Author: Alexa Bonsey
Editor: Danielle Schoen
While scrolling through Instagram recently, I saw a post that proposed a unique way of considering joy.
It suggested that we might be happier and more successful if we choose to conceptualize positive change as a slow accumulation of small positive experiences, rather than a reduction and / or elimination of negative experiences from our lives.
This idea has been lingering in my mind throughout the week. As I sat down to write my post for today, I was struck by the relevance of this concept in terms of self care.
We so often view self care as a response — specifically, a response to experiences of pain and negativity.
When my friends have reached out to me about struggles in their relationships, work, health, or other aspects of life, I almost always encourage them to set aside time for self care.
A dear friend of mine was recently reminded of a distant trauma and was struggling to deal with the emotions that her experience triggered.
When we finished talking, I encouraged her to set aside time to offer herself a little extra love: a candlelit bath, journaling time, a comforting meal, a nature walk.
I also use this form of self carein my own life. I recently began juggling a new work routine, and my body had a very difficult time acclimating to the unfamiliar schedule. I was utterly exhausted. When the weekend arrived, I gave myself a morning to sleep in, bought myself some chocolate, and set aside time to relax and play music. I needed to feel rejuvenated after such depletion.
There is certainly tremendous value in turning to self care as a response to pain.
It helps to encourage balance in all aspects of our health and well being. It serves as an acknowledgement that we each deserve conscious, intentional expressions of self love and care. It gives us space to heal and allows us to create meaning from challenges. It offers a welcome hiatus from the whirlwind around us.
But when we rely upon self care only in the aftermath of difficulty, we don’t always recognize the irony of our actions: these expressions of self love are inherently connected to negativity. The motive for self care is pain.
During these times, we often forget that self care can and should exist as its own positive entity in our lives.
We limit ourselves when we only incorporate responsive self care into our days. During college, I battled chronic health challenges that did not align well with the structure of school. This was especially difficult because I am a highly drivenand engaged person, and I wanted to do many things and do them all well.
As a result, I constantly pushed myself to work harder than my body could handle.
When I would become more ill from overworking myself, I would include small acts of self care into my days to compensate.
I have learned from these experiences that self care is most fruitful as a lifestyle: a consistent expression of tenderness and attentiveness to ourselves that creates a strong basis from which we approach, embrace, and face all other experiences.
It is most powerful when it molds the foundation of our everyday life.
If I had been attentive to my needs each and every day, and incorporated various intentional acts of self love into my routine, I would have been so much healthier and happier. My college experience would have been entirely different.
Graduating and stepping away from college revealed to me the importance of prioritizing myself, and I am doing my best to lead a lifestyle of self care now.
Each day, I make a point to get outside — even if only for a moment. I feed my body nutritious and satisfying food. I incorporate movement into my days and choose the type and level of movement based upon how energized I feel. I listen to and play music. I seek out both solitude and socializationthroughout the week.
What a difference these choices make in the balance of my life.
When we rely upon self care only in the wake of pain, we depend upon the challenges of life’s wayward trajectory in order to support ourselves.
But when we take a step further and lead a lifestyle of self care, we continuously nourish ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
We allow our lives to ebb and flow more closely to a place of equilibrium and wellness. In being attentive to our needs and sensitivities, we are less likely to be overwhelmed by quotidian experiences of negativity.
And when we inevitably face challenges or pain, we are more equipped to handle those difficulties.
Life is a constant stream of fluctuations. So much of our world evolves beyond our control.