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Relaxing? Self-care? You might be doing it all wrong!

The word Self-Care has been used abundantly this year.  It has been a topic that has been trending, but do we know what it actually means?

Do ask yourself, what self-care means to you. If your answers are -

  • to get more massages,
  • to eat healthier, and
  • to take more vacations,

you are not completely wrong but you might want to think about the other forms of self-care as well.

Nobody ever talks about self-care on the lines of screaming into a pillow, or writing an angry letter, or learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But these are all perfectly legitimate forms of self-care, depending on who you are, what you’re going through, and what you need in that time for yourself to feel better.

The truth about self-care is that it is completely unique to the individual, the same way one’s “ideal” nutrition plan will vary, or how one’s sense of style would differ.

People are different and everyone has different needs for self preservation. This is not a foreign subject but most often our culture is obsessed with telling women what they should want, and also then offering them products they can buy to solve all their problems.  In this case, only you can help yourself.

Do you know what relaxing means? The dictionary meaning says “to make or become less tense or anxious.” Let’s discuss this further to get a sense of what it actually means.

When we think of relaxing, we usually imagine gentle, calm activities where you have no tension or anxiety. Relaxing however is actually the pathway that gets you to that state, not the state itself. This means that sometimes relaxing can be aggressive and powerful as well. 

Most of the stress faced nowadays is most likely not about dangerous predators and threats to your survival (no matter how they feel). Our modern stressors don’t try to kill us and then retreat back into the woods and let us heal our wounds. In fact, especially for women, most of our stressors are internal! Think about guilt, comparison, perfectionism, and negative body image.

This is an on-going and internally-generated nature of the stress that many people face. We get stuck in a vicious cycle where we experience a typical stress-response that was designed to be completed quickly with a recovery to baseline. We often never complete the stress response cycle which is the fundamental issue.

What does it mean to complete a stress response cycle?

Completing a stress cycle is often far from calm and gentle. (This is proven scientifically)  Like any animal who twitches and shakes, we too need to get rid of excess energy that can be brought about by anything (Long hours of work, not sleeping well due to some disturbances, etc).

When you have triggered a stress response for any reason, your body goes through a ton of (fascinating) changes. The energy levels in your body are ramped up and all the adrenaline is pumped into your blood,  preparing your cardiovascular system to run or attack. Your body then has all this extra energy, and since we rarely use that energy to fight off, say, the stress of perfectionism or guilt, you need to do something to get rid of it.

So how does one complete the cycle keeping in mind the norms of society, where excessive or aggressive displays are frowned upon?

A few ways to burn off such energy is to complete a tough workout, spend an hour at the shooting range, dive into intense crying sessions, journaling or writing your raw emotions, taking a boxing class, or throwing a proper tantrum of kicking and screaming. This isn’t always easy though.

You can’t go from having excess energy (a.k.a. anxiety/stress) to feeling calm and peaceful without letting the energy out first. And once it’s out, you’ll need to rest.

We hope that you’ll start exploring what it might look like for you to complete your stress cycles by first being aware of and then moving on to channeling your energy into the right outlets for you, (make sure these make you feel good both mentally and physically) and then honoring the final stage of relaxation and recovery.

Your body is not your enemy, it naturally wants to help you move through the different stages, so becoming aware of where you are in each cycle, and what you need, will help you finally be able to relax.

And that is true self-care through relaxation.

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