Monday, February 20, 2017

Too Much Self in Self-Care

I recently asked for feedback on Facebook from my peers in the behavioral and mental health fields regarding self-care. Self-care is quite a buzzword for us. We attend trainings, take classes, make charts, and read article after article about remembering to treat ourselves, find time for ourselves, eat chocolate for ourselves, etc. etc. So we have plenty of information about HOW to perform self-care. I wanted to know if it works.

Some of my friends and co-workers responded that the typical exercise, nights off, and massages work for them (I know, I think they're lying, too!) But there was also a plethora of "eh, kind ofs"; people who said they're still working on it, and even a couple of hospitalizations (yes, more than one!) In my own experience, I'm surrounded by people who are tired, worn out, and stressed. Personally, I don't find massages, manicures, and hot baths to be enough. I feel like the current zeitgeist in self-care is putting too much emphasis on the self and not enough emphasis on our surroundings.

We are already doing so much! Sometimes taking time out to drink tea and paint my nails begins to feel more like an obligation, and one that won't really accomplish anything in the long run. After my nails dry, there will still be trauma, large caseloads, constant changes, and meager budgets, and I still feel tired.

I've tried to start doing things that really feel like they're accomplishing something, making a bigger difference, and possibly changing some of the things that cause me stress in the first place. I know I can't completely change the field of social work so that it's not stressful, but I can take action so that I'm not shouldering so much of the stress.

So here's my list:

  • Doing absolutely nothing. In a field that expects so much, in a country that values production, in a home where I keep trying to bring Pintrest to life, flopping on the couch for a couple of hours and raising my middle finger to responding, cleaning and creating feels FANTASTIC.
  • Setting boundaries both at work and in personal relationships. This includes
  • Saying no! to extra tasks at work, clients who "need" you after hours, having a perfectly clean house, letting your relatives stay with you for two weeks...
  • Saying yes! It's okay to go out and do things before all of your notes are finished, before your house is vacuumed or before you've purchased groceries for the week.
  • Eating frozen foods. I am so. tired. of hearing about how I should eat for optimum health. Over the past year and a half and three different doctors I've been told about all of the things I should be watching out for (soy, dairy, grains, sugar, chemicals that I can't pronounce, preservatives) and all of the things I should be eating instead (turmuric, vitamins, probiotics, mushrooms, things that are dark in color) and at a certain point I decided that it was less stressful to have some pain rather than have to spend so much time obsessing over food. I now keep some Daiya frozen pizzas and some peanut butter and jelly on hand at all times for those days when I just need to not think.
  • Therapy I can not stress this enough for my fellow social workers and therapists. We need it, too.
  • Humor "Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious." No one knows who actually said that, but they were right. I try to laugh as much as possible, even about the tough stuff.
  • Speaking Up I often come across the sentiment that the world (and this career field) has always been "like this" and there isn't much we can do to change it so we should just accept it. That feels disempowering to me, so I say something. I believe in change. When I can, I'm going to tell you what's not working and try for something different. 
  • Standing Up for myself and for others. This is hard and often makes other people mad. But doing it is like giving myself a huge hug. 
  • Moving More Slowly I'm trying to stop rushing. Even if I'm late. 
What do you think? I'd enjoy having more of a conversation about this!


  1. I love this list. I'll (hopefully) comment later, too.

  2. Thank you for writing and posting this! You have given me much to think about. Tomy G.