Cigarettes as self-care?
In my twenties, while studying full time, I worked nights as a homecare aid, weekends at MEC and lived in a slightly hectic apartment with two sweet, but messy guys and a dog. I was stressed and under-slept, and occasionally would fantasize about picking verbal fights with strangers on the street (repressed anger and frustration much?). Incidentally, I also developed an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome sometime during my 4-5th year, which manifested as debilitating joint pain and immobility. My main coping strategy at the time was that I used to ‘treat myself’ to a chai latte and a clove cigarette on the fire escape of the building every day.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about what passes as self-care.
To my 20year old self, taking 15 mins out every day to sit of the fire-escape and inhale a cocktail of chemicals with a tasty clove undertone, was my form of self-care…and it was ‘self-care’, it just wasn’t really serving me as much as it could have been.
Is your ‘self-care’ serving you? Do you even allow yourself ‘self-care’?
It’s so easy to go through life working towards goal after goal, but every once in a while, our body will give us a little wake up call to remind us to care for ourselves and put ourselves higher on the totem pole of priorities.
Here is a little homework for you this week if you so choose:
Write a list of what you currently do to care for yourself and a list of things in your life that bring you joy.
Write another list of things that would bring you joy to do: (Note, I said joy, not ‘satisfaction upon completion’)
For me, I realized that what I enjoyed most about my time on the fire escape was the intention of doing something for myself and the quiet time away from the madness. Once I realized that, it was easier to remove the smoking part, but keep the special time just for me.
Maybe a cup of tea in the sun sounds great to you as well, or you may connect more with dancing, signing, sleeping more, creating art, cuddling with a pet, chatting with an old friend etc… Try to think of at least a couple of things that really bring you joy and consider how you could carve time in your life to do them regularly.
I have long since quit smoking, I have addressed my Sjogren’s with Chinese herbal medicine and kept it in remission for over a decade. I have learned to make better food choices and prioritize sleep, but the most important lesson I learned during that time was that if you wait for some magic moment or event to happen in order to get well, or feel good, you will wait forever. There is no perfect balance, all we can do is find little moments of joy in our every day, call it ‘self-care’ or ‘mindfulness’, I call it my wake-up call.