So, this is the last of three posts inspired by this post by Miri at Brute Reason. Here, I want to focus on self-care as exemplified by this quote:
Besides this list, I actually do quite a bit of self-care. In fact, since I have few responsibilities besides work (which I thankfully cannot and do not take home with me), I’m mostly free to engage in self-care between the hours of 5 PM and 11 PM daily, and all weekend. I do several self-care activities every day, usually reading, writing, watching TV, seeing friends and partners, taking walks, cleaning my house, eating yummy food, petting my cat (when she deigns to allow it), crafting, or otherwise doing something that feels restorative rather than obligatory.
Because in my experience, most people in healthy circumstances do not need constant reminders to practice self-care. Yes, there are some who get so caught up in work (including domestic work) that they don’t do self-care despite having the ability to. (If you know any programmers, or are one, you probably know what I’m talking about.) But most of the time, people are naturally motivated to do the things they love and that make them feel better.
Except … self-care, it seems to me, isn’t supposed to be something that you do, well, most of the time. The concept of self-care, for me, is that it’s something that you have to make sure that you do occasionally when things get too stressful or too problematic or you’re a programmer who has realized that, well, you spend most of your time working and need to, well, take some time to smell the roses. Heck, the first advocacy of “self-care” was probably “Take the time to stop and smell the roses”. Sometimes, as the song goes, you need to take a break from all your worries. If you’re always doing so, and doing so on a consistent basis … then what worries do you have? And are they that worrying to you when you are constantly “taking a break” from them instead of, well, doing something about them?
See, even doing things we like can feel obligatory. Right now, I’ve just spent time finishing Dragon Age Inquisition which, while something that I liked doing (I guess) was certainly an obligation for me, since I was too far in to abandon it and so really, really wanted to finish it. I’m also feeling an obligation to finish watching “The X-Files”, although whether I can be said to be liking it at this point is debatable. The point is that even our “free time” can be filled with obligations, if to no one else but ourselves. The point of self-care is that sometimes you do something that lets you forget about your worries for a while and that is something you just want to do, not something you think you should do now that you have spare time. If someone’s spare time is, in fact, rarely spent doing things that they think they ought to do because they have the time for that — even if that’s just reading that latest book they’ve bought — then that simply means that they have, well, lots of spare time. It doesn’t mean that they’re actually practicing self-care … and could also mean that they could fill their free time with other things that might make their worries actually lessen.
In short, if you don’t have to schedule self-care, you either don’t need it … or are doing it wrong.