Why is Self-Care so Difficult?

26 Jan

A friend of mine recently celebrated her 30th birthday. She asked her party guests to give her their words of wisdom for making the most of her 30’s. I recommended that she schedule frequent hot dates with herself, and I gave her some bubble bath and cheap wine to get her started in the right direction. After I gave her this gift, I had to ask myself why I’m not following my own advice.

I think this is a quandry that many of us can relate to. As activists, we’re so busy taking care of other people that it’s often hard to find time to take care of ourselves.

One of my mentors gave me some good advice when I graduated from college. “Take care of yourself,” she said, “or you will burn out and you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” I followed her advice by treating myself to expensive haircuts, cheap pedicures, and frequent sushi dinners. My budget ain’t what it used to be – so these days my version of treating myself involves a six-pack of cheap beer and a Netflix marathon.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with self care. If you work at a clinic or an abortion fund, how do you decompress at the end of a shift? Do you have a hard time disconnecting from other people’s emotional baggage like I do, or have you developed a successful strategy for being compassionate and still taking care of your own emotional well being?

On the same note, for those of us with anti-choice family members, how do you handle family gatherings? I have typically tried to avoid discussing health care or politics. But that strategy crapped out on me over the holidays when my mom started asking me why I don’t support adoption over abortion. I walked away from a fight and took a shower to calm down. However, I can’t do that with every confrontation. I’d love to find a few strategies for dealing with anti-choice family confrontations.

How you practice self-care?


10 Responses to “Why is Self-Care so Difficult?”

  1. Jacqueline January 27, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    So the question remains: why don’t you support adoption over abortion?

  2. Steph January 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Hi Serena,

    I definitely feel you. I wrote about this almost a year ago, and despite all the helpful comments, I still don’t have a fool proof strategy. Sometimes it’s reminding myself that if I don’t care for myself, I can’t care for anyone else. Other times it’s just giving up and grabbing some ice cream and watching guilty pleasure TV. Sometimes it takes a professional to tell me that I need to slow down and take time for myself. And other times, I feel like I can take on the world and have a job, take graduate school classes, have an internship, be on a active board, and volunteer in my free (ha!) time. The thing I’ve learned so far is to take it day by day and try not to be hard on myself.

    And lean on the people who love you! Like all of us here at the Abortion Gang.


  3. Steph January 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    And to Jacqueline: we support abortion as much as we support adoption, birth, and parenting. We want all to be made accessible, affordable, and compassionate for all people who need/want them.

  4. Bhevarri January 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    I’m also wondering how best to deal with this =( While I don’t have any anti-choice family members (not that I see regularly, anyway) I do have people in my circle of friends who are anti-choice… which would be fine, but I MUST be friendly with these people since we all volunteer in the same stuff and see eachother pretty regularly, so I just can’t avoid them and I don’t want to make any enemies. For the time being, I’ve tried HARD not to discuss politics at all with any of these people, and if abortion does come up with the antis, I’ll tell everyone to shut up and talk about something else, as forcefully as I can. It sucks =( I’d like to be able to really discuss with these people just why they should reconsider their views, but to be perfectly honest they hold these opinions out of ignorance and because they’re stubborn, so logic doesn’t work.

  5. Serena January 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Jacqueline – I support every woman’s decision about what to do with her body.

    The disagreement with my mom was about much more than the question of adoption vs. abortion. I left the room because I expect clinic protesters to ask me that question. I don’t expect my mother to ask me that question. When you’re used to having people shout insults at you while you help patients enter a health care center, you get a little tired of those questions.

    At the end of the day, however, I support whatever choice a woman decides on her own. It’s not my place to say what she should or shouldn’t do.

  6. Serena January 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Bhevarri, typically I like to tell people that I’m proud to support women’s health, and that I support whatever decision a woman makes. That usually is a positive way to end the “debate.”

  7. Serena January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Steph, isn’t it amazing how the topic of self-care keeps on emerging? Seems like we need constant reminders to take care of ourselves.

    And I couldn’t agree more about our little Abortion Gang. We’re a pretty rad group to be a part of! 🙂


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