I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept of self-care, especially as it pertains to highly sensitive people. The advice of a warm bubble bath and an extra
square of chocolate in order to soothe oneself has become ever popular in recent years.
To be honest, I kind of hate what self-care has become.
Self-care has been painted as foofy indulgences that we should all have the time, energy, and financial resources to schedule into our calendars. Self-care advice tends to look like very gender-binary activities that act as a “time out” from a hectic life. Massages, mani-pedis, aromatherapy baths, facials, and other high-dollar beauty services are often the self-care tip of the month.
These activities are most often pitched to women, and really only accessible to wealthy women.
Self-care is not something we should have to think of as “extra.” It’s not just another thing we need to fit into our life. Self-care should be about maintaining harmony, equilibrium, and homeostasis. On one-hand, self-care is a mandatory practice of self-inventory and refinement that we need to survive in this harsh and collapsed world.
The problem is that this advice is written from the viewpoint that there’s nothing wrong with our society and our culture. We’re told that if we want relief, we’re the ones who need to change.
Here’s the thing:
You are not broken, and there’s nothing wrong with your trait of high sensitivity.
You are perfect, and perfectly made for the place and time and circumstances into which you were born. But you live in a system (a collapsed and failing system, I might add) that devalues the very traits that gift you your unique superpowers. You are not the problem. The system is the problem.
Unfortunately, we live at a time where productivity and accomplishments, burning the midnight oil and pushing through pain, are the norm. These values our culture holds lead most people to burn out, not just highly sensitive people, and sets an unsustainable standard for life that devalues
things like rest, recuperation, and contemplation.
Again, this is a place where the system is the problem.
The difficult truth that I’m still working to swallow is that in order to change the system we’re in, we have to successfully navigate it, whether we like it or not.
In order to do this, we need to build resiliency and greater capacity. Unfortunately, the best place to start building these things is with ourselves by creating space in our lives for self-care.
It won’t be enough, but it will be a start. We are a species built on interconnection, which means that we need community care just as much as we need self-care. But self-care has the potential to create the space you need to figure out what else you might need and make time and space for it.
Instead of looking at self-care as a frivolous indulgence, let’s redefine it. I’m going to redefine self-care as the following:
Self-care is the daily practice of combining rituals, habits, and choices to protect your energy, engage with yourself, and establish consistent resiliency and capacity in order to have the resources to manage life with ease.
Rituals are simply activities done in a mindful way on a regular basis with a specific intention or purpose in mind. You probably have rituals without really realizing it–your morning cup of coffee, for example, could be considered a ritual.
However, the morning cup of coffee may have started out as a more intentional activity and then eventually became habit.
Habits are activities or actions we take with very little effort. In no small part, habits are simply rituals that have been done for so long that they no longer require effort to maintain them. A goal in self-care would be performing healthy rituals so long that they become health habits.
Both rituals and habits come down to the choices we make. Whenever we say yes to a ritual, we say no to something else. Conversely, whenever we say “no” to an unhealthy habit, we say “yes” to ourselves.
What rituals can you include in your daily life that help you come into yourself, help ground you, calm your nervous system, and aid in you building the resilience and capacity you need to show up in the world?
I take walks in nature, move my body, meditate, practice magic and use my singing bowls. Some of these require more intention and effort than others, but all contribute to my overall sense of well-being and capacity. So that I can be in this world and try to change it at the same time. So that I can function in a healthier way.
What are yours?
Need ideas? I’ve got 19+ of them in my book, Embracing High Sensitivity: Your HSP Guidebook to Eliminating Overwhelm, Handling Difficult Emotions, and Becoming the Boss of Your Life. Get it here.