Self Care Isn't About Doing What's "Good" For You

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I have a hate/hate relationship with winter. Despite living in Canada, I’ve just never acclimated to the frigid temperatures, the mounds of snow, the icy sidewalks, and air so cold it makes my eyelashes stick together. December is bearable, mostly because it’s so busy that I don’t have time to think about how much I’d rather be hibernating. Once the holidays pass and we’re into January, though, the harsh reality sets in: I have at least 3 more months of this to endure. By mid-February, it feels like there’s no end in sight and the seasonal depression that started to shroud me in December has become a blanket of fog that makes my head throb and my eyes burn. 

I cope as best I can. I keep a blanket in every room. The fireplace in the living room is perpetually on, and I drink more tea in those few winter months than I do all year. I curl up with a good book as often as time allows. I journal, and paint, and get introspective. I take long, hot showers — because baths have never done anything for me, but I adore the feel of hot spray on my back.

And lest you think I’ve got this all figured out, I do things that aren’t so commendable, too. I skip the gym because it would require me to go outside again. I eat loads of gooey comfort foods that stick to my ribs and expand my belly. I spend too much time sitting and not enough time moving.

And you know what? All of that — the habits we’re so quick to label as either “good” or “bad"  — they all go under the heading of “self care”. Because sometimes, self-care is just as much about doing what you need to get through a difficult time as it is about taking care of yourself in a way your personal trainer would be quick to praise.

So often we focus on our physical state, our mental state, our emotional state. And all of those things are critically important. But you know what we forget in this endless search for optimal well-being?

We forget to nourish our soul.

On days when the sun has dipped down by 4pm and the air hurts to breathe, I’m going to walk through the door, fill a giant pot of water, and make that pasta dish I had as a kid. On mornings when my window is coated in a sheet of ice, I might choose to curl up with my kiddo and watch a cartoon rather than hit that early-morning yoga class. And on nights when I hear the wind groaning through my window panes, I might snuggle closer to my husband and catch a few more minutes of sleep, ignoring the 5am alarm that tells me I need to “get up and hustle!”

Whether you’re somewhere as frigid as I am, or whether you’re enjoying spectacular warmth and sunshine, I urge you to take a moment, close your eyes, and check in with your soul. How have you nourished it today? What else does it need? What can you give it, guilt-free, that will help you not just survive the next day, week, or month — but even thrive?