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Self-care *isn’t* just yoga and green juice in mason jars.

Self-care *isn’t* just yoga and green juice in mason jars. | Annie Wright, LLC | Berkeley, CA | www.anniewright.com

Bubble baths, mani/pedi’s, Sunday brunch with your girlfriends, candlelit yoga, green juice in mason jars, all of this is wonderful and probably helpful to you and your well-being at multiple levels

I’ll be the first to admit I love all of the above!

But, and I realize this is perhaps a little controversial to say, in my personal and professional opinion, this is not what fundamental self-care really is.

To learn what I do think actually counts as fundamental self-care, keep reading.

Self-care *isn’t* just yoga and green juice in mason jars. | Annie Wright, LLC | Berkeley, CA | www.anniewright.com

Self-care *isn’t* just yoga and green juice in mason jars.

Think of yourself as a house.

I think it can be quite helpful to think of ourselves and our psyches – the human soul or spirit – as a proverbial house.

When imagining this house, I invite you to envision multiple levels, let’s say three – a basement, a first floor, and a second floor.

These floors represent various aspects of you. The house is reflective of yourself, your own personality.

Now, let’s imagine for instance, that you moved into this actual, real multi-level house.

But let’s also imagine you wanted to spend all of your time and energy decorating the first and second floor, painting the walls creamy colors and ordering furniture to make your space pretty.

You had no interest in investigating or spending time in the basement or even really knowing what’s going on down there.

You, instead, prefer to focus on the prettier, more tangible things upstairs.

But let’s also imagine the basement of your house had a cracked and leaking foundation, sump pump problems, some mold, and maybe even a growing family of rats who has taken up residence down there.

Those are some pretty big problems!

But if you never went into the basement to check it out and invest the time, energy, and yes, even finances, into resolving those issues, how liveable do you think the other floors of your house are going to be in the long-term?

You know as well as I do that all the pretty paint and furniture can’t make up for a house that’s structurally unsound or unsafe.

So why am I bringing this up?

Because often I think that self-care gets co-opted to look like all the activities and actions we take to “decorate” the liveable floors – the mani/pedis, the bubble baths, etc. – when really, these activities should come secondary to the self-care work that’s truly needed which is making sure the foundation and structure of our proverbial “house” is safe and whole and strong.

So what does make our foundation solid and strong?

In my personal and professional opinion, fundamental self-care is an investment we make in getting to know and support ourselves and living that awareness out in congruence in the world through career, boundaries, self-expression, and other life choices that support our most fundamental well-being and integrity.

Fundamental self-care, in my opinion, may look like doing the often “unsexy,” often unglamorous “basic” work of confronting your personal psychological history and healing from any unprocessed traumas or grief you may have avoided so that you are not “owned” or “run” by your past.

Fundamental self-care may look learning the necessary developmental life and relational tasks and skills you may have never learned (like knowing how to hold firm and appropriate boundaries or what a healthy, functional relationship looks like) so that you can create more healthy, fulfilling relationships in your life.

Fundamental self-care may look like investing in a career path that truly fits and fulfills you (versus one which you think you “should” take), and investing the time, energy, and even finances into achieving this.

Fundamental self-care may look like removing yourself from toxic, painful people in your life (even and maybe especially if they are family-of-origin members!) and, instead, surrounding yourself with people who are truly good to you, who can show up in functional and appropriate ways.

Fundamental self-care may look like not tolerating disrespect, not acting or contorting yourself in ways to make others more comfortable, and, instead, showing up authentically as you are and requiring respect and dignity when people interact with you.

Fundamental self-care may look like finally learning how to manage your money responsibly so that you can ensure a strong financial future for yourself.

Fundamental self-care may look like facing the reality of your withering romantic relationship, the professional dead-end you are encountering at work, the numbers on the blood pressure cuff, the unopened mail from the IRS, the little voice at the back of your mind which, despite your efforts to silence it, says, “something is not right here!”

At the end of the day, fundamental self-care looks like confronting reality and sometimes (or often) making hard choices about what you need to do in order to live your life in a more sane, safe, and fulfilling way.

When we do this level of fundamental self-care work, we are, proverbially, cleaning out the “basement”, repairing the foundation and working on the structural issues holding up our house to ensure that the other floors of our “house” are sustainable in the long term.

If we focus just on decorating the top two floors through a roster of nice-but-not-necessary self-care activities and don’t focus on the basement, we may be ultimately distracting and self-sabotaging ourselves.

And that’s not self-care.

But of course, if you’re working on all levels – doing the deeper psychological and logistical work “basement work” to support your well-being in life AND you are nourishing yourself with yoga, green juice and the like on the “upper levels”, that can be wonderful!

And honestly, those lovely treats can often make the “basement level” work more palatable.

Just remember, until we tackle the basement and foundation of our house, all the bubble baths in the world aren’t going to help you live in a truly, fundamentally self-caring way.

Moving forward.

I hope that you found this post helpful and that, maybe, it even caused you to see the self-care work you do or need to do in your life in a different way.

