When you are an artist, self-care is non-negotiable. But how do you decide which type of self-care you need most?
Growing up, self-care was definitely not part of my vernacular. Yes, I’m Gen X, so in some ways it wasn’t really part of anyone’s day-to-day conversation. And at the same time, both my parents worked. There was rarely much emphasis on having fun or just doing things to unwind. Even TV watching was seldom done without housework, grading papers, or managing the finances going on in the background.
When it came to what I was either rewarded or celebrated for, it was mostly things like good grades or doing my chores. My more artistic endeavors tended to be criticized in a way that you might as well have been grading that too. “You had the wrong arm up. Everyone else had their right up and you had your left up.”
And then there were the beliefs around basic life giving habits like sleep and eating. If I slept in on a Saturday morning, I was asked “why are you so tired” and made to feel like sleeping in was somehow lazy. It was rare to get to eat food for enjoyment and nourishing my body alone. If it wasn’t my family reminding me of my genetic tendency towards being overweight, it was my desire to follow the diet my dance teacher’s recommended diet to a T.
Is it any wonder that slowing down and caring for myself without any motivation other than self-love has taken so much work?
What is self-care?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.”
Good self-care ultimately helps us bring our nervous system back to a state of balance, where we are neither overstimulated or understimulated.
Self-care will help your body adapt and release the stress it is experiencing and that may have become stuck over a period of days weeks, or longer.
The difference between hyperarousal and hypoarousal
For most of my life, I have operated at a high level of activity which meant my nervous system was constantly in a state of hyperarousal, which means your system is on high alert. In its most extreme cases, this can show up as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
On the other side of the spectrum is hypoarousal, when “our brain-body system is running low, and we experience a level of a shutdown.”
Neither of these states is ideal but because we are highly adaptable as human beings, our nervous system will adjust, making hyperarousal or hypoarousal the new normal. But that doesn’t prevent there from being wear and tear on our systems.
Being stuck in hyper or hypo arousal means that you are constantly in fight and flight or freeze or fawn. And our bodies were not designed to stay in these states.
If we don’t allow the stress pattern to move all the way through us and return to an optimal state, we may find that our ability to make decisions and cope with simple day to day tasks becomes compromised.
Self-care is a way of making sure we aid our bodies in returning to optimal levels of arousal for our nervous system.
So how do you know what type of self-care to do?
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to self-care. What you need for self-care is highly individualized and also will vary depending on what is happening in your life at any given time.
I’ve found that in evaluating what type of self-care I need, knowing the various types can be helpful. That way I can recognize what types of self-care I give myself naturally and then create balance by making time for the practices that are less common for me.
Types of Self-Care
There are numerous models out there for types of self-care, but here is the one that resonates most closely with me.
- Physical – This includes taking excellent care of our physical vessel. Example activities include:
- Eating well
- Staying hydrated
- Have a solo dance party
- Mental – This includes both cultivating positivity and learning new skills. Some self-care activities that fall under this category include:
- Reading self-help books
- Learning a new skill or language
- Setting goals
- Emotional – This involves allowing ourselves to feel and fully process our feelings. This might include:
- Going to therapy
- Screaming into a pillow.
- Environmental – Taking good care of the space that you live and work in.
- Tidying your workspace.
- Calibrating the level of noise for your ideal environment.
- Letting people know when you shouldn’t be disturbed.
- Switching to a new space for new inspiration, energy, or motivation.
- Financial – Cultivating a healthy relationship with money. You can do this by:
- Tracking your income and expenses.
- Learning about investing and making choices on how to grow your money.
- Setting financial goals.
- Social – Putting time and energy into developing strong relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. Some ideas include:
- Checking in with your family on Zoom each week.
- Setting up a coffee date with a friend.
- Attending a Moon Circle online or in person.
- Asking for help when you need it.
- Recreational – This area is all about prioritizing fun and play (with no agenda). Here are some things you can do:
- Go to a play
- Read a book for pleasure
- Explore your city like you’re a tourist.
- Spending time in nature
- Spiritual – This area is all about developing a stronger connection to yourself and the universe, God, or whatever you believe in. This might involve:
- Attending a service at your church or place of worship
Now it’s your turn:
I invite you to answer these questions (perhaps even in a journal) to help inspire your own self-care.
- Which of these types of self-care do I tend to favor? Why?
- Which of these types of self-care do I tend to avoid? Why?
- If I were to lean into one of the types of self-care I avoid, how could I make it more enjoyable?
Was this post helpful? I’d love for you to share any insights you received in the comments below.
PS: Planning in sync with the moon can be a deeply restorative and nourishing self-care practice. Want to give it a try? Join me this Sunday for a special New Moon Embodiment Circle: Planting Seeds for 2023.