Self-care is crucial. It is critical for your mental and physical health. And it is critical for stress management.
Audre Lorde, the "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" wrote: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." Yes, you read that correctly. Self-care is political. Self-care is not self-indulgent. Self-care is necessary.
Investing in your own self-care is more important than ever. The world sometimes can be a depressing, sobering place. Unarmed black men killed on the streets. Cops shot while sitting in their patrol cars. Airplanes crashing. Ebola. Not to mention natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
How are we to respond to the news? Not only do we have to deal with the stressors of our own lives (work, family, illness, etc), but when we turn on the TV or scan our social media news feeds we are accosted by atrocities and devastation.
My suggested response? Invest in you and your community.
Channel your energies into life-preserving and life-sustaining acts.
Find your joy in life. Read. Travel. Learn a new skill. Play an instrument. Learn a language. Spend time with your loved ones. Spend time alone. Listen to music. Get a massage.
Pick a cause and become involved. Write to your politicians. Raise money. Write an op-ed. Volunteer. Walk for a cure. Vote.
We do not live in a vaccuum. We are not immune to what takes place outside our door or outside our country.
Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us of this reality:
In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.
Therefore, self-care is also about responsibility. A responsibility to ourselves and to others. The beauty is that you get to decide who the others are: your family, friends, neighbors, clients/patients/students, strangers, refugees, victims of tragedy, cancer sufferers, orphans. The list is extensive.
For me, my bipolar diagnosis has made me even more conscious of the necessity of self-care. In previous blog posts, I've written about how I manage my disorder through adequate sleep, acupuncture, exercise, psychiatric medications and therapy. But by blogging, I have made the leap into making my self-care about others as well. By telling my story, I hope I am positively contributing to others: by helping to dismantle the stigma, by adding another face to mental health, by sharing what I've learned from firsthand experience, and by normalizing discussions of mental health.
As we embark on a new year, I challenge you to (re)commit to caring for yourself and for others. You matter. And you can make a difference in your own life and that of others.