The end of the year is a natural point for reflection. We listen to the Top 50 Songs of the Year and media come out with lists of the Most Important This and That. I decided to think about 2018 and consider the five most significant ways that I practiced self care.
Financial Self Care: Money is extremely psychological and financial self care is a topic I hope to write about in-depth at Her Self Care. I grew up with really mixed messages and a lot of fear about money. Looking honestly at my finances has always created a knot in my stomach and a suspiciously short attention span (denial, anyone?) I’m not particularly bad with money; money just makes me anxious. Part of my financial self care this year was digging into a book called Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead without Leaving Your Values Behind by Sarah Newcomb, Ph.D. to begin to understand and change my psychological relationship with money. (More to come about Loaded in future posts.) Knowing my head-in-the-sand tendencies with money, I also turned to my accountant and utilized his expertise to help make some financial decisions. This allowed me to test my own critical thinking about money decisions without getting bogged down by anxiety. Every woman has a relationship with money. Money has power. Good self care puts you in charge of your money (or at least in honest collaboration), knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and what created your patterns with money.
Physical Self Care: I’ve written about having chronic illness. On top of that, I had a significant surgery just over a year ago. My system was rocked and depleted as I recuperated throughout the winter and spring. Once upon a time, I was in good physical shape, but the deep fatigue I felt after attempting exercise created a fear of doing too much. I didn’t trust my judgement about my own body anymore. Enter physical therapy (cue angel music): My doctor prescribed physical therapy with someone who understands my mangled cluster of chronic illnesses. Slowly, but surely, I am getting stronger and gaining stamina in ways that will be sustainable. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know that exercise is good for us. If you are struggling to take care of your body, consider getting help from a professional (trainer, physical therapist, DVD.) And, of course, always work with your doctor if you have been inactive for some time before starting a new exercise program. I can’t emphasize this enough. For me, many of the the exercises I always thought were good turned out to be wrong for my conditions.
Online Self Care: I took a big step back from Social Media last year. My focus and attention span had become scattered and the impulse to check social media accounts felt addictive. We experience life differently when we frequently post on social media. Imagine that you are taking a walk through a beautiful setting. A social media lens has you thinking about which pictures to take and post, what to say, and how many likes you might get from your friends. That lens takes you out of the experience, out of yourself, and into the tiny screen. Now imagine that you do not have a phone or camera with you. The beautiful walk is only for you. The focus goes to your internal experience, not to immediately trying to create a narrative of the experience for others. We all need time with ourselves, just for ourselves. For me, easing up on social media did seem to improve my attention. It definitely gave me more time.
A Room of One’s Own: I admit it —I am an introvert. I need a certain amount of time alone or I melt down. In college, I decided that if I ever got married, I wanted to have my own room. It could be a study, not necessarily a bedroom, but it had to accommodate quiet, reading, private phone conversations, afternoon naps. When my boyfriend and I moved last fall, the new house had an small extra room. I knew I needed it and set out to make my case. We call it my Man Cave. It has a day bed, comfortable chair, art table, meditation space, and an extra television. I’ve written about self care as knowing what you need and making sure you get it. Virginia Wolfe had it right about that room of one’s own.
Creative Self Care: After many years of thinking, scribbling little notes, talking with mentors and friends, I finally launched Her Self Care. My health had finally reached a place that I had some spare energy to put toward something creative. I have always loved writing. I have also always valued being of service. I may not have the stamina or personality to be a social media mogul, but starting this blog fills a personal need for creativity.
Everyone has different approaches to self care. Yours will probably be different than mine. I invite you, though, to think back on 2018 and consider how you did make self care a priority. Give yourself kudos for tending to yourself! You might also think about self care needs for 2019 and create a short list of goals. Read over this list every so often, do what you can manage, and check in with yourself at the end of the year.
Amra Stafford, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who writes about women’s self care.