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Selasa, 12 September 2017

baseline self-care




Here’s how my self-care used to happen: I’d begin the cycle on an upswing. Chomping at the bit, really excited to be a responsible adult and take care of things. 

Then lots of things would fill up my schedule, and I’d buckle down and start sleeping less to fit it all in. I’d start freaking out that I was gaining weight (whether or not I was), and I’d increase the amount and intensity of my exercise. 

I’d then begin to eat more sweets, eat less protein and fat (a.k.a., um, real food), mindlessly wander the internet looking for a click to make me feel better, and watch television I didn’t feel I had time for because I didn’t think I should go to sleep but didn’t have the energy to do anything more.

By now, my self-care would be all but nonexistent. I was desperately trying to care for myself remedially (through the scrolling, and the sweets-eating, and the TV-watching), but it wasn’t working.

None of it was meeting the my unmet needs for sleep, rest, non-doing, community, and some gosh-darn fat in my diet, thankyouverymuch.

The crisis. The crash.

At this point, some sort of crisis and crash would occur. I’d break down sobbing in the bathroom at work, or I’d get really depressed and be unable to do anything besides get up and go to work (and even that felt like the hardest thing in the entire world, ever). I’d then try to unburden myself, by declining social engagements, backing out of the commitments I could, scrambling to gather the support of therapists or psychiatrists.

After a bit, things would somehow steady themselves, and I’d make my way back to the upswing of the cycle, vowing that this time would be different. This time, I would beat myself into submission more successfully. This time, I would succeed at being superhuman.

Steadying myself and establishing a baseline.

Over the past several years, this cycle has gradually become less extreme. I’ve come closer to believing that I don’t actually want to be superhuman. I’ve been able to recognize that when I think I want to eat an entire package of store-bought cookies without chewing, it’s because I’m actually needing a solid ten hours of sleep and a day off.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about establishing a baseline for my self-care. What actions do I take to ensure I’m cared-for, even when I’m at my lowest?

There’s a very clear and tempting pull here to immediately swing to the perfectionist side of my pendulum and outline my ideal self-care. However, that is not at all the point of this exercise. The point is to be honest with myself about what the pillars of my self-care are when I’m at my lowest (or at least not at my best).

Because it’s so tempting to strive for perfect self-care, I decided to start out with my list of ideal self-care actions, then pare it down to the barest of essentials to figure out what my baseline self-care might be. For example:

Ideal Daily Self-Care Actions:
-Wake up at 7am
-Brush teeth
-Take vitamins/pills
-Shower
-Moisturize
-Get dressed
-Take cod liver oil
-Eat a few bites of sauerkraut (for digestion)
-Eat breakfast slowly, sitting down and not doing anything else
-Wash dishes
-Meditate for ten minutes
-Write To Do list for day
-Eat lunch slowly, sitting down and not doing anything else
-Wash dishes
-Exercise (gym, long walk, or P90X)
-Shower
-Moisturize
-Change from regular clothes to jammies, fold and put away regular clothes
-Eat a few bites of sauerkraut (for digestion)
-Make dinner and eat slowly, sitting down and not doing anything else
-Wash dishes
-Eat something dessert-ey, if I feel like it
-Spend some quiet time reading, talking, and/or watching movie/show
-Brush teeth
-Floss teeth
-Take vitamins/pills
-Go to bed by 10pm

Now. Clearly this is just the daily version. There are necessary self-care things I do (or ideally do) that don’t happen every day. Stuff like laundry, shopping for food and toiletries, cutting my hair and nails, going to the doctor, taking out the garbage. But this is more of an example list to explain how to go about paring it down to the essentials. Which brings me to the pared-down list:

Baseline Daily Self-Care Actions:
-Wake up by 9am
-Brush teeth
-Take vitamins/pills
-Take cod liver oil
-Eat a few bites of sauerkraut (for digestion)
-Eat something for breakfast, whatever that means
-Shower at some point
-Moisturize
-Get dressed at some point
-Eat something for lunch
-Stretch my body for a minute at some point
-Eat something for dinner
-Brush teeth
-Take vitamins/pills
-Go to bed by midnight

As you can see, this list is significantly shorter and simpler than the first one. It’s also not ideal. I don’t function at my best when I go to bed at midnight. I much prefer to sit and eat slowly, instead of eating while doing something else.

The point here is to have something to hold onto, even when things are busy or hard.

The point is to challenge yourself to find a balance between the all-or-nothing extremes. Simply because you’re busy, that doesn’t mean you need to stop showering and getting dressed. By the same token, you don’t have to push yourself to floss multiple times a day and exercise for an hour when you’re having an extremely hard time.

It’s all about being gentle and permissive with yourself. It’s about doing the best you can do with what you have, instead of insisting on doing The Absolute Best Possible regardless of circumstances.

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