I’m pretty busy these days. As I keep up with work, school, and writing, other things have fallen to the wayside. The idea of having a social life is just laughable. And while I may be able to find some time for others, taking care of myself has not exactly been a priority. I’ll eat if I remember to do so, and if I’m feeling really selfish I might squeeze in some time for sleep, but I find that the more my schedule fills up, the less I make time for me.
I know I’m not the only one who tends to forget to add myself to my list of priorities. It’s not unusual for those who work in my field(s) to make more time for others than for ourselves, and it’s also not uncommon for survivors of violence to put “tending to my needs” last on the to-do list, if it makes it there at all. Since I’ve begun work at CUAV, one of my biggest motivators for self-care has been the fact that I just can’t be there for others in the hard work of healing from trauma if I’m not taking care of myself. It’s helpful, but still, as Audre Lorde reminds me, it’s not enough.
The most effective self-care comes from a place of deep love for myself. It’s not being selfish. It’s daring to be powerful, which comes from another brilliant quote by Audre - “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” As someone who hopes to create change, it’s essential that I recognize my power and strength. I deserve care, simply because I exist. And while some self-care practices may be as simple as tending to my basic needs, the task of tending to myself is no small thing. It’s cultivating a powerful tree whose roots and branches reach far beyond my own needs.
Let me say this again, because sometimes we need to hear it more than once – we all deserve care, simply because we exist. That means you. And caring for yourself is one of the most powerful ways you can care for the world around you.
There’s a book I highly recommend for folks who work around trauma, and even for those who spend time taking care of others outside of their professional lives. It’s called Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. Earlier this week, I participated in the Trauma Stewardship Institute with the book’s author, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, and that opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It felt so validating to have someone recognize the toll this work can take, especially with the systems of oppression that add to the daily impact of trauma. Maybe the book can be helpful for you, too.
Our bodies are designed to take care of themselves. Take, for example, the way we continue to breathe, even without thinking about it. When we’re facing the hard truths of the world on a daily basis, though, we could all use a little more intentional care. My suggestion? Breathe a little deeper. What’s yours?