I recently posted a picture on Instagram of a packet of camomile tea, saying that I was trying to take it up because I thought it would be good for me, despite the fact that I currently don’t like tea of any kind. Someone questioned whether it is really self-care if you don’t like it. I have a lot of thoughts about this topic. Not just the tea, but about non-enjoyable self-care. I like coffee, cake and a massage as much as the next person, but I’m also a big advocate for the stuff that’s often called ‘boring self-care’. Here’s why.
Why do something you don’t enjoy?
I’m not a great fan of exercise, to be honest. I feel self-conscious at the gym and spending my limited spare time sweating (and thus making more laundry) when I could be lying on the sofa does not come easily to me. Does that mean I shouldn’t exercise? I don’t think anyone would say that.
I also mentioned recently that I’ve started taking medication to deal with the stress of adoption-related admin: the medical appointments, the social worker emails and meetings, the school phone calls and meetings and exclusions, the fight with the SEN department to get Joanna the right school place, the constant concerns about who is funding what and whether funding will suddenly stop… there is now so much of this stuff, it’s practically a full-time job keeping up with it all. Anyway. Should someone in my position refuse medication because they don’t like taking pills? I’d say not if their GP is recommending them.
(See how the citalopram packet perfectly matches my blog colours? It’s as if it was meant to be.)
Self-care is also stuff like going to the dentist, staying hydrated, eating well, talking to someone about your mental health, getting an early night even when there’s something good on TV – all the stuff that keeps your physical and mental health in as good a shape as possible.Self-care includes going to the dentist, staying hydrated, eating well, talking about your mental health, getting an early night – all the stuff that keeps your physical and mental health as good as possible. Yes, this can be boring. Click To Tweet
Why self-care is about discipline, not just cake
Yes, this stuff can be boring. Yes, many people prefer to think of self-care as cake and spa treatments and candlelit bubble baths. I’m not saying for a minute that I don’t like cake, or that I never try to eat the stress away. I have been known to eat Nutella straight from the jar when stressed on multiple occasions. But the practical stuff – the survival level stuff, if you like, is what makes me feel more mentally healthy, more ‘together’. When I am on top on that, I function better. I’m calmer. I probably parent a bit better. I cope a bit better with all the admin and nonsense. And I don’t think that’s just me.
The word ‘discipline’ has acquired all sorts of negative connotations, especially in the adoption world, and I understand if you don’t like it. But in the original sense of following a healthy plan and reaping the benefits of that, it’s necessary and useful and constructive. Agree? Need Convincing? This article on ‘The Goopification of Self-Care’ makes the case well.
Have you seen the #boringselfcare hashtag? It’s used widely on both Instagram and Twitter by people celebrating the boring but important self-care tasks they’ve completed. Eating properly. Doing the laundry. Asking for help. Going for a walk.
Hannah Daisy (@makedaisychains) is great at this and regularly posts illustrations of boring self-care. (More about Hannah Daisy in this article from The Mighty.) She’s definitely one to follow for self-care encouragement and realism. (For more suggestions, read my post Instagram as self-care.)
Still drinking tea
So yes, I’m going to persevere with the camomile tea, even though at the moment I still think it tastes like grass. And I encourage you to persist with acts of self-care that aren’t necessarily fun and/or delicious if they are what you need to do.