What is self-care?
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What is self-care?

There have been many phrases that have been tossed around since the beginning of this God-forsaken pandemic situation that we have been subjected to. Yes, I could have made that first sentence shorter, but I just couldn’t. Nothing about this pandemic situation has been short.

“Social distancing,” something I have been doing for years, apparently has become a motto. There are signs everywhere telling us to socially distance — usually when you’re with groups of people all standing less than six feet apart while reading these signs. I also never thought that “hand washing” would be a phrase that needed to be introduced to some people. Wasn’t everyone washing their hands like a lunatic every time they came home from doing errands? (Or came home from anywhere for that matter?) The fact that people only started washing their hands a few months ago is very disturbing to those of us who have been germaphobes for years. “Zoom school” is another goody that probably causes many eyes to roll, from teachers, to parents, to kids, to administrators. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with zoom school, but not for lack of trying. (Shout out to son #2.) But with all of these new additions to the everyday vernacular, self-care, in my opinion, is the most important.

For those of you who don’t know what self-care is, allow me to explain. Self-care has been around for centuries, but it was always known as something else, depending on your situation. There was me-time, mommy-time, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere time. Self-care really just means time to do something for yourself so you don’t shoot yourself in the head or drive off a cliff.

For the parents who have been stuck at home with kids who need to be constantly entertained, self-care is imperative, even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom for five minutes and just breathing. Putting on your favorite music and singing at the top of your lungs. Learning to meditate with bickering youngsters in the background. It is survival of the fittest. Self-care on a higher level involves spa time or shopping. I actually have practiced self-care at Portage in Englewood, where I purchased “I survived quarantine with husband #1” bracelets. I made myself happy and I supported a small business all at the same time (and that place has the cutest stuff in all price ranges).

Not surprisingly, self-care usually is geared toward women because the men were out in the fields, running away from dinosaurs, while the women were home with the progeny. In times like this, men probably also need some self-care because they have never been home with their families for so long. Boo hoo hoo. I count watching any sporting event as self-care for men. There you go. (Or course, in my house, learning Torah counts as self-care.)

The other day on the radio, there was a doctor talking about mental hygiene. He was saying that mental hygiene is just as important as any other kind of hygiene. When you wake up in the morning, you should say, “Today is going to be a great day.” And he is right. Though if you start off saying it is going to be a great day, you are usually setting yourself up for some sort of disappointment, but I do see his point.

Some of us might confuse mental hygiene and dental hygiene, by using a toothbrush to brush our hair and telling our teeth it is going to be a wonderful day. For those people who have just learned about actual hygiene and only recently started washing their hands, there also might be some confusion. But mental hygiene is definitely a form of self-care. Starting your day with a positive message and trying to hold onto that message can’t hurt. My new mantra has been “try to find at least one thing to be grateful for each day.” That is a less expensive form of self-care, but I certainly like jewelry shopping much better (and jewelry always fits, another one of my mantras).

We definitely need to be kinder to ourselves. (I am not even going to mention being kinder to others, because if you aren’t already, it probably isn’t going to happen.) So whether you need 60 seconds or 60 minutes of self-care, take some time each day to remember that a happy you is much better than a grumpy you.

And don’t forget to socially distance and wash your hands.

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck still dresses like a homeless person, but with decent accessories. You can’t have everything!

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