Self-care isn’t about checking things off, it’s about keeping check of things
As Christmas approaches you might hear something along the lines of “making a list, and checking it twice”. Now, fear not, I’m not about to wax lyrical about the virtues of being nice, or worse – naughty. Really it’s just an easy quip to bring me on to the topic of: lists. We’re encouraged to write them. From Christmas lists to daily tasks to life lists and the dreaded Things To Do Before I’m 30 list. Despite my tone, I’ve nothing against lists, it’s more the ticking things off that, well, ticks me off. “You’ve done something, congratulations, you never have to do it again”, this might work for bungee-jumping but it doesn’t work to address the ups and downs we all face day-to-day. No, for these we need something a little more permanent; self-care isn’t about checking things off, it’s about keeping check of things.
That’s the point of self-care: looking after your needs before they become too hard to manage
We’re quite good at physical self-care; you probably brushed your teeth this morning and last night, and back as far as you can remember except perhaps for that odd drunken night. Similarly, we all know that we’re meant to go running, or to the gym, although whether we go or not is something else. But when was the last time you took an hour for some mental reflection? When did you last write out how you’re feeling about something, just as a cathartic exercise? When did you last turn off your work phone/email/Facebook/etc. to spend some time with yourself/friends/family/partner? These are all things that we should do frequently enough that they become a habit. Sure, it might be better relief to do them when needed – but doing them as a habit might just mean they’re not ‘needed’.
That’s the point of self-care: looking after your needs before they become too hard to manage. So make a list, and check it twice, but then keep checking it, frequently and regularly. Taking care of you starts, unsurprisingly, with you.
“We are what we repeatedly do, self-care, then, is not an act, but a habit”