Self-Care and Self-Maintenance
there is a difference
Self-care is a term that has become common place amongst blogs, magazines and healthcare venues for a few years now, but it was never clearly defined and unfortunately has become completely skewed from what it should mean in our lives today.
It has tilted towards consumerism and indulgence and found its way into advertising, particularly targeting wealthy women who have time to burn, but self-care is something that is critical for all people. It is for both men and women regardless of social or financial status. It is what ensures that we can go out in life and be successful in service to ourselves and others. One of the best metaphors for self-care that we’ve come across is putting on your oxygen mask so that you can then assist others. Self-maintenance, on the other hand, is actually breathing in the oxygen.
Let’s take a look at what these two terms actually mean and how each of them deserves to play a role in our lives.
Beginning with self-maintenance, - this is not self-care, but the basic steps to life itself. Self-maintenance is what keeps us alive but not necessarily healthy, and it does not show any great love or care to our minds, bodies, social or economic states or emotional well-being. These are the fundamental acts we do on a daily basis or upon critical need. We take in oxygen in order to breathe, but this is not a conscious action. In fact, some people hold their breath more often than they realize, commonly due to stress or uncomfortable situations at home or work. We sleep because the body demands it, but it may only happen because you can no longer physically hold your eyes open. You may end the day collapsed on the sofa and pass out to a series binge. We eat because we need basic nutrients to stay alive. This is one of the biggest differences between maintenance and care. When we shove whatever is available, cheap or tastes good into our mouths, this may keep our systems going for the day, but it is not caring for our body in the long-term.
There is a level of self-maintenance that does not pertain to actually staying alive, and it is here that self-care can really make a difference. There is social, economic and emotional self-maintenance. No one is meant to be completely alone all the time, so we may fill our social calendars with meaningless connections, toxic parties or accepting abusive relationships. These are not social interactions that feed our humanity. They simply make us feel seen on a primal level.
As for economic care, this is very subjective. Some people need to be affluent in order to feel successful. You may need to shop to fill a need or dress a certain way that isn’t quite to your liking or comfort, but it is how you wish to be perceived. Perhaps you never say ‘no’ or set boundaries at work or within your finances. Money is a fact of life. We need it to eat and to cover ourselves, but beyond that, it is a luxury.
We all have emotions, and self-maintenance is the expression of those emotions so that we do not explode. When care is not put into that expression, we may suffer disease from too much stress or repressed anger, pain, grief or sadness. We may curl up in bed all weekend, eating junk food and watching one movie after another. We may turn to alcohol or screaming at those we love. Maintenance is letting the emotion out, care is finding healthy ways to do it.
So let’s look at self-care. It is easier to see what it is not. Self-care is not an indulgence. It does not cost money or require a lot of time. It is not only for women, spas and therapists. Self-care is all the ways we take care of ourselves beyond simply staying alive. Did you take time to wash your face, brush your teeth or make your bed? These are acts of self-care. Do you shower regularly, change your clothes, choose a salad over a hamburger or help your neighbor with a chore? These are acts of self-care.
When it comes to our personal bodies and health, self-care is making the time to exercise at least three days a week. This doesn’t have to be at a fancy gym or in the newest yoga class. You can walk around your block or take a jog through the city. Making the time for deep breath work or meditation is fantastic, but simply remembering to take a few conscious breaths every hour can do wonders for your body and mind. Self-care is paying attention to the things that you eat and allowing yourself the occasional treat but balancing it with fresh, whole foods. Choosing to buy preservative and chemical free, organic and non-GMO. Searching for products that do right by your body and your environment.
Self-care is taking the primal needs of self-maintenance and elevating them into awareness and daily disciplines that make us better people for ourselves and for others. Self-care must be integrated into our relationships, by knowing when to say ‘no’ or letting others, like your boss, spouse or children, know what your limits are and holding to them. It’s about observing those “obligations” you’ve set and deciding for yourself if they really matter. Take a look at the people you spend your time with and decide if they are good for you or if you would do better to let them go.
Self-care is finding healthy expressions for how you feel and finding ways to verbally communicate when you need something. The simple act of asking for and accepting help is one of the greatest ways we can show ourselves true care. Taking five minutes to go outside and sit in nature, even if it’s the grass in your backyard or herb garden on your patio can help you connect with how you are feeling. Giving yourself a few minutes alone can bring great awareness to what you need to do to care for you.
So where do spa days, massages, hot yoga classes and weekend retreats fit in? Those are all fabulous self-care indulgences that can be scheduled when you have the time and the finances, but they are not essential to true self-care.
maintenance is letting the emotion out, care is finding healthy ways to do it.
taking five minutes to go outside and sit in nature, even if it’s the grass in your backyard or herb garden on your patio can help you connect with how you are feeling.