What I Find Frustrating About Self-Care Becoming a Buzzword

Feb 13, 2023
the end of a white bathtub filled with bubblebath. the bottom of a woman's feet are sticking out of the bubbles and it looks like she is laying on her stomach. It's her way of practicing selfcare.

How a person practices self-care is a personal thing.

I like to arrive early to my classroom. It provides me time to collect my thoughts, prep my room, and feel prepared to start my day.

It also gives me time to sort through my emails and respond to those I didn’t get to the day before.

Yesterday, the first email was the weekly check-in from our superintendent. He included a link to an article about the importance of self-care, the latest buzzword in social media and professional circles.

Ugh! I didn’t have time to read it. Maybe later.

The second email was from our building principal. Filled with reminders of events going on in our high school and, you guessed it, a reminder about the importance of self-care.

Seriously, I didn’t have time to worry about that right now.

I finished reading through my emails as I drank my coffee and downed my instant oatmeal. Then I sat in silence for a few minutes as I looked around my classroom.

A quiet, calm moment before the students arrived.

Should I be required to practice self-care?

At the end of the day, I jumped into the monthly online team meeting.

I resented the time I had to spend in these meetings. They lasted much longer than necessary and rarely provided me with anything substantial to use in my daily work.

What was shared could have easily been sent in an email.

Yesterday was no different. Our director ( I always referred to her as “the cheerleader”) began by telling us what a great job we were doing and how she recognized the extra work we were putting in.

As was her usual MO, she asked each of us to share. Usually, it was something that went well for us or something new we were implementing in our classrooms.

This day she wanted us each to share how we were integrating self-care into our daily lives.

I stopped correcting papers, a practice I developed during our team meetings to feel less resentful about the stealing of my precious time.

Thank goodness I was on mute. My immediate response was less than professional but popped out of my mouth before I could control it.

Obviously, self-care must have been a topic of discussion at the last administrative meeting.

I was beginning to feel like this was going to be another requirement of my job. Add to my list of responsibilities, regular, if not daily self-care.

Will it now become part of my evaluation?

Of course, I was overreacting. But it was definitely how I felt at the time.

What is self-care?

Every time someone mentions self-care to me, images of overflowing bubble baths and wine glasses come to mind.

I think about weekly massages, pedicures and manicures, or quiet evenings reading a good book while someone prepares me a healthy meal for which I do no prep or clean up. Sigh!

Who has time or money for that?

Self-care has become the buzzword.

And nothing pushes my buttons like words and phrases that are overused to the point of lacking real definition.

Buzzwords tend to be used, well, because everyone is using them.

Did any of my administrators actually know what self-care is? Do they practice it?

Taking good care of yourself is important.

We all know that, right?

But, what are the rules or guidelines for meaningful self-care?

The younger teachers talked about having a glass of wine with a friend, going out to dinner instead of cooking, taking a long hot bath after the kids were in bed.

One lucky lady had a massage and a pedicure!

I couldn’t come up with anything. I felt like a failure at taking care of myself.

The whole discussion bugged me so I did a little research.

I learned that taking care of yourself is more than an added activity, putting off a task, or engaging in a self-indulgent treat.

Self-care is anything, I mean anything, you do to take care of yourself. To nourish your physical body, your mind, your heart, and even your spiritual growth.

But the overuse of the term and the social media interpretation has put a different spin on what self-care looks like.

We are encouraged, expected even, to engage in obvious activities that live up to the self-care standards of the people outside of our personal world.

It has become another task on our ever-increasing to-do list. And if we are lucky, if we have the time or the money to get it done, we can check it off.

Self-care doesn’t have to be extra work.

In fact, I think many of us already practice self-care instinctively.

We are doing it because it feels good and fits into our lifestyles.

We just need to acknowledge what we are already doing and let go of unknown parties making us feel bad about not meeting their standard of self-care.

Taking care of ourselves includes many daily or weekly tasks we do, often as habits, that make us feel good inside, help us to relax, help us to feel joy or a sense of accomplishment.

Self-care should be individualized.

