo? Or started down your own shame spiral because you missed a workout or couldn't afford the newest rejuvenating facial? It isn't a fun space to be when you feel like you can't even get self-care right.
The truth is, self-care isn't usually shiny, especially when we are putting the REAL work in, and it definitely doesn't require an entire paycheck to practice .Real self-care can honestly feel pretty mundane. It’s the systems we put in place to set ourselves up for success. It’s picking up chips and salsa from the store to bring to a party instead of putting pressure on yourself to make something homemade. It's setting a monthly budget, making your annual check-up appointments, taking a (even a short) lunch break despite feeling like you don't have time to stop. Mundane self-care is,yes, meditating but not beating yourself up if you miss a day or just sit for 60-seconds. Mundane self-care is laying on the floor petting your pup, moving your body in the way it needs to be moved in that moment, setting phone or social media boundaries AND setting real life emotional and relational boundaries.
Mundane self-care might not get glamorous recognition, but it’s the real MVP. Mundane self-care is preventative. Through the practice of mundane self-care we learn to listen to our needs in a timely manner instead of waiting until we need emotional, mental, and physical disaster control. Truth be told, there are times when practicing mundane self-care isn't what we WANT to be doing but it’s always what we NEED to be doing.
Ever say “Yes” to a friend even when you know it’s the last thing you need? It feels pretty inconvenient or awkward to put up a boundary and choose to stay in instead, right? Yes. Absolutely. Boundaries are most definitely a form of self-care and one of the more difficult ones for many of us, but like with most things, the more we flex that boundaries muscle, the better we get at sifting through when “no” is the best answer we can make for ourselves. On the flip side of that, turning off your work phone so that you can go on a walk with friend might not feel comfortable, but the more we practice prioritizing our needs, the more productive we end up being in the end.
We only have so much energy to give to the world. Though, trust me, I know we often think we can do it all. And, at the end of the day PRIORITIZING where our limited energy is going is critical and thus so is putting systems in place to better care for ourselves and this energy on a consistent basis. And these systems, these daily practices make for a less luxurious and way more compassionate form of self-care.
To start practicing mundane self-care, ask yourself “What do I NEED right now?” Ask this on the regular. This will help provide a space to check in with what you are feeling and enable you to make decisions based on that. Notice if you're comparing, judging, or going down that shame spiral. If you are, take a second to take a step back and really ask yourself what YOU NEED in that moment, not what the world thinks you need, and trust that. If this starts to feel overwhelming, take three deep slow breaths and remind yourself, you got this. The more we can get in touch with what we need based on how we are feeling, the better we can align with everyday self-care practices that truly align with our present moment needs, and that feel really nourishing.
I'm not here to knock spa days, bubble baths, or wine dates with friends. If that's what you feel like you truly need in any given moment, do it. I'm simply suggesting that in a world that is full of luxury self-care ideas, it is important to remember that long lasting impact and health can be best found in the mundane. The more we can connect in with ourselves and our needs, the better equipped we will be for maintaining the type of self-care that we all REALLY long for, the type of self-care that doesn't require anything external and yet still brings us to a place of contentment.
What are your therapeutic forms of self-care!? Let us know below. To learn more about Kaitlin's work visit her site here.