I feel like I know what self care is, right? It’s women on Instagram having a pamper night with a sheet mask, a bath bomb and a partner who’s prepared to take arty photos in the candle light. It’s taking time away from social media and listening to what your body wants, whether it’s a Netflix binge, a long walk or a cupcake.
Maybe it’s taking some time for yourself, maybe it’s having a shopping spree and buying something new, maybe it’s having a healthy routine and meditating and getting enough sleep at night.
This week has been stressful – I finished my contract in my previous job and didn’t know what was coming next. I’m not good at handling change and I’m really not good at knowing what to do with myself when there is an expanse of nothing with no end date – I was excited about having some time off, but my mental health dive bombed and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been applying for jobs all week in between not being able to get off the sofa, really having to convince myself to eat proper meals, not making it through the day without a nap and then not sleeping until the clock reads ‘am’, which I haven’t done for a long time.
(I did get a job on Friday though, so the ‘never ending expanse of unemployment’ was only a week, which is nice)
But that’s not what I want to write about – I’m trying to listen to my body, I’m trying to figure out how to help myself. I’m going to bed early, I’m making an effort to eat vegetables and not eat all the chocolate and drink all the coca cola I’m craving. I’ve spent time doing my cross stitch project while watching a lot of House MD on Amazon Prime. I’m making to do lists and trying to do something ‘productive’ each day because I know it helps me feel like I’m doing something more meaningful. But I feel more dissociated and distant than I’ve ever felt before.
Self care can’t just be face masks and bubble baths and meditation? Surely there’s got to be something I can do to make myself feel better, right?
I mean, reading a book about a teenager being stalked by a serial killer and demonstrating her somewhat terrifying knowledge about crime scenes whilst suffering from severe PTSD about one of the previous cases she solved in the other books in the series probably isn’t helping, but I also just want to finish it so it’s done and I can read something a bit cheerier.
I’ve seen lots of tiktoks recently about the chronic failings of the British government in the middle of a mental health crisis – a crisis line that suggests baths and meditation and doesn’t help even when people ask to be sectioned and admitted for mental instability. It feels patronising.
So, what’s the point? What is self care? Does it even matter when the medical professionals we’re meant to be able to confide in and trust are prescribing having a wash and lighting a candle to do some breathing exercises?
I think self care is an overrated term – I know that making an effort with my sleep, not engaging with media and entertainment (and books) that mess with my brain and giving myself some structure will help me feel more control. Baths make me feel vulnerable, I find walks boring and meditating makes me think too much. A sheet mask isn’t going to help my physical anxiety symptoms, painting my nails won’t help me cope with change and writing in a journal about my feelings isn’t helpful right now.
Sometimes you’ve just got to ride the wave and remember that you’ve made it through this before and you will do it again.
(but any and all suggestions of things you do to feel better than you need ‘self care’ are more than welcome please)
Thank you for reading,