*** I would like to start this with a little clearing – from the time that I started writing this post, I have sought out an online therapist through Ink Blot Therapy and will be meeting with a therapist tonight to discuss my own mental health. I thought this was important to add here because I want to acknowledge that I am always the person that preaches self care and the importance of therapy, but also recognize that I resist it heavily for myself. It is ok to feel that push back towards therapy because therapy has been stigmatized by the generations older than us, and for many people, talking about going to therapy openly is a new concept. I want to openly share that I am trying to destigmatize mental health issues for MYSELF now, and that hopefully sharing this can help someone else like me** (that being said, here is the original blog post….)
Self care is a word that is constantly thrown around on social media on posts about manicures, bubble baths and face masks. We are constantly reminded to “take time to do what makes your soul happy” and to “treat yourself”. But I know that I am not alone when I say that for a lot of us, self care can be accompanied by guilt.
The “grind” or “hustle” culture that society pushes, romanticizes constantly being productive. In order to be successful, we are told that everything we do must be towards some sort of goal, and we always have to be busy. It’s not enough to be working an 8 hour shift, or to be a stay at home mom, we are pushed to also have multiple side hustles to make money all day long. Mile long to do lists, multitasking, monetizing every single hobby we have, and squeezing in time for friends and famiy between ALL the things we have to do, is something we put a lot of emphasis and pride in. And whether we realize it or not, how much we’re “hustling” often determines our self worth.
And so here is where the self care shaming comes in. I do it, I’m sure you do too; we finally have a day off, or at least a little bit less of a busy day than usual, and instead of relaxing and taking time to ourselves to rest and recover, we make ourselves feel guilty. During these last couple months of COVID-19, where my schedule has been all over the place due to reduced workloads based on virus precautions, I have noticed that I really shame myself away from resting even though I don’t have much going on. And even on days off, when I could technically watch tv all day if I want to, I push the self care aspects of my day late in the day as a reward to whatever random to do list I create for myself. Almost like I need to achieve this rest time, to prove to myself that I deserve it.
As an occupational therapist, in school I learned that self care is much more than treating myself to my favourite coffee, or doing my nails. Self care becomes a broad category of things that help us thrive in life. Whether that is cooking a good meal, taking a warm shower, getting adequate sleep or enjoying a special treat, self care is putting the care of ourselves first.
This week I finished the training for a part time weekend job where I work rotating shifts every other weekend. I decided to step up and cover two overnight shifts this week back to back (12am-8am both days). That meant my sleep schedule would be messed up, and I would have to alter my entire routine starting Monday until after the last shift (Wednesday). I am sharing this because even after going through 2 years of Occupational therapy school, after preaching self care so heavily to friends, I just now allowed my eyes to open to the truth of the quote above. Self care is more than just a special luxury that we can treat ourselves to. In the case of this job, self care is a priority and necessity because if I didn’t allow myself to take the care I needed these last couple days, I would not be able to be well, but also wouldn’t be the best me for this job.
For the first time, even after being home with an empty schedule during COVID-19 since March, I allowed myself to rest without any guilt of not being busy or guilt of not entertaining/spending time with the people in my household. And I am sure you can think of at least one time where you felt guilt allowing yourself to rest as well. Whether you can’t fully enjoy a television show or movie because you thing you should be doing something that will further you along in life, or you deprive your tired body of a nap because you’re SURE there is some sort of cleaning/to do list item you need to do… we are always trying to be go go go. This last couple days, I made time to nap, and when I couldn’t sleep long I made myself lay in bed listening to music or just existing. I took myself for a walk to get a coffee instead of telling myself I didn’t need it, and when my roommate and her friend were watching a show together I kept to myself in my room because I was tired, instead of forcing myself to socialize because I felt I should.
The Boss Babe Mentality and self care shame
If you know me personally, you might know that in the last months I have become fascinated with the Anti-MLM community. MLM stands for Multi-level Marketing, also known as Network marketing or social selling. These girls (most MLM companies are focused on recruiting women, so most of the Anti-MLM community is women) are often girls who have quit MLM companies because of the toxic behaviour towards them from the people higher up in their team, and have started instagram or youtube accounts to speak out and connect with others about their experiences. I couldn’t tell you why I have become interested in this area of the internet, but this content often talks about something that connects to self care guilt and the go go go life style, which is very relatable to me.
The #sidehustle, #BOSSBABE, #hustle culture that these MLMs use to promote working with them in their companies spans much farther than these companies alone. Social media and society is full of messaged that pushes the #Hustle mentality, the idea that we constantly have to be working towards something important. It’s not enough to be working your regular job or working on your education, or being a super stay at home mom…. we HAVE to be doing more to make the most of our lives. Posts like this one to the left, are often meant to be inspiring, but deep down can subconsciously support the relaxation/self care guilt. If we are constantly asking ourselves “Does this support the life I’m trying to create”, is this habit surrounding your work time only? Or are we also asking this when we are interacting with people; are we there genuinely or connecting for networking opportunities? Are we also asking this when we are watching tv or surfing the internet? Many MLMs use shame tactics to make you feel like Netflix and chilling is not working towards your goal, because you’re wasting an hour watching a show when you could be doing something to make money. Society is constantly telling us that we need to monetize EVERYTHING we do. If you’re good at art, you should be selling it, if you like baking you should start an online baking business, if you like yoga, dance, pilates, barre, you should get certified and start teaching etc.
I am not saying that starting your own little business isn’t a good idea – it most definitely is if you have something you LOVE and the time and the skills to do so! Some extra income, especially in this uncertain time, can be amazing for your finances, and in extension perhaps your mental health as well! But often it becomes hard to do the things you LOVE for self care if you can’t separate them from your business. It has been a joke amongst my fiancee and I that when we are doing self care art in our house we put up a sign that says “For Joy, not perfection”, because this art is just for relaxing vs if we were to sell something to someone. (below are some of the results of my “for joy” self care painting sessions)
Whatever your life looks like these days, it’s important to be able to recognize when you might need a little bit of rest and self care, and to be able to work towards giving yourself that time. Whether it’s movement based activities, meditation, art, cooking/baking, sleeping, gaming, watching movies, etc, carve out some time in your life to do something for you. The stigma around taking time to slow down and care for yourself is huge, and often times society and social media might push you to feel guilty/shameful about taking time to yourself. But remember, no matter who you are, you need that time to rest and to allow yourself to be the best version of you. If you are looking for someone to grant you permission to rest, as an occupational therapist, you have my permission. And from one self care resistant human to another, WE DESERVE IT.
If you DO have a small business that you are proud of and would like to share, please feel free to leave a link in the comments, I would LOVE to check it out!