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the problem with self care

Self-care is a major buzzword and self-care has helped a lot of people create time for themselves.  You often hear of creating a “self-care routine” that might involve things like essential oils, journaling like keeping a gratitude journal, a meditation practice, going to yoga, stretching and foam rolling, drinking tea, going to bed early and being on a consistent sleep schedule, taking supplements, having a “morning routine”, using positive affirmations, reading self-help books, or even going to a Naturopath to get an IV or going to acupuncture.

Just listing all of things we could or should be doing seems overwhelming to me.  Some people feel like there’s a lot of pressure to do some of these things, but instead of being rejuvenating, it just turns into another stressful task on an already overflowing t0-do list.  By telling yourself that you should be doing it and then when it doesn’t happen, it can add to an endless loop of more anxiety and overwhelm. That’s eliminates the purpose of having a self-care routine to begin with. Or we’ll see other people having success with their self-care routine on social media and feel like we should emulate them.  There are also people who apply their perfectionist mindset to their self-care routine, or maybe they have a list of things they want to do for self-care but use all-or-none thinking with it. So if they can’t do all the things on the list, they don’t do anything at all.

If this is resonating with you and the idea of your self-care routine or lack thereof is contributing to more burnout and anxiety, then how do you “take care of yourself” without making it stressful, something you have to spend money on, or you feel like you have to force yourself to do it, then it’s probably a good idea to take a step back and reconsider if self-care is helpful or not.

So what to do?  I wasn’t able to find much data on this other than how self-care routines may be harmful if people have clinical mental illnesses.

Based on my own experience and some anecdotes from friends who have found a certain amount of a self-care routine stressful, here’s where I think a good place to start is:

Make it as simple as possible.  Self-care is about checking in with yourself and noticing when you feel good or noticing things that lead to greater feelings of well-being.

If you feel overwhelmed with all these things you feel like you should do, I suggest looking for simple things you’re probably already doing with very basic mindfulness.  You can do it just once and it only takes a few seconds, or you may find that it just starts becoming something you do all day every day which was the case with me.  I have to say that I do feel good when I journal or do some of the self-care tasks, but adding them to my list causes stress.  If it feels natural, then I’ll do them. But if I feel stressed that I should do them then I don’t do them and I take

  • notice when you are outside and just note something smiple like the sky or what leaves on a tree look like
  • positive social interactions with others- this can be as simple as smiling and feeling connected to a strange on the street
  • if you’re eating something healthy, just recognize you ate something healthy

This is just basic mindfulness that doesn’t require a routine, it doesn’t require any real work.  I’d start there if all the self- care shoulds are  causing you stress.

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