Self-Care Should Be Proactive By MK McWilliams

This was the picture that caused a friend of mine to tell me I looked \”rested and healthy.\” And that whatever I was doing was working for me. Now, I\’m not trying to do a humble-brag here, even though it sounds like it. Bear with me because I do have a broader point. His words were a lovely compliment to be sure, but I was taken aback because my immediate reaction was \”I\’m not really doing anything.\” After taking a moment to think about it, however, I realized that wasn\’t true.

For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever if I\’m being honest, I was really taking care of myself. Not making wide strokes of indulgence or strict regimens I needed to anxiously adhere to. No, I was doing a variety of little things, everyday, to keep my self-care stores loaded. I was practicing self-care not just as a fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon with baths and face masks, but really making my rest, mental health, body, and mindfulness a true priority.

Society and social media have made self-care synonymous with relaxation or spa treatments. And it can be that. But that\’s not all it is. Self-care is showing up for yourself. It\’s doing whatever you need to make your life better. I\’ve been digging deep. I\’m getting therapy, I\’m journaling, I\’m confronting pain that\’s lived deep within me for years, and it\’s hard work, but it\’s helping. I\’ve been keeping a schedule and a calendar and focusing on organization, which are things that have never come natural to me. I\’ve found that the routine has given me structure that prevents my anxiety from spiraling out of control. I am the first one to loudly proclaim I\’m not perfect. I slip up, I forget things, I miss things. But I\’m trying to show up for myself and continue to show up, every single day.

And that is another way I practice self-care. By being gentle with myself, by understanding that it\’s quite okay that I may have not finished everything on my to-do list, that I may have not done things perfectly. There is always tomorrow. It doesn\’t have to be \”all or nothing,\” a way of thinking that consumed me for far too long. A mantra I\’ve been repeating in my head is \”I did the best I could with what I had\” and I don\’t forgive myself because there is nothing to be sorry for in the first place. I\’m giving myself grace.

So what I\’ve learned is this: Self-care is not (just) a reactionary measure. It must be proactive. Of course you can and should practice a method of self-care to help soothe yourself if you have a bad day. But in order to reap the real benefits, the stuff that helps our bodies and minds and spirits genuinely heal and thrive, we need to make it a continued practice. Showing up for ourselves, in whatever ways we need, day after day. I\’m still learning and experimenting and figuring out what works. But I know I\’m feeling results. I\’m caring for myself and in turn, allowing myself to heal and grow, and be better for those I love.

Footnote: My main practices of self care are: therapy, medication, meditation, nutrition, moving my body, journaling, reading, skincare, getting enough sleep, staying tidy and organized, and acts of service. I recognize the privilege that I have in order to be able to do these and I\’m looking for ways to give back in order to help others who may not be as fortunate. Some wonderful organizations I\’ve donated to are The Loveland Foundation and Therapy for Black Girls.

MK is a life-long lover of words and creator of imaginary worlds. She writes poetry, fiction, and essays, exploring themes such as mental health and the human experience. Her debut poetry collection, Stereospace, was published in February 2020 by Pine Peak Press. She has also authored three limited edition chapbooks: Technicolor Mind, Ode, and Jagged People, which was released worldwide in digital form in December 2020. MK lives in New Jersey with her young daughter and their demon corgi.

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