I was talking to one of my supervisor recently and near the end of the conversation in response to her hectic schedule, I said, “Don’t forget to take some time for yourself”. She thanked me, but then said, “You know, Reed, I think so much of the self-care messaging we’re getting now is inward looking. I actually wonder if self-care is about connection.” It prompted another ten minutes of conversation, and I came away from it with a fresh perspective on what it is to take care of oneself.
What I see and hear in the therapy space, and what I live and breathe every day, is a yearning for better connection. The truism is that we’re social creatures, and connection makes us richer, happier, more content, and more capable. Yet the dominant messaging around self-care is, “take some time for you” and “look after number one”.
Bubble-bath. Tick. Walk in the forest. Tick. Reading a book curled up on the lounge. Tick. An hour of yoga or stretching per day. Tick. But could it be that the ultimate self-care is done in the company of trusted family and friends?
There is no doubt that sometimes we need space, stillness, and time for ourselves. But maybe that’s just stilling the mind, calming the senses, and short-circuiting the buzz, and not actually recharging the batteries. Maybe it’s the dynamism of connection that energises us and prepares us for the upcoming challenges we face, whether that’s the busy schedule of parenting or work, the needs of those who depend on us, or the existential life dilemmas we all face from time to time.
Nurturing our bonds with others is a practice worthy of attention. It is also a well understood factor when it comes to happiness, feeling content, and feeling less stressed. Except perhaps for the most inward of introverts, a shared experience is almost always more memorable, more rewarding, and more satisfying. Having a coffee in the sunshine is one thing – but having a coffee with a good friend is quite another. It makes sense that if ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, then a happy event shared is a happy event doubled!
The next time you feel the need for self-care, why not think about how you might connect with those you love, and check in with yourself before, during, and after the connection. How does it make you feel? Are you energised? Was that the top-up you needed?
I’m looking at my own habits with fresh eyes now and looking forward to examining how these ideas might influence my own self-care routine. Time for myself doesn’t need to be time by myself.
Please get in touch if this article resonates with you in light of your own situation.