Let’s just get one thing straight right now, self-care is a legitimate necessity in order to get through this thing called life in one piece. Kat Williams may or may not be all there, but he was preaching the gospel when he said you have to be in tune with your key fucking player, they key fucking player being you. The trouble with having human needs is that like most necessities, big business always finds a way to monetize them. Take water for example. It’s an actual need to sustain life, but water isn’t free, and some are paying a higher cost for it than others. What should be a means to restore oneself in the midst of a world that is constantly draining you in countless ways, is now being packaged and sold in the form of face masks and serums that promise a newer, better you. But if you are suffering from anxiety and depression, buying a face mask isn’t going to heal you. It may or may not fix the resulting puffiness under your eyes from lack of sleep due to your anxiety, but you can’t rely solely on topical solutions for underlying issues. That’s a fact that rings true even within the beauty industry, but that’s another conversation for another day. The truth is, taking care of yourself in real and lasting ways isn’t something you can pay your way into.
Self-care requires intentional practice, planning, and patience; which starts with a knowledge of self, and that journey for me began with therapy.
I tend to get overwhelmed pretty easily, and that results in insomnia for me. So when I wasn’t getting sleep for weeks at a time, save for depression naps on the weekend, I decided I needed more help than what Sarah Jakes Roberts YouTube videos could offer. My mind felt messy and cloudy with thoughts of where I’ve been, where I am, where I want to be, and how to get there. It was at this point that I confided in a work friend about what I was going through (I don’t recommend that by the way. I got really lucky with my work friend, but boundaries people!). She gave me the number to her therapist, who accepts our insurance (whoot whoot) and I made an appointment. I’ve been seeing her for about six months, and although I have a lot of work left to do, I don’t feel so overwhelmed by that these days. I am in the process of learning more about who I am, what I need, and how to properly take care of myself.
On this never ending quest to feel better, we look to so many outside sources for solutions, not realizing that it starts with learning ourselves first. I could easily list the ways in which I practice self-care these days, but that wouldn’t really help you, because you are you. The things that help me to feel restored, and sane may or may not apply to you, because we have our own unique triggers, stemming from our unique life experiences. You know those awful decisions you’ve made and continue to make that you bury under self-deprecating humor? Well, your therapist basically tosses you a shovel and stands guard while you dig up those things, and together you sift through the why, to arrive at how you can actually never do those trash ass things again. Therapists help you to learn your triggers, and how to cope with them.
To be fair, therapy is not fun, especially at first. I cannot emphasize to you enough how truly abhorrent therapy is in the beginning. Your habits and thought processes are challenged in so many different ways. Sometimes by the end of my sessions I feel vulnerable, raw, exposed, and damaged. Like a Love and Hip Hop cast member’s scalp after losing their wig in a reunion fight. This is where patience comes in to play. If you are trying to achieve a goal of any kind, it requires a change in your habits, many of which you’ve likely had for a while. Therefore, it isn’t reasonable to expect that after one hour long session you’ll be immediately “fixed.”
The process of learning yourself is just that, a process, and it requires patience.
Let’s say you’re a month into therapy, and you’ve learned that you could really benefit from meditation. You read an article wherein some guru you admire said she starts every morning at 6 AM with a morning meditation session. So you say to yourself, “Self, we are going to wake up at the crack ass of dawn to meditate, so that we too can be a bad bitch.” Monday morning comes, your alarm goes off and you say to yourself, “Bitch, you thought,” and you go back to sleep, because you are actually not a morning person. That was a fail, and you will fail often as you are learning how to take care of yourself. And that kids is what we call practice: repetitive failure until you get it right. So now you know that you are not going to commit to waking up before you have to, to meditate. You do; however, know that you get an hour long break at work during which you can easily step away to a quiet space. You can either try to force yourself to be someone you aren’t (a morning person) or you can tailor this activity to fit your life. This is where planning comes in to place. There is no shortage of activities and/or habits that will realistically yield a healthier you, but you have to plan within reason of who you are and what you know you can commit to doing on a regular basis. Another example: If you really need to get in shape, but crowds trigger your anxiety, then don’t sign up for a group fitness class. You’d be creating an additional unnecessary obstacle to practicing self-care. As my therapist says, “You have to get it in when and how you can.”
You’ll find that some self-care activities aren’t as fun as going on a shopping spree for beauty products, but they contribute to your overall well being. Going to your annual doctor’s appointments is self-care. Actually taking your lunch hour and stepping away from the office during that time is self-care. Eating more whole foods (the concept, not the store, they are not paying me) is self-care. The surplus of options can actually feel really overwhelming, which is why it helps to have a therapist help you sort those things out, and determine what you truly need. They act as a guide on this journey, so you don’t have to go it alone, and so you don’t get overwhelmed.
If you want to practice effective self-care, then start with a therapist, and learn what your self needs to feel taken care of.