I Was Reminded Yesterday That Self-Care Needs To Be a Regular Topic of Conversation

This week’s blog is written by Dion McGill, SCY Communications and Community Outreach Manager. 

Yesterday my phone rang shortly after noon and when I looked at it, it was a friend who doesn’t normally call me up. The friend in question is however one of my favorite people in the world, and I was more than happy to have a mid-afternoon rap session.

After a little bit of chitchat, I asked my friend how work was going…and that was when the flood gates opened.

I got yelled at for 10 minutes.

Not about anything I’d done.  Nope.

About work.
About family stress.
About the stress of having a dependent with Covid-19.
About how no one seems to care.
About how friends have drifted away or drifted apart during this quarantine period.
And then more about work…about unrealistic expectations and looming deadlines.

Now I was more than happy to take the yelling. I spent 9 years in the Army, I can take some yelling. I recognized that she needed this emotional dump, and my friends know that I am someone who is more than willing to be a support when needed in whatever capacity I can.

And then the moment came, and if you’ve ever been a witness to someone reaching the end of their proverbial rope and letting the world know exactly how they feel about it, you know the moment I’m referring to.

She exhaled.

I imagine if we had been standing face to face she also would have wiped the sweat from her brow.

I responded with a simple “Mmm hmm….I see.  Girl, you have obviously not been doing your self-care.”

Now yes, I know that is a bit of a simplistic response, but we were treading on light ground. I had no intention of the yelling to become directed at me.

But I started asking questions about her self-care routines.

Now, self-care looks different to everyone. My biggest outlet for stress relief for over a decade has been Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which I have not been able to participate in since quarantine started. If you’re not familiar, a basic one hour session consists of me wrestling around with a variety of partners, trying to keep them from strangling me until I have to “tap out” as opposed to the alternative of pass out, or keep them from getting my limbs in a position where extended stress on the joint would result in the bones breaking.

Now, if the thought of doing that for an hour makes you cringe, that is definitely not the self-care for you.  However, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I were able to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu everyday, I would be in a much better place mentally.  In the interim, I actually have purchased a 6 foot tall grappling dummy and a grappling mat, effectively turning my living room into a BJJ area for 1.  It’s not quite the same as being with training partners, but it brings me some semblance of enjoyment and solace. BJJ drills are also a great workout.

While I’ve read literally dozens of definitions for self-care, the simplest one is the one I like the best:

Selfcare describes a conscious act one takes in order to promote their own physical, mental, and emotional health.

And as I discussed with my friend, in this high stress environment we are living in right now, that likely means that self-care is not simply something you do on the weekends. I imagine if you’re anything like me, self-care needs to be a daily endeavor.

Now, let’s be real…that also likely means that you’ll need to make some tough decisions, and have some tough conversations.

For me, a big part of self-care has been setting some hard boundaries. For example, I start my workday at 8am. I also get “dressed” for work every day, which for me means putting on jeans and a t-shirt. I always feel better when I wear something more than just lounge wear. I also don’t take a lunch most days (actually I eat my lunch while reading emails and continuing work tasks) so that I can be done with work at 4pm…and that is a hard stop time. If you send me an email at 4:02pm, I won’t see it until the next work day, and no, unless we’re talking life or death (I work in communications, it is never life or death) it’s likely that whatever issue arose at 4:02pm is not more important than my mental health…so it can wait. Period.

From there, I really try hard to listen to my body. I’m currently experiencing a rough patch of insomnia. Initially it was getting to sleep that was the problem. Now it’s simply staying asleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. As I struggle through that, I’ve learned to listen to my body. I find that I often get super sleepy and drowsy around 4:30pm. So now, I will lay on the couch and set an alarm for 6:30pm and catch a nap, which even in that short period of time, may have me up 2 or 3 times, never really getting any good quality sleep, but as I work through this period of time, I’m trying to be acutely aware of what my body needs, and what I can physically and mentally handle.  I’d like to work out everyday, but some days that just feels more taxing than what I’m able to endure on a given day. Most days I am able to get a 20-30 min. walk in. The fresh air and sunlight when I can actually catch it are super enjoyable, and some days it eliminates my need for a nap, and some days as soon as I walk in the door and get undressed I’m on the couch and out like a light for some quality sleep.

Every day is different.

I’ve talked to friends who’ve had to set boundaries with their families, and yes while I understand that telling our children “I need some time for myself” is one of the hardest things we may have to do as parents, it’s imperative that we do so so that we can maintain a healthy balance so that we can actually be there for the ones we care for.  As I often say, “You can’t offer anything to others if you yourself are absolutely depleted.”

So please, take some time to reflect on your daily self-care plans, as well as weekly and monthly.  Once a week you might do something a little bit more significant, and once a month, you might go all out…like hiking at Starved Rock State Park. The possibilities are endless, but you have to plan. It is far too easy to simply melt into the couch and watch Netflix until it’s time for bed, simply to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  Now, if that’s your self-care, then that’s fine.  However, ask yourself “Does this make me feel good and rejuvenated, or is this simply a way for me to pass the time?”

Finally, here is a TED playlist, The Importance of Self-Care. You can hear a bunch of people far more qualified than me tell you how important self-care is…and not just during quarantine, but all the time.



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