Self-care /self /ker/
The practice of taking action to “preserve or improve one’s own health,”
I don’t believe it is a mistake that the word self comes first in the phrase self care. It's meant to be taken literally. You need to put yourself first in order to create longevity for your own wellness. Mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Being an artist working in New York, many of the struggles that I have in my own self care practice stem from my time and energy being in constant high demand. Meetings with other creatives, teaching all of my classes, answering emails for commissioned work, responding to DMs, texts, phone calls, showing up for performances, collaborating on projects. My commute alone drains me more than I would like it to. Not to mention trying to have some kind of social life and spend time with friends and people I love. So every time i revisit or fall into a self care conversation i find myself asking How am I supposed to put myself first when it feels like everything and everyone else needs my attention more?
The biggest breakthrough I’ve had around self-care, or in the ways in which I try to preserve and distribute the myself in the most healthy, honest, deliberate, and consistent way as an artist, a friend, and a person trying to figure it out just like everyone else is gaining the ability to say “no” frequently and with conviction.
About 6 months ago I made a deal with myself to change my life drastically. Actually I think a better way to put it would be that I made a deal to change my happiness drastically. I was drained, miserable, and un satisfies with the work I was creating. The people I was spending my time with were quickly becoming more and more annoying. I lost the passion for the job I had at the time. I was just all around unhappy and the reason, I believe, was because I was placing more importance on everything and everyone else more than myself. The things I was invested in were taking a significant amount of energy from me and there was nothing in my life was reciprocating that same energy back. There was no give and take. Only take. Which left me utterly depleted.
So I made a conscious decision to be unapologetically selfish with all my time and energy in a desperate attempt to reclaim my own joy and preserve my health. I stopped answering phone calls, dm’s, and texts, from anyone (professional or casual) that I was not excited to hear from. I said no to performance opportunities, friendly invitations, I removed myself from all social media platforms, I turned down a lot of money for things i wasn’t passionate about, I deleted every distraction I could think of on my phone and my life. I made it extremely difficult to have access to me and instead of tending to my demand I put all of the energy and time I had into things and people I loved and my health. And it worked. By going on a life diet, cutting out all the excess stress, and being selective about what I was putting my energy towards I managed to achieve the highest level of joy and self content that i’ve felt in years. It all happened fairly quick too. My creativity was on an all time high. Eventually I was making more money than i used to. I was laughing more often. My sleep scheduled leveled out. I had giant moves being made in my career. I was getting in shape. I wasn’t stressed out all the time. All from actively saying no to anything that wasn’t contributing to my personal growth.
I learned being too accessible allows you to be taken for granted and advantage of. I’m teaching myself that everything does not deserve my attention and that saying no is as essential to my well-being as drinking water.
You have to innerstand that saying no means saying yes to yourself or other things that will bring you joy and by choosing your own joy over others you are also understanding that you may have to disappoint the people around you and that is okay. The emotional hurdles that come with that can be very difficult to navigate.
But self care should never come off as malice and should never be something you feel guilty about. Choosing to spend time investing in yourself means you have a higher understanding of your own needs and recognize when you are too exhausted, too empty, or don’t have enough bandwidth to do this one more thing that’s being asked of you. As you go through life you pick up more and more responsibilities and obligations that require your attention which means you have less and less time to do things you actually want to do. If your time and energy are becoming more and more valuable everyday then why would you choose to waste it doing things that you don’t want to and spending time with people who don’t contribute to your growth.Sometimes you really need to take some time and ask yourself if you're not getting paid, supporting your real friends, or have some solid purpose, then what’s the point? If it don’t move me, I don’t do it.
I spent years in relationships with people who were either harmful to my success/fulfillment/well being or were subconsciously afraid of it. When I cut that out, my life, happiness, career and mental health started to soar through the roof. Of course, balance is key and we all need some rec time, but we only have 24 hours in a day. And time is one of the most valuable currencies there are. as i get further along in my career, i've developed a tendency only chase the things that really matter to me. i make it my goal to be strategic and genuine about how i maximize my time, who i spend it with, and what i'm working on. be intentional. be smart. About building a healthy relationship with yourself and filling your life with what you love instead of what you have to tolerate.
Self care is a painful muscle to exercise but it’s necessary and worth it.