The Self-Care Job (or; Self-Care is Your Job, Too)

by Lem — February 1, 2019
self-care, self-care job, New Year, resolutions, running, gym

How she changed should to want! One woman’s story of examining her relationship with self-care (her self-care job!) because easing into a new habit can be quite daunting.

New Year, new New Year’s resolution?

We know all too well, that New Year’s resolutions do not stick around for very long. Maybe they last until the end of January. Maybe until March. But by the end of the third month, the gyms are as full (or empty?) as before, and the companies that were so eager to support us on our New Year’s resolution journeys are now cashing in big on renewal fees that are soon forgotten.

I wanted something new for 2019. A–let’s call it–kind of a New New Year’s resolution. Something that will stick and can overcome the terrible threshold of March and all those “Ah well”s that are the ultimate end to every New Years Resolution of my life. I decided that it’s time for a new strategy.

I’m going to make it my self-care job

At the heart of this job, I want to examine my relationship with self-care and essentially explore the connection to myself. I want to find out what I need in order to be more effective, constructive and in the end, a more authentic version of myself. Just like with every other design job, I need to first find out the scope of the project, so to speak. I then need to go in and define the success metrics and the steps to take for me to get there. But rather than defining this new “self-care job” too narrowly, I wanted to take in a wider range of areas to target. Some of these might be closely connected, but it’s not only physical health I am after. The mind, emotions, relationships–all those play a special and important part in this project, too.

First: getting rid of “should”

“I should go to the gym.”
“I should finish this now.”
“I should take better care of myself.”
“I should remove myself from this toxic environment.”
“No, I really really should go to to gym.”
“I shouldn’t have eaten this.”

Starting this job feels a bit scary. I already have a (real) full-time job, and I’m putting even more on my plate. Should is not helping. Should is, for me, the first sign of self-judgement. By judging, I was sabotaging myself. The more shoulds, the more I felt like I was unfit to handle this mammoth task. I’m in the midsts of defining the scope, and already it feels like I created the biggest obstacles myself. The should has to go. Instead, I will make an effort to to ask myself what positive contribution I can make to stay on top of all of this. How can I be of service to myself? How can I make a positive impact?

Over-management is a definite risk

Just as with any real-life job, overly managing things has never done any good. When the perfectionism kicks in hard, its very easy to slip into the old, negative patterns and behaviours that were once before the beginning of the end of every self-care habit. And tech these days makes it very easy to track, measure, control and scrutinize over every little detail.

Calorie intake: check.
Five portions of fruit and vegetables: check.
Mindful minutes: Nnnnot so much.
Sleep hygiene: …what is sleep?
Screen time: Actually up 60% from last week.

Holy moly.

Finding the right balance between getting the self-care job done (or: hitting those key metrics) and not totally loosing it all and stressing out over every little detail, will make the difference between finding exhaustion or authenticity.

How to go on from here?

The transition of removing the should from physical self-care was an easier one. Instead of “I should go to the gym,” I tell myself: “I want to go to the gym because I love the feeling of aching muscles the next morning.” or “I want to go for a run because I know how it clears my head.

But time will tell if this is actually the beginning of a habit, or just a streak. Now that it’s my job, I would like to think that it is really a habit. A newly hatched one, but nevertheless, a habit. The analytical half of me likes to add that actually forming new habits has taken study participants from anything between 60 to 250 days, but I guess that every 250 day timeframe eventually starts with a good 31-day-January and the promise to oneself to take good care of this new job assignment–so let’s bring it on!

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