Is It self care or Is It self­ish?

In which we dis­cuss the in­ter­net’s most re­lax­ing buzz­word and how you can get in on the ac­tion.

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Feel -

Let’s be hon­est: who hasn’t snuck out of the of­fice early to get a mani-pedi just be­cause of the need for some time to re­cover from crazy dead­lines? Bought an ex­pen­sive, ab­so­lutely un­nec­es­sary bauble be­cause it was made of hap­pi­ness and joy and would look awe­some in a flat­lay? Slapped on a sheet mask and chilled out to the cheesi­est movie stream­ing on Net­flix? Or called in to file a sick leave (a “men­tal health day” be­ing the of­fi­cial term in your head) be­cause the thought of go­ing to work was, in a word, un­bear­able?

If you have, then con­grat­u­la­tions, you’ve prac­ticed self care!

Well, sort of. Self care, in a nut­shell, is any­thing you do to help main­tain or im­prove your well-be­ing. De­spite the term only reach­ing peak trendi­ness these past cou­ple of years, it’s an es­sen­tial part of ev­ery­one’s life, no mat­ter your age, gen­der, so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, or be­liefs.

Sounds pretty sim­ple, right? Book a mas­sage or buy a nice pair of shoes and, boom, you can con­sider your­self cared for.

Again, sort of. “These times are more stress­ful than ever. There’s in­for­ma­tion over­load and over­stim­u­la­tion, and we’re not aware of it be­cause we’re so used to it, but it does af­fect us. [Self care is] deal­ing with the stresses we ac­cu­mu­late through­out the day, as well as the stresses we’ve ac­cu­mu­lated through­out the years,” says Dr. Randy Del­losa, psy­chol­o­gist and founder of the Lifechange Re­cov­ery Cen­ter.

Given that we’re so im­mersed in our stress­ful en­vi­ron­ments, and de­spite feel­ing like we have barely enough time to fin­ish what we need to do, much less make time for ad­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, Del­losa says we need to trust our in­tu­ition about when and how we need to prac­tice self care. “When we feel that we’re stressed, we might be stressed. We might even be numb to the stress, so we have to sneak self care into our rou­tines,”

he shares. “Most peo­ple will wait for va­ca­tion time to re­lieve them­selves of stress. How­ever, when they go back to work, they may be ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a lot of stress again, so the proper way is to sneak stress relief into your day so you’re not ac­cu­mu­lat­ing it.”

The Good and The Bad

As with any trendy move­ment, like Cross­fit or go­ing gluten-free, there will al­ways be sup­port­ers and naysay­ers. Re­gard­ing self care, the crit­i­cism has al­ways been that it is, at best, self­ish and self­ind­ul­gent and, at worst, con­sumeris­tic.

“The thing with the self care trends these days is they fo­cus mostly on the phys­i­cal as­pect. How­ever, as hu­man be­ings, we’re mul­ti­fac­eted,” says Del­losa, who clar­i­fies that although self care must in­volve phys­i­cal well-be­ing, it must also tran­scend sim­ple cor­po­real en­joy­ment. He likens the prac­tice to a wheel with four dif­fer­ent spokes—phys­i­cal, emo­tional, re­la­tional, and spir­i­tual—and though one or more can tem­po­rar­ily com­pen­sate for the lack of sat­is­fac­tion, ful­fill­ment, or well­ness in one area, with­out all four present and work­ing in tan­dem, the ben­e­fits of self care can­not be max­i­mized. “Peo­ple use phys­i­cal self care as a band-aid be­cause they’re caught up in ac­tiv­i­ties or re­la­tion­ships that are not mean­ing­ful. True self care means get­ting into ac­tiv­i­ties or re­la­tion­ships that are al­ready mean­ing­ful. If it’s shal­low to you, or isn’t en­joy­able, it isn’t self care,” he says. He fur­ther ex­plains that self care is some­thing in­tensely per­sonal, mean­ing although the mul­ti­tude of Pin­ter­est-friendly ideas across the in­ter­net might be a good start­ing point, they aren’t a for­mula. “The op­er­a­tional word is ‘mean­ing­ful’. It has to be mean­ing­ful for you, oth­er­wise, it might be a cause for stress,” says Del­losa, who sug­gests, “One thing that can help is mak­ing a list of things you might be cu­ri­ous about, in­ter­ested in, or might have been put­ting off, so you can do those.”

So should you keep fol­low­ing the “treat yo’ self” mantra un­til the prob­lem goes away? “There’s a fine line be­tween self-in­dul­gence and self care, be­cause be­ing self-in­dul­gent may be the act of self care,” says Del­losa. “This is es­pe­cially true for some­one who is al­ways tak­ing care of other peo­ple. [Self care may be harm­ful] if it af­fects other as­pects of life like, for ex­am­ple, if it eats up too much of your bud­get or your time. If it takes away from sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ships or takes time away from obli­ga­tions, or when it be­comes an ad­dic­tion, when it de­stroys the bal­ance, es­sen­tially.” He adds, “The point is that es­cap­ing can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s the same as in­dul­gence: once you tra­verse the limit, it’s a bad thing. With self care, you’re lim­ited by time. You can’t and shouldn’t self care all the time be­cause the idea is bal­ance.”

You Bet­ter Werq

At the heart of self care, then, lies aware­ness—of how you feel, who you are, what you love, what mat­ters to you, what your lim­its are—for self care to be truly ef­fec­tive at help­ing you live your life at your health­i­est and hap­pi­est.

“Find out what your trig­gers are for stress,” shares Del­losa. “Di­vide your life into the dif­fer­ent facets and find out what trig­gers you phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally, spir­i­tu­ally, and re­la­tion­ally. From this, you can come up with a self care pro­gram for each facet, and try to squeeze in the steps through­out your day or your week so you don’t have to wait for a certain pe­riod.”

While this seems like a stress­ful process—be­cause, let’s face it, self-re­flec­tion of any kind can be drain­ing—it’s a nec­es­sary and even­tu­ally worth­while part of the process. What’s im­por­tant is that you’re able to ad­dress the is­sues that are stress­ing you out as well as cater to needs of ev­ery facet of your life, step by step. Think in both the long and short term, and about your phys­i­cal, men­tal, and emo­tional needs. If nec­es­sary, seek out pro­fes­sional help. “Self care can be work, ini­tially. You have to an­a­lyze—it’s not just about jump­ing into some­thing. You shouldn’t just do what other peo­ple do,” says Del­losa. “Don’t for­get that, some­times, it’s all right to be self­ish. Find what’s good for you.”

“If it’s shal­low to you, or isn’t en­joy­able, it isn’t self care.”

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