Sometimes I wonder when the term self-care started to populate the conversations of wellness groups and medical professionals, and then caught on for the rest of us. So, like any good journalist, I had to look it up!
It was, indeed, a term that started in the medical field in the 1950s as a way for people to take an active role in their health. From there, it was used by civil rights groups as a term to empower and combat racism. These days, it’s complicated. Some see it as a focus on consumerism -- products are pitched to help relieve stress and provide self-care. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good moisturizer or microwaveable neck wrap, but at the end of the day, do these things really help you care for yourself?
I started this blog with a cute list of self-care tips for those that cope with regular migraines like I do. Then I realized that while a spa day can help temporarily relieve the stress that can cause a migraine when you get off the massage table the world (and all of its drama) is waiting for you.
Over the years, migraines have forced me to find ways to take better care of myself. Eliminating stress, finding balance, and relaxing have at many times helped me stave off (or reduce the intensity) of my migraines.
I’ve seen a lot of self-care lists floating around with the same tips as if we are all wired the same. Don’t get me wrong -- I love a spa day, a nice walk, or a bubble bath. But I also think self-care should be original, innovative, and not monotonous. “To thine own self be true” is the crux of self-care to me. I think self-care starts with self-assessment.
Here's a self-care list that works for me. I hope you’ll make your own if you haven’t already.
- Stop doing things I don’t like. I don’t like shopping with a bunch of girlfriends. It’s distracting. As an extrovert, I like to do most things with another person or a group -- except shopping and going to museums.
- Start doing more things I do like. I like growing cooking herbs outdoors and then leaving the clippings for neighbors. I’ve gotten teased by family and friends for doing something that might suggest I am a senior citizen, but I don’t care. It makes me happy to leave things out for people -- especially if I’ve made or grown them myself.
- Go to the doctor. I don’t go for every little thing, but if something is truly off or I’m not feeling better after a few days, I head in. Catching things early is how I take care of myself.
- Take a sick day… or two. I used to think I had to be flat on my back, unable to move to take a sick day. Now, I understand that sometimes your body just needs rest. That rest may look like in bed all day, half on the couch, or even running some back-burned errands.
- Hang out with a good friend. Think about your friend list. Now cross out anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself in any way. Mentally cross out anyone who is overly critical or bitter. Who is left? Go hang out with that person!
- Serve others. Sometimes self-care for me is taking the focus off my issues, problems, or why this month’s migraine came the day of my big dinner party and putting it on helping someone else. My biggest self-care flex is sometimes not thinking about myself at all.
- Do relaxing things. Yes, to a long bath. Yes, to a massage, facial, or all day at the spa. Yes, to a glass of wine. I do all the things and even fall prey to a product or two. I am learning to manage my expectations. After the glass is empty and the bath water is cold, there may still be issues to address in life. Because of that reality, I am less guilty about allocating time to relax.
- Put the sun on my body. Get outside, they say. Enjoy nature or do something active. Well, some of us live in cities with temperatures over 100, or where there is no water in sight, or who have physical limitations being outdoors for too long. For me, I read the suggestion to get some sun as all (white-water rafting) or nothing (eating chips on the couch). But, during the pandemic, I started going on 30-minute “sanity walks.” It improved my mood so much that I kept doing it. Suddenly, I became a sun-chaser. A quick walk to the mailbox, an errand with the sunroof open, or just sitting by a window for a bit can do the trick for me.
- Stop stressing about stress. Once a therapist told me that it’s possible to stress out over being stressed out. It was like a lightbulb going off! I recognized myself immediately. I’m often on the hunt for the latest gadget, food, exercise, or product that will help me reduce stress. It can become an obsession. So now, I take stress in stride. Stress will happen. I do what I can to offset it.
I won’t profess to know what self-care truly means. At the end of the day, there are things and people that make me smile and those that don’t. If self-care means paying closer attention to those two things, then I’m on my way.
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