Practicing Self Care

It’s been an emotional week.

Last week, I attended a professional development session on Wednesday afternoon, and as it was a State holiday on Friday, I decided to make an extra long weekend out of it.  Chris and I had discussed day-tripping (or even overnighting) somewhere, but given everything we’ve had going on in our lives we both found we were content to staycation.  I had registered for the Wednesday event and asked for the additional time off before I knew what the outcome of the election would be.

If you know me personally or even just follow me on Twitter, my political leanings are no secret. However, this isn’t a blog about politics, nor do I want it to be.

Self care is so very important, and it is not something many of us are very good at. I am not going to pretend I wasn’t really emotionally gutted from Tuesday’s results, and at the end of the day I feel no need to justify this to anyone who doesn’t agree that I should be gutted. Emotions are very personal, and while examining them from a logical lens is important, it is also important to acknowledge what we feel and why we feel it, as allow ourselves to feel these things. Everyone processes grief differently.

This is not to say, it gives one permission to treat someone else badly because you feel badly yourself, or use it as an excuse to shirk responsibilities. Rather, allowing yourself to feel the feels and process the bad news you’ve received in a way that helps you move forward (however that may be), is a vitally important piece of self care. And this is true if your beloved pet dies, if a parent or loved one dies, if you have a bad breakup (friend or romantic), or if your country has taken a direction you fear is a step back. It really doesn’t matter what the cause of your grief is – what matters is that you permit yourself to begin healing once it occurs.

There are hundreds of good articles on the importance of self care for your physical and mental well-being. Greatist breaks down 25 Science-Backed Ways to Change Your Life by Taking Better Care of Yourself. Dozens of scientific studies have been conducted to this effect as well, indicating that this is vital for our well-being, and yet we don’t do it nearly enough. We are conditioned as a society to think that every moment should be scheduled with something meaningful, and social media certainly hasn’t helped in that regard. In my time off last week, I kept thinking we needed to do something, plan something, go somewhere … but we didn’t, and the unscheduled time was restorative.

Part of my self care is exercising. It didn’t used to be. I have had a stressful year with a lot of personal loss, and I have been channeling a lot of my grief and stress through working out and/or being outside. On Thursday, I went to the gym and completed a tough workout with more effort than I have done in some time – or at least, that’s how it felt – and the adrenaline and endorphins felt great. It didn’t change anything about my circumstances, but for a moment in time I felt like I was in control of something, and that mattered. On Friday, I did a double with my mother, and we were both pretty sore (in good ways!) on Saturday, when we opted for a long walk on the bike path.

My grandfather – with whom I was very close, and who was like a father to me growing up – passed away 11 years ago. This was long before I began my personal fitness journey. In hindsight, I wasn’t the best at self care at that point, though I was also very new to grief and loss. I wish I had in my life then what I have now, if only to gift my younger self that coping mechanism. But we all learn and grow from these experiences, and each time we maybe take a step further on our own personal journeys in how to help ourselves heal.

I recognize that some of this comes from a place of privilege – that not everyone has sufficient outlets to channel their grief in healthy ways and practice self care effectively. However, I urge you to cultivate these in any way that you can. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It doesn’t even have to be time off. It can be a couple hours of mindless, trashy TV. It can be preparing a new recipe, or losing yourself for an hour in a good book. It could even just be a long walk in a beautiful place. Or, for some, it can be attending a protest. For others, it may be more quietly volunteering for an organization doing work you believe in. There are many ways to practice self care, and I urge you to find these things and give yourself permission to access them.

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