And now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Do you agree that fundamental self-care often looks like attending to the basement level of your “house”? What would other “basement level” work you include in the examples of what fundamental self-care can look like?

Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.

And until next time, take very good care of yourself.

Warmly, Annie

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  1. Anna says

    Yes, yes! I totally agree, especially on the adulting/financial aspect that you mentioned. Being a yoga teacher, I see many people living a certain fashionable lifestyle. However, I know many people don’t take the time to reconcile their lifestyles desires with their finances and ultimately live in a very unsustainable way. This is the opposite of self care, and I wish this were talked about more. Another great post!

    • Annie says

      I’m so glad this post resonated with you, Anna! And yes, I agree that taking care of our financial lives is critical foundation work and when we experience a big disconnect between our lifestyle and our actual financial situation, this can be unsustainable. I really think tending to our finances is a therapeutic topic. So glad the post resonated with you and thank you for sharing your perspective. Warmly, Annie

  2. Tina says

    Taking care of the basement stuff is essential! I think that I could have been considered an “emotional hoarder”, in that I had stuffed all the hard/traumatic things down in my basement. After 58 years you can imagine how much had accumulated. Those events began to move up out of my basement and sent me into a deep depression, until I eventually found the courage to ask for help. I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotionally miserable and decided to have a therapist guide me through it. It has taken 3 years of hard work, but it was SO WORTH IT. More importantly, I discovered that I’m worth it! 🙂

    • Annie says

      Tina, thank you so much for sharing your story! You ARE so worth it and I’m really glad you had the courage and foresight to reach out for help. I loved what you said about being analogous to an emotional hoarder – I think so many of us are and that’s why cleaning out the basement can be so critical. Good for you for doing the hard work and I’m wishing you all the best. Warmly, Annie

  3. Nicole says

    This was a great article. The hardest work is the foundation, cleaning out the basement… the foundation. I am still in the process of that, and look forward to moving into the other areas of the house.

    • Annie says

      I’m so glad you liked the article, Nicole! And so many of us join you in still cleaning out the basement. But consider that it’s possible to move into the other floors of the house, too, even while you’re cleaning out your basement… Warmly, Annie

  4. Valerie Lucien says

    Great article full of great inspiration to self-care for your self improvement journey. I have gained new insights and perspectives to look at how I will implement self-care into my life journey

    • Annie says

      Hi Valerie,

      I’m so glad the article resonated with you and that you gained some new insights and perspectives about self-care.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for commenting.

      Warmly, Annie

  5. Justine says

    Hey Annie …. this was just great! I am a yoga & meditation teacher and also a community health worker living in Belfast. I have been passionate about ‘self-care’ ever since I reached my own burnout many moons ago and am lucky enough that I get to share these experiences with others and hopefully pass on some tools. I will be sharing your article with folk as it very succinctly hits the nail on the head. Thanks! Justine ????

    • Annie says

      Hi Justine,

      I love hearing from readers in Ireland! I’m so glad the article resonated with you and that you found it to hit the nail on the head. Thanks so much for sharing it with your community and for teaching what you do in this world. We all need it! Warmly, Annie

  6. Anneliese Wells says

    This is a wonderful article Annie. I totally agree except to say that as a sufferer of long term mental illness, I know that yoga was a vital part of my self care. Yoga is about uniting the mind and body but unfortunately today it is more about cultivating a beautiful body. If it is practiced on a deeper level, with breathing practices and maybe even meditation, it helps you to better understand yourself; to develop self awareness which ultimately as you say, is necessary in order to know yourself and see what needs healing or maintaining. Without yoga in my life, I would probably be triggered more often, suffer anxiety attacks and low mood. I had psychotherapy but I needed yoga too and I would say that it saved my life 🙂

    • Annie says

      That’s such a beautiful and important point that you made, Anneliese. Thank you for re-framing the possibility that yoga absolutely can be fundamental self-care. I didn’t mean to dismiss it as “fluff” and appreciate hearing for you (and for others!) yoga has been a life-saving practice. In the same way that therapy may be for some, or running, or adopting a pet. I’m so glad you had such a good experience with your yoga journey and want to thank you for reading the blog and taking the time to comment. Warmly, Annie

  7. MaryAnn Day says

    Love this article! For me foundation and basement work includes nurturing my walk with Jesus and allowing his redemptive Gospel to impact all areas of my house and the healing needed. I certainly don’t want to find myself at the end of my life with the foundation crumbling down because I never invested or made hard choices to repair or allow others to help repair the foundation. Thanks for writing this

    • Annie says

      I’m so glad it resonated with you, MaryAnn, and that you shared how your faith is a big part of your own basement work! That’s such a beautiful addition to what can count as fundamental self-care. I’m wishing you all my very best and thank you again for taking time to read the post. Warmly, Annie

  8. Louise C says

    It’s the second day in a row that I get validation for the work of self-care
    I’ve been doing. Other than the results I’m seeing of course ????

    • Annie says

      If I hear a message two days in a row I consider it a sign. Good job on the self-care Louise! Keep going. Warmly, Annie

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