I’ve seen a lot of posts going around lately, my own included, regarding self-care. This got me thinking this morning about what exactly self-care entails. I did a very quick mock up regarding myself this morning and found that I was tired, listless, and feeling generally without spoons. This was hearkened on last night when I mentioned that I had been ignoring about 98% of what has been happening within in the great pagan community because I tend to ignore myself in the face of whatever issues are going on and forego whatever work I may be doing in the name of “self-care.” But as I did a quick look over myself and realized that my spoons are low, I began to wonder what the fuck self-care really is because, well, maybe I’m doing it wrong.
I looked around, first, at my friends list on Facebook. Perhaps it was people within that had the answer to what this question. I saw a lot of memes and philosophical type statuses about what people think the world should be like. But that didn’t really answer the question. I searched through the self-care tag on Tumblr and found that, well, there are a lot of different definitions for it, depending on people and their circumstances. It didn’t seem like I was going to find anything that was specifically, “this is what self-care is so go and do the thing.” And that’s kind of what I was hoping for since, you know, I think I may be doing it wrong.
I started thinking about the people who I know who think about self-care, though perhaps not in those words. My supervisor is very unhappy – to her, self-care, is sitting at home and doing nothing because she is an introvert. And to an extent, I can see why that would be the case since, as an introvert, it can be very difficult to socialize at work, either with co-workers or with clients, day in and day out. But she doesn’t seem particularly happy and she often complains about how dissatisfied she is with her life. So maybe not doing anything after work and on the weekends is part of her self-care, but I think there may be an integral part to it that she may not be doing.
In same vein, looking at her circumstances, I find myself. I do a few things that I would deem as self-care: spending time at home when my spoons have been eaten up by constant people-ing; working on issues that the gods or my own psyche point out that need to be addressed through shadow work; pulling back heavily from community related exercises in a better attempt to get a handle on myself, my wants, and my religious life; attempting to eat healthier and exercise more; and spending any private time on pursuits that I would prefer, such as reading fiction books in every spare moment, re-reading historical biographies, and/or boning up on historical time periods that I have a preference for. These are all things that I tend to think of as self-care and things that I have been attempting to do, with moderate success in some areas and extreme success in other areas. But I still find myself having issues in various arenas and finding that, well, I don’t feel like I’m doing things properly.
So, I kept looking for answers.
I polished off my Google-fu and began looking around for some answers.
Wiki, of course, was the first thing that popped up. The first paragraph from Wiki says, “Self-care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development. In terms of health maintenance, self-care is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. A holistic health approach is common in self-care.” However, as I kept reading, the page seemed to be specifically referring to “physical well-being” and “physical health” as opposed to the all-encompassing health forms that I was looking for.
I kept looking.
And then I think I hit the jack pot when I found this PDF file. The first sentence was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I went through the suggested strategies and saw that there were things, according to the PDF, that I was missing out on. I haven’t been doing well with the whole eating properly thing lately (since we’ve been so social in the last two weeks, I’ve found my eating habits returning to “bad” instead of “moderately okay” like they have been) and I haven’t been able to meet my step goal in days and days. (Some of my step goals are a little difficult to meet anyway because I sit at a desk all day but I do try to make up the steps in some form or another after work.) I had been ignoring my physical well-being.
What else had I been ignoring?
Some of the emotional self-care comments didn’t seem to apply to me. While I understand the requirement, for some people, when it comes to counseling, I haven’t had very many good experiences with counseling and have since decided that due to trust issues, it’s not a good idea for me. I’ve already cut out many of the friends that I have felt used me and wouldn’t let me discuss my own issues. I screen my calls regularly (mostly because I don’t get many and the ones that I do get are those stupid auto-dialer calls from toll-free numbers).
So what else?
“Be aware of things you may be doing that take up a lot of your time but don’t support your self-care such as too much time on the internet, watching TV, even sleeping. These can all be relaxing, enjoyable activities in moderation but can become a way of retreating and isolating yourself.” Hm. And of course, this one, “Make a date night and stick with it, either with a partner, a friend or a group of friends.” Hmmmm.
I can definitely say that I don’t set limits on much of anything. I watch as much television as I want; I don’t spend as much time on the Internet as I used to but I still do it to excess (I feel); I certainly can’t remember the last time I had a date night with either of my boys (mostly because of money); and well, yeah, I do things to excess much of the time. So maybe the issue is that I don’t have enough limits or remember how to limit myself or even think about what limits should be?
I think, perhaps, the limit thing may be the issue.
Devo wrote about knowing thyself and setting limits at the beginning of this year. In this entry, she discusses how she knew where her limits were based on what she’s been dealing with lately and when she knew she had to put some things up in order to maintain herself.
This quote, in particular, is the portion of her post that resonates with me the most currently: “Many people seem to lack this ability – the ability to say no, or to drop something that is important to them. However, it’s my firm belief that all of us really need to sit down, look at ourselves in the mirror and learn what our limits are, and the effect that sticking our head in the sand could be having on the gods and ourselves. How not saying no can be of detriment to the things we really care about.”
I have set limits in some contexts previously. Many of the friends I have had over the years, I have since come to learn that it was not a two-way partnership. I am very much a people pleaser and I found that they were not aiding me at all. It became more important during my unemployment and shortly thereafter to remove such people from my life. While I currently only have maybe two people to whom I can speak with about various things, I’ve also come to set limits within those friendships, knowing that certain aspects of my life shouldn’t meet. (As discussed in this entry.)
In Devo’s entry, she discusses that the best way to set limits is to know yourself. But how do you get to know yourself well enough to know what limits you need to set for yourself? When is enough, well, enough? When can you finally decide what you do want and what you don’t want? And when are the limits too strict and when are the limits too lax?
My limits, currently, are very much in the lax category regarding many things. And I need to tighten things up a bit, I thinks. But how do I know what needs to be tightened up and what doesn’t? I remarked on where, as based on the PDF I linked to, my limits are too stretchy to be effective. But are those the only areas that I need to work on? Maybe there are other areas that need to be addressed and I just haven’t discovered them yet?During my search through the Tumblr “self-care” tag, I found an image that kind of resonated with me. This image is from a cartoonist in Melbourne, Australia. It took me a while to find the original artwork, which can be seen here at his website. I went through the gallery a few times until I found the image in question, as seen to the right. I think that it is this cartoon, more than anything, that heralds how best to “know thyself” and how best to establish one’s own limits. If we don’t know who we are and get to know who we are then any limits we may set for ourselves are completely useless.
At this time, I need to sit on the fence and get to know myself again. I need to find a clear time in which I can do more than just a quick mock up of what I’m feeling and where I think need to head. I need to do an in-depth, I think, re-introduction to myself. I am not the same person I was last year or the year before. Things have changed in large ways and small ways. And I need to remind myself who I want to be versus who I am now in order to set my limits.
Once I get to know myself, hopefully, I’ll be able to set some limits and know what to cut out and where so that I can get back on track because, honestly, having no spoons really fucking sucks.