Degrees of self care

When it comes to looking after ourselves, sometimes we need to make sure we're practicing self care at the appropriate level.

I was recently asked a couple of things which flipped a bit of a switch in my mind.

1️⃣ “What do you do for self care?"

2️⃣ “Do you have anyone else for support?"

Now, these aren’t new questions. I’ve been asked them at various points before, and as a manager I often ask them to others. My own answers are usually something like:

1️⃣ “I try to look after myself! I have baths, I’ve got a candle on my desk, whenever the weather is nice enough I take myself off on loner walks for head space, I’ve bought a journal.."

2️⃣ “Yes, I talk to my mum and brother every weekend, and I’ve got some close friends I speak to regularly…"

However, for some reason, when I was actually pressed on those familiar questions the other day, I realised the relative superficiality of my usual answers.

Whilst my little self care actions are good and nice, they’re not enough right now. They’re not sufficient to balance everything else, and yet by “ticking the box” at that level I was telling myself I was taking action, so had done my part.

The person who sparked my rethink was my therapist, who I started seeing at the start of the year after realising I needed help. I feel like that’s the first real bit of self care on an appropriate level that I’ve done in a long time.

Yesterday was a really, really hard day. It came from the smallest of things, a trigger rooted in a fear dating back years come true. I woke up under a real cloud that was impossible to shake.

And so I questioned my stock answer to the second question too. I have these wonderful people for support, but I don’t actually use the support offered, and don’t talk openly. I called my mum, I spoke honestly about what’s actually going on and how I’m doing. I later spent an hour on the phone to one of my friends, again not holding back. And it helped. My mum encouraged me to speak to a doctor, so I did, again giving them the full picture. And they recommended that I start antidepressants immediately.

I’ve always had a bit of a hesitancy around meds, for a variety of reasons. But at this point, with everything going on, it feels like it’s personally another really important bit of self care, appropriate to the level of challenge I’m facing (but please don’t take this as a general endorsement oh keyboard warriors, not right for everyone, speak to your doctor, ymmv etc etc).

I’m hopeful that rather than papering over cracks with a stream of surface-level self care, by taking really meaningful and sizeable steps, that I’m setting myself up much better than I originally thought I was.

Society’s slowly getting better with these topics but we still don’t always talk about things like this. We should. So I wanted to put this out there in case anyone else needs to be challenged.

❓ How are you actually doing right now?

❓ Is the self care you’re practicing, or the level of support you’re getting actually at the level it needs to be, or are you just telling yourself it’s enough?

❓ How can you take that first step in a better direction?