There is no specific activity useful for everyone. It is not a one size fits all sort of thing.

A few days after the meeting, I came up with my own list of self-care tactics. They are personal to me.

I get up early. I mean early. Usually, I’m making my morning coffee about 4:30 am. I love this time in the morning. It’s quiet. I do my little coffee ritual and just enjoy the moment.

Every morning, I make my bed. You may not think of that as self-care. But it is for me.

First of all, it makes me feel like a grownup. And I know when I get home my room is clean, organized, and peacefully waiting for me when I finally get to slip in between those sheets.

I always take a “last” look at my room after I make my bed. It’s 6 am and I already accomplished something.

I drive the back way to work. It adds two miles to the trip, but it is worth it. No traffic, great scenery, and plenty of wildlife.

I listen to an old rock and roll station and I sing along. I don’t listen to the news. I don’t listen to a podcast to try to feed my brain (although many people do and enjoy it).

The twenty-five-minute drive to work in the morning lifts me up and gives me the boost I need to face a full day of teenagers.

I greet my students as they arrive. I usually ask them a simple question requiring more than a yes or no. Our exchange builds a relationship.

We need relationships of all levels. Sometimes the kids make me laugh and occasionally there is a bit of concern. But more often than not, our mini-conversations allow us to find something we have in common.

At home, I have a to-do list. I find it necessary to write things down or I forget them. Having so many tasks makes my brain useless at times. The to-do list helps.

And when I cross something off the list, it feels fantastic. Even the little jobs like dropping the mail off at the post office or throwing the laundry in the washing machine.

Every time I cross off a task, I get a little endorphin shot.

I’m sure if I would have shared during the team meeting that my self-care activity for the week was crossing everything off my to-do list, my director would have been pissed.

The way I defined and practiced self-care did not fit in with her social media definition.

Self-care can be common sense

I believe there are many things people do instinctively or automatically that fit into the self-care realm.

Some of them are human necessities that we do every day, or should be doing every day.

Drinking plenty of water, eating right, getting adequate sleep, practicing good hygiene, and engaging in some form of exercise.

That would be a good starting place. But real, beneficial self-care needs to go a step beyond the daily habits of survival.

However, self-care should not add another must-do activity to squeeze into our busy lives. It shouldn’t create additional stress.

Here are some things you may be doing without realizing they are a form of self-care:

  • Petting or talking to your dog, cat, or pet you care for.
  • Noticing the sunrise or sunset
  • Using smelly lotions, soaps, or candles
  • Parking away from the building so you walk a little extra
  • Taking the stairs
  • Dancing around the house
  • Stretching throughout the day
  • Journaling
  • Decluttering your desk
  • Cleaning your closet
  • Doing the dishes by hand — (I had to include this. My mother loves to do the dishes. She whistles to herself the entire time.)
  • Walking barefoot
  • Working a puzzle
  • Cuddling with your kids while you read to them
  • Cooking — something healthy, homemade, or a new recipe
  • Saying no — for some of us, we need to learn to do this. But it sure feels good to say no to something we don’t have the time, energy, or desire to do.

My personal rules for self-care.

I have come up with my own guidelines for self-care.

1. Self-care must be something that makes me feel good in some way.

2. Self-care is not the same for me as it is for someone else.

3. Self-care will change over time as my needs and interests evolve.

4. Self-care should not be considered self-indulgence or a luxury.

5. Self-care does not have to involve money or a lot of extra time.

6. Self-care needs to be reasonable, doable, and fit into my lifestyle

By all means, if bubble baths and wine or manicures and massages work for you then do those things.

If sitting on your porch, sipping a beer while watching the sunset, fills your cup, be content with that.

No guilt. No doubt. No pressure.

Do what feels right for you. The thing that feeds your heart, mind, or soul. That’s what real self-care is.

What self-care practices are unique to you? I’d love to know.

Feel a bit guilty for not taking better care of yourself?

Wish you had more time for it?

The Self-Care Mini-Workbook will help you discover what you are doing or could be doing to enhance your self-care practices? Give it a try for free!

Click here!

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