Self Care isn't Selfish
Sue Ryan, DCADV Executive Director
September is Self-Care Awareness Month. After this past 18 months of an ongoing pandemic, the importance of self-care is particularly pressing. There are countless books, blogs, videos, and more on self-care; lots of advice on the benefits of exercise, healthy diets, sleep, finding balance in our busy lives. The advice is usually sound and sometimes inspiring and occasionally, creative. Just the other day I heard on the radio that massaging your eyebrows can help relieve stress and facilitate a restful night of sleep. I tried that last night, not certain it actually worked, and today my eyebrows have the appearance of a mad scientist. Oh well, on to the next helpful self-care tip.
For the many advocates working relentlessly to assist survivors of domestic violence, self-care can seem ever elusive; something others do, regularly and we do, occasionally. We certainly understand the importance of self-care and how it can sustain us. We recognize that engaging in self-care offers the promise of peace and even joy. We know why we should do self-care, we may know what we should do, it is the when that slips from our grasp.
Dedication and commitment fuel the days. What DV Advocates do every day makes a difference in the lives of others and at the very core, this sustains. But, this relentless advocacy can take a toll, revealed in exhaustion, vicarious trauma, and sadness. When it gets very hard, even doing self-care seems like too much to lift. We just push through the day and hope for a good night’s sleep and a better tomorrow.
After months of doing the work of DV advocacy while also managing the threat of the pandemic, the exhaustion can run very deep, and frankly, a good night’s sleep is simply not enough. More is needed. More time for you, more care for you. It is not selfish to want to take care of yourself, it is essential, like breathing. As they advise on the flights, first put the air mask on yourself, before helping others.
As with many things, self-care can be easier to do when done with others. This is especially true when the exhaustion is so great that self-care feels like a burden rather than a help. We all need self-care buddies, those friends, family members, colleagues, who listen, and then listen more, and listen again. The buddies who encourage and provide support, and maybe even share a self-care tip; (I’m not sure about that eyebrow massage technique). Knowing that we are not alone, that others can relate, can be a wonderful first step to finding time for ourselves. Self-care buddies can help remind us that we deserve a rest, that in fact, by taking time to care for ourselves, we are actually giving. We are making ourselves stronger and more capable of managing the day-to-day stresses.
It is a circle. We care for ourselves and this empowers us to care for others which requires us to care for ourselves. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to join a circle. Find a buddy and jump in. You deserve peace.