Learning New Self Care

Self care is important for everyone- including myself. This a basic, and almost obvious statement but for me it took me far too long to realize. When I get stressed the way I cope is by doing more. This may seem counterintuitive, and often it is. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by school, family, friends or just life in general my natural reaction is to just do something else rather than deal with the problem at hand. A few months ago I couldn’t even fathom the idea of just doing nothing or doing something purely for myself. Years of doing this made me normalize my behavior. I would explain to my mom, my boyfriend, friends, doctor, everyone that cared about me that always being busy calmed me down. I was lying to them and more importantly I was lying to myself.

      I told myself that because I was doing something productive that it was healthy. My anxiousness and feeling like I lacked any real control in life typically manifested itself by me becoming obsessed with menial things that I felt like I could control. For example I would rewrite my class notes 4 times, not because I needed to and not even necessarily because it helped me learn better. I did it because it was something I could control. I thought this process was cathartic, I thought it helped me calm down. Looking back I realized that it was just another stressor in my life. My life was being controlled by what I thought I was controlling. I became obsessed with counting everything I did, from the notes I took to the number of grapes I ate, I really felt like I was doing well. Because I was getting good grades and maintaining important relationships in my life I refused to see that this was unhealthy. To me this was self-care.

      I always recognized the importance of self-care, but not always for myself. If anyone suggested  I try something other than my rituals that gave me a sense of control, I would very defensive and explain why my self care was the best. I was so in need of structure and control that the thought of doing something healthy, and relaxing like taking time to breathe or sit down and have a nice meal or even something as watching TV felt like a waste of time for me.

    My journey to discovering self care has not been an easy one, and I am still trying to figure out what works best for me. However, this class in addition to working at SARP has helped me see that yes even I need self care. Everyone needs it including myself. Taking time for yourself is healthy, not lazy. I would be lying if I said there aren’t days when my stress gets the best of me and I rewrite my notes or count my chewing, but the more I practice my new healthier self care the less frequent these days become.

     While I am hesitant to say that my coping strategies before were ‘wrong’ (I think it was right for me at the time), I have adopted new techniques that make me feel better. Self care looks different for everyone, and unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all self-care trick that will work for everyone. However I have been fortunate to find some techniques that work for me. Some of them may sound silly and that’s okay!

      Self-care for me is being open and not holding everything. Before I wanted everyone to think that I was some super human that never needed help and could deal with anything, I realize how detrimental that was to my health. I was always stressed, my body hurt and I never slept enough. I couldn’t even enjoy time with loved ones without finding something I could control and  do. However with love and support I was able to find new ways to care for myself. I am now more open about how I am feeling, instead of always saying I’m fine, I am honest about how I really am feeling with a few close loved ones.

     Additionally, I accept that my school work isn’t perfect. I enjoy school and learning so much more now that I can focus on just absorbing the material rather than my need to have the same notes four times. I go to the gym and take walks sounds simple, because it it but it helps me. If I want to dedicate my life to helping others I need to first learn to help myself.  

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