Self-care has become a trendy word, especially on social media. Many limit it to manicures, pedicures, and massages. And while those activities can be considered self-care, it is very limiting and does not get to the deeper meaning of self-care.
After my suicide attempt, I spent almost one month in the hospital between in-patient and partial hospitalization treatment. During this time, I started to learn about self-care and soon realized, mani’s and pedi’s, and lace-front wigs weren’t enough to be considered self-care. What good is a mani, pedi, or massage if you are always seeking validation, feeling empty, not addressing trauma, unhappy, or dealing with depression?
I started to do my soul work, and self-care became addressing my diagnosis of major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders and taking my medication to alleviate some of the symptoms. It also became attending weekly therapy, learning to set boundaries, regular exercise, saying no without an explanation, doing work that makes me feel fulfilled, improving my diet, scheduling time alone to recharge, reading, and journaling. Anytime I give a presentation and share my story, I challenge the audience to consider four dimensions of wellness — health, home, purpose, and community. Health — overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms, making informed and healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being. Home — having a stable and safe place to live. Purpose — conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society. Community — having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope. If your health is poor (physically, emotionally, or mentally), you don’t have a home, lack purpose, and community, it is impossible to be healthy.
My therapist challenged how I viewed self-care, and I learned that self-care falls into two categories — work and mindless self-care, and must be done simultaneously. Examples of work self-care are attending therapy, exercise, setting boundaries, meditation, and healing from trauma. And examples of mindless self-care are going on vacation, getting a massage, and going to the movies. Ask yourself, what do I need to do every day to stay well? What do I need to do sometimes to be well?
I am not saying getting your hair and nails done is not self-care, but it is maintenance if you are doing it regularly. Many of us have mastered the art of wearing a mask. The face is beat; hair is laid and dress to impress while being broken on the inside. Self-care is doing what feeds your mind, body, and soul, keeping your cup full and being whole. When practicing self-care, you must consider all areas of your life.