Aren’t you sick of people missing the point?
A really good idea: remembering to engage in acts of self-care- caring for yourself- to live a more fulfilled and enriched life gets taken, messed with, twisted and then somehow becomes yet another way to be a failure in society.
As in, if you aren’t happy, if you aren’t coping, if you’re just sad or stuck or anxious then it’s your own fault. Because you don’t ‘self care’.
If you read my blog post on alternative self-care then you’ll know I think of a huge range of conscious acts as self-care. But i’ve been thinking about this again more recently, and then I was sent a video to watch by a deeply thoughtful woman and I think there’s more to add.
The video is called The Myth of Self Regulation. It’s a beautiful warm Masterclass/talk by therapist Bonnie Badenoch couching neuroscience in a bed of truth about how we aren’t actually designed to self-regulate.
We NEED other people to help us co-regulate our emotions.
Which brings me to my side-trip to Sweden.
Here are some things about Sweden (or Helsingborg rather) that you may not know:
It smells fresh. Like oceans and moss and forests.
There are traditional saunas that have been renovated to create one of the most incredible body experiences available: getting naked with a bunch of women in the intense heat with huge windows looking out over the sea, and then plunging yourself into freezing ocean water. Indescribable.
There’s a 13th century tower kind of plonked in the town centre.
And my lovely friend Caroline lives here, whom I haven’t really spoken to in 5 years.
It’s hard to describe (although i’m sure you can relate) what it’s like to visit a friend whom you haven’t talked to in her home town on the other side of the world.
It feels like radical self-care.
We’re having truthful, honest conversations about love, life, family and ourselves.
We’re sharing journeys of the last few years over drinks in bars or nursing coffees on her couch. I’m mesmerised by her beautifully appointed cosy attic apartment with views out over the ocean and towards Denmark (the Northern Europeans do comfort and aesthetics the likes of which are unparalleled).
She’s talking about her practice of yoga as a daily act, how it’s given her grounding- today you start working on a new pose knowing you won’t achieve it for 3 years. Being good with the notion that the practice never ends- there is no ‘end game’. And while we’re all working on things to make our lives better and that’s a good thing, there’a also something vital about being just fine where you are.
There is no ‘next thing’.
I’m talking about love and being in a stable relationship with a beautiful human. I’m sharing thoughts and feelings on radical vulnerability. The only thing that will ‘prevent’ you from finding yourself utterly miserable in a relationship well beyond it’s use-by date is to be strong in your vulnerability and values. To trust that you will survive a broken heart and that you will find another heart one day if you let yourself ‘find you and do you’.
But you don’t have to do it alone.
Friends are so important.
Whether you only have one or two, or a whole bunch, it’s these conversations that help us know who we are and what matters.
Friends scaffold naturally for us. I’m not going to run out and find a yoga course because Caroline told me to, but I am now thinking about engaging in the practice of something for my physical health without an ‘end game’.
This is self-care and this is a co-regulation of emotions. Where you’re ‘bouncing off’ another special trusted person in a safe place and not worrying so much about what they’ll think of you tomorrow. Or ever.
It extends you.
I’m not sure exactly how Caroline feels, but I know we’re going to relish and roll around in the loveliness of this visit for the last couple of days. We’re going to be ever so slightly stronger and warmer because of it.
And probably more than a little hungover.
Did you enjoy this blog post? If you’d like to receive more posts on connecting with people and self-care directly in your inbox then jump on my list! I email stuff I don’t put on social media. And if you’re looking for a counsellor who gets this relational complexity and wants to sit with you in co-regulation, then please do contact me. I’d love to hear from you.
Main image by Brooke Cagle