The Self-Care Debate

A Piece of Chocolate Cake with a Side of Privilege?
In my little social media world, there’s been a flurry of articles and discussion about self-care. This article was shared by three different friends in the same hour, so I figured I’d better read it! The gist of it is that self-care isn’t meant to be an escape from life, but that true self-care is also taking care of the nuts and bolts and drudgerous tasks of life. Reading the comments led me to another article rebutting the first as a product of privilege.

I’ve been pondering the articles and ensuing discussions deeply over the past couple of days. As a healer who works closely with my patients in finding lifestyles that contribute to vibrant health, I know that taking care of oneself can be its own revolutionary act. Learning to listen and act with intention releases us from the easy distraction of consumer culture and helps power our best lives. Even quieting enough to listen for those beliefs can take some gear shifting.

What’s the Point?
In my opinion, the concept of self-care has become a little trite. In and of itself it is meaningless unless we use it for the greater good. Yes, I’ve heard the argument that we inherently deserve to feel good and that especially for women—who are expected to take care of everyone else—the idea of caring for ourselves just so we can help make the world a better place is insulting. We should care for ourselves simply because we are worthy of care.

I agree that every human and animal is worthy of care, but I also believe that in an unbalanced society, when we are feeling strong or happy or abundant, we have a responsibility to share some of that goodness with those in our orbit of influence, through service, money, companionship or caring. At the same time, the majority of people I work with are women and women are often the tenders in our culture. This predilection shakes out in contrary directions.

“Gimme Some Space” versus “Tend and Befriend”
Sometimes, caring for ourselves means setting strong boundaries and saying no. At the same time, especially for women, the inclination to “tend and befriend” is a biological imperative in times of stress. When women care for others and gather in response to stress or attack, we release oxytocin, the same hormone that facilitates relaxation during lactation and labor.

It’s been interesting to watch the Reset groups I’ve guided over the past several years take on the exploration of self-care—HOW to do it, WHAT it is, and WHY it matters. Over a course of 3 weeks, we adopt an anti-inflammatory diet that excludes sugar and alcohol and goes big on vegetables, fermented food and high quality proteins and fats, commit to hydrating ourselves fully, and also take stock of daily lifestyle habits such as exercise, meditation and social media use. It’s fascinating to watch the initial trepidation turn to joy, better sleep and lack of bloating. It’s even more fascinating to witness what people do in their lives, work and communities when they start living in a way that supports health and vitality.

We humans have an innate desire to use ourselves for the greater good. The stresses of the modern world can clutter up our intentions and also our abilitiy to act on them. What we’ve seen in our groups is that taking the time for true self-care such as nourishment, fresh air, hydration, personal space, and yes, finding the balance between drudgerous tasks and indulgence frees up energy to engage in the world in meaningful ways.

This just in! New Year’s Reset January 7-27! Stay tuned for more details.

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