The Difference Between Post Care and Self Care
Let’s talk about another important concept. I like to call this one the difference between Self Care and Post Care. Both are important. One is more often overlooked.
Post care as the name implies are activities or ways of thinking that we employ after a hard or stressful time. Giving ourselves post care might look like a massage or bubble bath after a stressful day. Talking about a stressful event with a compassionate friend or in a journaling practice with yourself. Even a bit of mindless Netflix can count as post care. Many of us have engaged in post care for our chronic symptoms in the form of medication, ice/heat, NSAID’s, etc. All post care has the same look…it’s something we do after we notice an issue, problem, pain, or mental stress in response to the issue.
Self care by contrast are activities or ways of thinking that we employ before difficulty. It may still include the above activities, like journaling, but our intent is not to “fix” a pain/stress but to simply give to ourselves. Usually self care requires bigger effort and offers bigger rewards in terms of feeling optimal in the long run. Self care looks like setting boundaries in relationships that cause you resentment, learning true self compassion, learning to put yourself first in at least some decisions, eating and sleeping well, establishing a meditation practice that you commit to, addressing past trauma, addressing areas in your life where you feel powerless, making friends to establish a greater sense of community, starting a new hobby or artistic pursuit, or recognizing your need for sunshine and nature.
I know; I hear you. “But Ann, I do not even have time for the bubble bath, let alone all the other ideas.” To which I answer, “yes. And this is why you have chronic symptoms.” Because the fact remains that we NEED to take care of ourselves. We NEED to have those boundaries in life that allow us to say no, or ask for help, or give ourselves compassion for the incredibly complex human that we are. We NEED community with others, laughter, joy, and rest. We NEED creativity, mindfulness and sunshine. NEED. Not want. NEED.
Don’t know where to start? Try this. Take a piece of paper and in the middle of it write an emotion that steals your peace. It might be resentment or stress or worry. Circle the word. Really open yourself up here to wherever your thoughts take you. You will destroy this paper afterwards so you’re completely safe here. No one will find it. Then write the next thought or emotion that comes to you. Use one word answers or short phrases. Circle that and connect it to your center emotion. Now you have two ideas to work with, the center emotion and the thought/emotion that branched from it. Continue in this way writing down thoughts/emotions and connecting them until you have yourself a web of information written. Try to write for 5-10 minutes, branching off any thought previously written and following your thoughts and the emotions they bring up. It’ll be messy. One thought can have multiple branches. Write until you’re satisfied you’ve exhausted this topic for now. Any patterns? Any insight on what would make you more at peace? This is where you find your gold. Because increasing peace and life satisfaction is the ultimate in self care. As I’ve noted above, true self care requires bigger effort but reaps life long gain. And self care is absolutely the antidote to chronic pain.