By Connie Fu, Co-Director of ECHO Peer Counseling Group
I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care lately. Through my work with ECHO (Eating Concerns Hotline & Outreach), I have come to understand how crucial it is that peer counselors consciously nourish their own minds and bodies in order to foster good counseling experiences for others.
I’m pretty vocal about my care for self-care. When I come across an article on meditative exercises or an exposé on the latest fad diet, I send it to my blockmates. I’ve been an avid, if sporadic, journaler, and I’ve gone through weeklong phases of “prioritizing sleep.” Though the self-care strategies that I establish rarely last long, I have consistently sought to incorporate self-care into my daily existence.
Thinking and doing, however, are separate from feeling. Recently I’ve been grappling with the unsettling sense that my efforts in self-care have been pouring into a black hole. Is setting aside 5 minutes each night to hastily scrawl three things that I’m grateful for helping me stay in touch with who I am and where I’m going? How grateful can my mind and body be for my periodic indulgences in cake? How will I know if any of this is actually working?
Part of this doubt stems from the realization that my mind and body are not as easy to get in touch with as self-care gurus would have me believe. Listening for what I need or want in a moment doesn’t guarantee a clear answer. In fact, often I feel strange, down, out of sorts, bizarre—and nothing in my mind or body can adequately explain it.
Additionally, no one but I can recognize my challenges and triumphs in self-care. There are no awards or newspaper features dedicated to one’s outstanding capacity for self-directed love and empathy. It sounds silly to put it in those terms, but judging the efficacy of self-care is near impossible when I am the only one keeping myself accountable.
The truth is, self-care is still a nebulous idea in my head. It is a skill set that, like any, requires time and persistence to develop and understand. There are days that I spend talking to no one, chugging Mountain Dew, and watching trashy TV at ungodly hours of the night, and feel incredibly in touch. Other days, yoga and meditation serve as mere excuses for catnaps. The unpredictability of my mind and body’s response requires constant negotiation.
I’m acutely aware in these moments of the distance I can feel from my mind, body, and sense of self. Shifting between a cohesive internal monologue and multipart conversations—and all the while trying to let it go and just be—is a delicate acrobatic act. The best I can do is to trust me, myself, I, my body, and my brain, to be in it for the long haul.