Self-Care

Now seems as good a time to talk about self-care as any, seeing as I basically took all of last week off for that. Not the day job — couldn't get away with not going to the day job — but there was no writing or editing in the works last week. I avoided my news sources as much as I could, played video games, and practiced a lot of deep breathing.

Self-Care, a definition by the author: the act of focusing specifically on things, actions, and other stuff that make you feel better about yourself and your life. Focusing on doing what you need before work, projects, or other folks.

Why self-care is a good things is, at least in the abstract, so obvious to me that I tend to have trouble articulating why. It's... like the breathing masks in airplanes. You have to have oxygen before you can help someone else because if you don't, you could pass out in the middle of helping them and then you'd both be doomed. You have to have your head in at least a semi-functional state, or how could you produce any work? Or at minimum, at a rate that would be useful? Or of a quality that wouldn't necessitate going back and redoing it.

On the one hand, I was 'lucky' in that the need for self-care was so apparent (to me) after a very specific event (US election — last I'm saying about that). So I didn't end up spending time flailing at my writing or editing, not making progress or doing bad work. Not making progress (otherwise known as flailing) would have made me even more anxious. Which is the opposite of needed or wanted. Bad work would have involved losing time (overall) since I'd need to put in more work to fix it. Or I'd end up with bad work in the finished project, which is always undesirable.

On the other hand, specific events requiring self-care afterwards are kinda shocking and rather upsetting. I wouldn't say traumatic (in this case), but that's because I'm doing the thing where I say other folks have it worse than I do (which is true) so I'm consciously toning down the implications of the words I'm choosing.

And I get on my author's case for 40 word sentences.

Any rate. The first thing I did was contact the author I'm editing the latest project for and said "I'm going to need a few days to get my head on straight." Which, 1) was just the right thing to do, have to communicate with your boss; 2) a contractual obligation (which I honestly think should be a standard part of any contract); and 3) worked out great since the response I got back was "yeah, me too."

Next thing was to try out a new video game, one I thought would require a lot of focus and thus allow me to shut out the rest of the world. So I'm playing Duskers. To quote the developers in their sales pitch: "Pilot drones into derelict spaceships to find the means to survive and piece together how the universe became a giant graveyard." It's fun and frustrating — the drones are controlled through a command line interface; whee!

Third thing was using the three day weekend (Veterans' Day on Friday) to the best of my abilities. Which meant sleeping in, having relaxing mornings, seeing friends on Saturday, and getting lots of chores done on Sunday. Which is not how I'd expect most other folks to do self-care. But, doing chores around my home allowed me to impose my idea of order on my personal space. So that's helpful.

Oh, and I started reading The Unreal and The Real: The Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin.

For me (and I fully expect everyone's self-care to look different) distraction, imposing order, and reading formed the core of my self-care plan. Distraction got me to stop continually thinking about what was upsetting me. See, my brain likes to try and make plans to deal or work around 'the problem.' But when the problem is something that I don't have enough information to deal with or it's just going to take time, then the Hamster Wheel of Despair(tm) comes into play. The Hamster Wheel is my brain continuously grinding away on one thought track without making any progress towards a solution; sometimes it is itself the actual problem. So that's when I need to break my brain out of that thought pattern by distraction for at least a few hours. Sometimes concentrating on deep breathing will break a Hamster Wheel in the making. If I catch it early enough. Imposing order on my home through chores lets me feel like I have some control over my life. Also I like the visuals of stuff being put away better, so it makes for more pleasant surroundings. 

The reading just makes me happy. I haven't been reading for pleasure enough (it's never enough...) this year. Starting a new book by an author I love just feels good.

How do y'all deal with your own Hamsters?