I’ve missed this space, even as I knew that I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth for it. Like all of you, I’m reckoning with this past year, how it’s affected me and those close to me and my communities. And I finally, finally have some spare energy and have collected and synthesized my thoughts enough to have something to say here. Because all of my energy has been caught up in getting myself and my clients through this time. And that has required more self-care than I have ever had to do in my life.
We talk about self-care a lot in this field, but I find that there is often only a superficial description offered of what that means. Yes, pampering can be part of that–the warm baths, the candles, the face masks, the walks in nature, remembering to use sunscreen, eating well, getting regular exercise. And this is all if you have the means to afford these things.
Self-care is tied into self-love–it is the embodied practice of loving ourselves. Love isn’t always about what’s sensory and pleasurable. It’s also about some difficult tasks, such as:
- Removing ourselves from dangerous situations or toxic people, in a timetable that makes sense for us
- Working through trauma in psychotherapy, support groups, or a self-guided process
- Seeking information about our own wellness through teachers, clinicians, and self-education
- Identifying and setting boundaries
- Getting adequate rest
- Attending to your body’s needs
- Feeling your feelings
- Taking action on your own behalf
- Cultivating a reflective practice
- Seeking relationships that nourish and support
- Emotional maturation–or growing yourself up
When we show up in these ways, taking radical self-responsibility, we are showing ourselves and others who may depend or look up to us, that this is a priority. There are many things beyond our control. We do not control people or all situations. But self-care asks us to take ownership of doing what is within our power. What we can do, we should do. And when we inevitably make mistakes and fail at things, we exercise our self-compassion to stay on track. Railing on ourselves for our failures does not help us to grow, but accountability and empathy do.
This pandemic year–and an administration run by a clearly disordered and abusive person–will have ripple effects for some time. It’s going to take so much joint effort to get through this, and heal from what it has collectively and individually done to us. All of my friends and colleagues in mental health and healthcare in general have had to pull it together when we were submerged ourselves, and that has been exacting. But it has also been an opportunity to embody what we teach others to do, and to keep trying through our own stumbling growth process.
If I have been able to extract anything out of this year, it has been that healing still happens in the most difficult of circumstances, when things seem most dire. And that even when we can’t nurture our relationships with others in the ways that we would like, that our relationship with ourselves is something that we are capable of attending to with tenderness and presence.