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You don’t need to “pamper yourself” to be happy

DRINKING WATER
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Self-care is way too important a concept to relegate to the realm of manicures and long walks.

“I have to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone or anything else,” explains an article at Wholefully, suggesting 50 ideas for self care. The writer suggests, “Put on a homemade face mask, read for an hour, watch the sunrise, take a bubble bath, and pick a bouquet of fresh flowers,” among other ideas. Don’t overlook “the emotional component to wellness,” she urges.

It’s true, if you’re emotionally drained, you won’t feel well — no matter how healthy you may be. And when your mental energy is depleted, it’s so much harder to do what you need to do. But the idea that you can’t be happy or healthy unless you’ve pampered yourself first? That bothers me to no end. I mean, it’s a pretty discouraging thought, when you’re legitimately too busy to find time in the day for a bubble bath.

Self-care is way too important a concept to relegate to the realm of manicures and long walks, as relaxing as they can be. It’s just too unrealistic for most of us, and worse, it sends the message that you can only take care of yourself if you have the time, money, and help to do so. Everyone else is out of luck.

That’s why I’ve been trying to remember that true self-care might be pretty boring. That’s a good thing! The phrase “boring self-care” was coined by occupational therapist Hannah Daisy, to get at the heart of what self-care ought to be about. She meant the phrase to be useful for people suffering from mental illness, who can be overwhelmed by even the thought of taking a shower, but it’s a good concept for all of us. She suggests things like “went outside,” or “cooked and ate a nourishing meal, got enough sleep, remembered to drink water,” and even “cleaned the toilet,” or “made the phone call I was putting off.”

Self-care means giving yourself what you need, and our needs aren’t always glamorous or Instagram worthy. Sometimes you just need to have a clean toilet, and it legitimately makes you feel more human. Sometimes you’ve been running around frantically, and it’s late afternoon by the time you remember you haven’t had anything to drink. Making that phone call so it’s not hanging over your head might make a huge difference in your stress levels. And honestly, taking a bubble bath while trying not to think about the phone call may not be as relaxing as it’s intended to be, either.

The usual model of self-care just tells us that we can’t be happy or healthy without taking an unrealistic amount of time treating ourselves. (I mean, “watch the sunrise,” really? Sounds exhausting!) In reality, it’s the littlest things that make the most difference. So let’s not forget the boring ways we can take care of ourselves. Self-care should be something everyone can do, but as long as we categorize it along with unrealistic or time-consuming “me time” activities, we’ll continue to neglect it.

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