Self Care Backcountry – Beginner Trail: Basic Health
As the seasons turn - covid quarantine to civil rights curfews to back-by-popular-demand quarantine second wave - new opportunities for adventure come our way.
Whether you’re restless from sheltering, marching for human rights, lying low to protect your health or the health of a loved one, working on the front lines, embracing the peace that quarantine brought into your life, re-opening the workplace… whichever lane you’re in, there is space to indulge in good health and embark on the journey of treacherous honesty that is truly getting to know yourself: self care.
We’re on our way to commercializing every possible industry here in the States and there’s a lot of information going around right now about the concept of “self care”. What is it? Manicures and ordering that chocolate dessert and treating yourself to an expensive handbag? Not exactly. You do you, but for me, that wasn’t it at all. It’s asking yourself what you truly, truly need and then doing yourself the courtesy of actually listening to the answer. The reason I think it’s an adventure is because as you start down the path, you’re constantly running into the unexpected.
Self care is the most essential of indulgences. It’s about fulfilling needs before wants and before obligations and once you start to take care of yourself, you are in a much better position to care for others and produce some really good work.
So let us now take a moment to explore the bunny slopes of self care…
Beginner Trail: Basic Health
Say your to-do list is stacked - no, who am I kidding, it IS stacked - and you don’t know where to start. Prioritize your time. Start executing the prerequisites and move the time sensitive stuff up the queue. Ladies, I know you know how to do this. I know you’ve learned to put sandals on before you start to polish your toes. I know you’ve learned to start the rice before the vegetables because how many times have you been ready to sit down and eat, but you’re STILL waiting on the goddamn rice?? Okay, good on you, you’ve set up your day in an organized and responsible fashion. You’re off and running! You’re digging in to the fourth thing this hour and you’re starting to feel a little fatigued, but if you just - STOP!
You’re feeling fatigued. What do you need? Another coffee would really - STOP. What do you REALLY need? And for me, the answer was usually just, “I need to drink water.” Pause. Drink the water. The whole glass. For me, having the glass of water sitting there and me thinking I would sip it responsibly was not the right solution because I’d get caught up in the next thing and the water would sit. Hey. I had water and now I feel better. Nice.
Check a few more things off the mental list and glance at the clock and it’s almost 1pm so there should be time to - STOP.
Did you have anything to eat today? No, but it’s okay I’m not really hungry - STOP! Assess. Are you not hungry or did adrenaline just carry you away? Something that I learned is that I might not feel hungry until later in the afternoon, but by then I was ravenous and would make a poor choice to snack on something or find the cafe at work was closed and then I couldn’t get anything until the drive home and then it was a drive thru 1000 calorie meal when I could have made the choice to be better prepared to take care of myself and have something reasonable at a reasonable time. Making the time to eat something small and fairly nutritious at midday made a huge difference in my ability to think clearly the rest of the day instead of martyring my lunch time to get one more email in or one more household chore done.
Later in the afternoon you’re feeling some emotion creep up and you don’t even know what it is, it’s so nagging and if you could only - STOP.
Identify it. Are you annoyed? What’s annoying you? Is it irritation with a colleague or a project or a grocery item that was out of stock or the way the waistband of these jeans rides low in the back? It could be any emotion or feeling. There’s a whole range of them. And it’s important to stop and think about them once in a while. Stand up. Stretch. Step outside and open your arms to sunshine. Close your eyes and breathe. It takes one minute to make the rest of the day bearable or even pleasant instead of skipping taking that minute so you can - what? What did you even do with that minute and now there’s a weight on your thoughts and words and actions because you’re still being annoyed by the sesame seed still stuck in your gums or obsessing over the way the boss said “for now” or whatever your phantom ended up being... Exhale. Think about how and what you're feeling once in a while and why.
And now the evening is winding down and you’re yawning, but you were thinking about finishing reading that - STOP.
What do you need? What do you need right now? Do you need to finish reading that article on pork futures for work tomorrow / RBG biography / chapter in the fifth Harry Potter book that you’ve read a half dozen times already? Sometimes the answer is yes. And that’s okay. You read that, and you feel accomplished / inspired / enjoy it! And I support your decision. But sometimes the answer is just what Adam Mansbach wrote / Samuel L Jackson so memorably narrated: go the f*ck to sleep. Getting adequate rest is something most of us don't take seriously enough. I know I've been guilty of this. Tired is cumulative, rest is not. So catching up on sleep over the weekend? Not really a thing. I asked science. They said you need to try to sleep like, every day.
Acknowledge the self. Thirst. Hunger. Fluorescent light hyperannoyance disorder. Rest.
You might be reading this thinking, “Ummm… yeah those’re all basic life skills that I learned when I was five, what is wrong with you?” In which case, I applaud you for your self care habits! I would then also ask you for compassion because I did not learn these things until much later in life. Or, I didn't take them as seriously as I should. I have been so guilty of chasing down goals and Alice in Wonderland said it best, "I often give very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." Once I started to think in these terms, I started to feel so vital. I was physically healthy before, but VITALITY is this wonderful little excursion you can take any day of the week without burning vacation time. It’s an adventure that I’m thoroughly enjoying and I want everyone on this trail with me! Come on, it’ll be fun! Self care train, y'all. It feels great and it's completely free.
But wait, there’s more! Next is the Intermediate Trail of the Self Care Backcountry: Mindfulness.