In relation with International Happiness Day, STYLEGUIDE presents a series of articles that concentrates on the ten keys to happiness presented by ‘Action For Happiness’. Today we touch on the importance of taking care of one self.
It is common nowadays for people to get a quick read and advice on the importance of self-care given the rise in awareness about having good mental health whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
They are basically telling you that the way to handle life is to always indulge in that superficial level of pristine comfort with ourselves that's portrayed by those models you see in those exercise gear commercials. We know just how realistic it is for us to achieve that (Spoiler: it isn't).
Self-care comes in the different forms that places emphasis on putting yourself first, doing what you feel like doing and resting when you feel like it. There's nothing wrong with that of course, because some of us do have the tendency to forsake ourselves for the sake of others, regardless of what it may mean to our mental health. But more often that not, all you need is to take a step back and you will realise some of these advice tend to be borderline self-indulgent, superficial and idealistic if you are following them blindly.
Stuff like taking a salt bath, drinking wine or basically doing nothing if your bad mood calls for it. But who really has the ability to take a salt bath here?
I don't think a lot of us even have a bath in our showers.
Sometimes people use these advice as defense mechanisms, excuses that kicks in that allows us to upkeep this state of comfortable denial, that we shouldn't do something, that we should say 'No' to something simply because it puts us in a state of distress to a certain degree. But what should be highlighted is that self-care is not just about doing the activities that you want to do - it's about doing the things that you are unwilling to improve yourself and the quality of life that you are having.
It's about acknowledging what needs to be done first in order to kickstart the process of you getting out of the dumps and building a life that you do not need to escape from in the first place.
Take it that you are someone who currently deals with anxiety and the occasional depressive episodes that will hit you out of nowhere when things just aren't going your way for days, weeks or even months. Along with your mental health, your physical health begins to detioriate as well.
You start forgetting to take proper meals on time, doing your personal laundry, and you definitely keep putting off the idea of getting some exercise or clearing those promotional e-mails and newsletters that has been dribbling in non-stop.
At times self-care should emulate the form of a tiger mum. It means forcing yourself to upkeep a set level of discipline to continue beneficial habits like eating fruits even though you hate them, to at least make it a point to maintain a decent level of personal hygiene and not recycle your worn clothes repeatedly even if it doesn't smell. It's also about cutting off friends that don't build you up or add to your life positively in any way and swallowing that lump in your throat as you start writing that friendship 'break-up' text that you know deep in your heart, it's long overdue.
Sometimes self-care is really about being realistic and making decisions to let go. To let go of certain desires and goals doesn't add value to your life, because it's just not meant to be and that effort invested in these areas tend to stop short and go nowhere. To acknowledge that it's okay to be normal and plain, to be part of the crowd that goes with the flow temporarily because you do need the break to consider just what you really want for yourself at the end of day.
Because self-care yes, is about taking the time out for yourself, and not taking the time out for let's say, a salt bath or eating chocolate cake to distract yourself from yourself (I know, it's confusing). It's about figuring things out, and taking the first step to clarify what you should to do to build a life that you look forward to having, rather than one that you need time to escape from.
And that is what self-care really is about.