We all have days when we just can’t be bothered; we don’t want to eat, or shower, or answer the phone. We just want to stay where we are and mostly forget about the world. Decent self-care comes with self-awareness – there’s only so many days in a row we can stay in bed, watching Netflix and eating crap, and still honestly say ‘we’re just doing what we need to do to look after ourselves’.
Obviously, the number of days will vary by individual and situation, but to look after ourselves, we need to be honest in acknowledging when we’re in an unhelpful routine. Sometimes these slumps hit after we’ve taken on too much and ‘burnt out’, sometimes we actively resist looking after ourselves as a form of self-punishment and devaluation. Some of us even neglect our self-care because we honestly think that we’re coping, with one decent meal a day, and four hours sleep.
When considering your own self-care and establishing some helpful patterns, a really simple place to start is by asking yourself how you care for your friends. Are you a practical, hands-on helper, or are you more equipped as a listener? Do you touch base regularly, or are you there as required? The skills and traits you bring to your friendships can assist you in working out what you need to do for yourself; if you were your own friend, what would you offer yourself?
And like the way we treat our friends, there is no one right answer, or way to do things; people and circumstances change. Movement psychotherapist, Frank Farrugia, is a passionate advocate of Self-Care, and gives this advice:
‘I try and remind people that what you need can change on a daily basis. So what works for you today may not be any use to you tomorrow. It’s very contextual… You may have certain set-ups that (you) know work. But then if you happen to be triggered in, say, an intimate situation that tested theory might not play well anymore.’
One way to keep on top of your self-care is via lists. Start with a list of the things you need for your very basic cognitive and physical health eg. food, hydration, rest, communication, medication, exercise. Add to this list a bunch of things you know elevate your mood – like a general list of things you love eg. contact with loved ones, creative space, music, sex, meditation, fluffy fabric, water… Your next list is things you’re curious to try – dance class, a new recipe, walking to the shops, kite-flying, a different hairstyle, turmeric latte (?!). And finally, add to all of this the things you liked to do when you were a child, and have some of these activities on hand.
You now have a substantial list of ‘things’, all of which are options for self-care. ‘It’s important’, says Frank, ‘to have a good repertoire of things to try. Sometimes it’s just about trying things… If you are experiencing depression or social anxiety you may not have the urge to ‘do’ anything.’ In these cases, Frank suggests ‘not putting so much thought into it’ and ‘just trying something new’. When struggling to decide what you need, filter your thoughts with your self-care checklist. There’s sure to be a place of inspiration to get you moving. And if nothing else, it might be time to think upon refining or enhancing it further.
Much of our self-care comes down to nurturing the parts of ourselves that were traumatised before we had language ability to acknowledge and explain our pain. If you’re struggling to look after you, remember the hurt little person inside and at least do something to look after them.
Participating in a community where consent is key, it’s vital to be self-aware. Kinksters are often involved in activities that without clear consent are considered illegal, so there’s a degree of responsibility that goes with knowing our own intentions and motivations. And it’s clear by the many inspirational people kink attracts that self-awareness is a valued trait. Sure, we may have the same percentage of arseholes per capita as any other subculture (we have no stats to prove or disprove this), but aside from the actual arseholes we’re pretty much ALL incredibly amazing, sparkling, awesome people who deserve to be cared for.