The photo above is what self care looks like to me, and the thing is, for many of you, that is probably not the first thing you thought of when you saw it.
Thing is, that’s perfectly OK.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, and a bit beyond, I planned to take some time to practice self care. For me, that meant driving a long distance to a little hotel in Texas, getting up before dawn to drive down from my hotel into Big Bend National Park, grabbing my camera and exploring the park, then making a few exploration stops on the way back home, taking some more photos. If you follow the Twitter account, you may already know that I love photography, and share posts from my photo blog daily, eventually you’ll see a bunch from this trip too.
That’s not really what we normally see when people talk about self-care. But, it works for me. I also enjoy relaxing in the sun, getting a massage (in fact, an appointment with my therapist the day after I got home was on order to help recover from the hiking and driving), and even the occasional bath, but the best way for me to take a real break from the stress of work, clear my head and recharge myself, is a trip like this one. Since I don’t travel for work like I used to, I find that I need this time of being off by myself, going somewhere completely new, to satisfy my wanderlust and also check in with myself.
I’m also lucky in having a spouse who gets this. I’m not sure everyone would be OK with their spouse just wandering off for a few days without them.
So why am I sharing this here? It’s because self-care is an important part of all of our lives. Those of us who are healing from trauma, or struggling with our mental health, need to allow ourselves the freedom to take care of ourselves. Even if that doesn’t describe you, self care is still important.
But, I want you all to remember that “self care” is a two word phrase. Caring for your “self”, may not look the same as caring for my “self”. Hiking in the desert might sound like an absolutely horrible thing to you. Going skiing sounds like an absolutely horrible thing to me, but I know lots of people who love it. Good for them. Whatever form self care takes for you, go for it. If you don’t like traveling, but love reading, grab a novel and curl up on the couch. Go for a walk during your lunch hour, have a glass of wine before bed. There’s no absolute right or wrong way to care for ourselves. It involves doing the things that we enjoy, and are good for us. It’s doing the things that bring us peace and contentment, that bring even just a few moments of joy to our otherwise stressful and hectic life.
I’ve often said that abuse survivors, in particular, spend much of their adult lives learning the skills we should have learned as children, including how to take care of ourselves, and how to experience joy. I fear that because of that, we also have a tendency to look at what works for others and assume that is what we should be doing. It might not be a bad idea to try some of the things others are doing if you’re not sure of what activities will serve this purpose for you, but remember that we are all unique. If it’s not working for you, it’s OK to stop and try something else. Eventually, you’ll figure out what works for you.
The important thing is doing something to take care of you. Even if no one else gets it.