Defining Self Care

Self care is a buzzwork in our society these days. But some of us have been talking about self care for years, especially in the context of ADHD. I can’t speak to neurotypical folks. I’ve only been inside an ADHD guy’s brain. But I can tell you that ADHD people seem to have a particularly hard time with self care. I think there are many reasons that this is the case. We tend to have fewer hours in the day to be productive. (If you are familiar with ADHD, you know what I mean and I don’t have to go on a six paragraph tangent about it!) We also suffer from low self esteem due to the way that our ADHD negatively affects our day to day and big picture success. And, our struggles with the skills and executive functions of time management, initiation, follow through, consistency, and delaying gratification all make it harder for us to practice good self care. And fundamentally, self care might be not-so-stimulation and repetitive sometimes. 

But I had a really interesting session with a client about a month ago during which I challenged him to even question the concept of self care. He was going through a really difficult time in his life. He’s in the healthcare field and directly works with patients, but is not higher end of the healthcare pay/stability scale. So, work is very stressful for him. And, he is going through a tremendously stressful time with his soon-to-be-ex-wife. So, he came into a session and wanted to talk about his failures in the self care arena. He felt like he wasn’t living up to his own expectations (and his almost-ex-wife’s expectations) of how he was keeping the house. He wasn’t making the choice to spend the energy to make and eat the salad for dinner. He wasn’t coming home from work and folding the laundry and working out. He wasn’t meditating or doing any of the introspective practices that he’d done in the past. And, he was really beating himself up about it. 

Now, I’m a big believer in self care. Generally I consider sleep, exercise, and social interaction the winners podium of self care. If there were a B-team closely behind they would be eating well, some form of mindfulness practice, and managing leisure time and down time. Of course, managing work/life balance, addictive tendencies/activities, moderating screen time, and spending time nurturing our intimate relationships are also important parts of self care.

But like anything in life, self care can be situational too. You are not always going to have the time and energy to do all that you want to do in any arena. That includes the self care arena. Sometimes self care is making the salad and going for a run. Sometimes self care is having a can of Bernie-O’s right out of the can for dinner, lying on the couch, watching two episodes of “The Expanse,” and going to bed. I wouldn’t recommend doing that every night. But if that is what you really need on a given night, is that not the definition of caring for yourself? 

I always argue that self care should be one of your top two priorities. Self care and your kids. But, in these crazy times we live in, we have to compromise on everything, even our upper echelon priorities. So, be kind to yourself. Set a reasonable bar. Find creative ways to reach it. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fall short. Problem solve, and consider adjusting the bar again if you need to. And, meet yourself where you are, not where you wish you were. Now, that sounds like self care to me!

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.

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