Jen Gotch has learned a lot about self-care over the years. After her early struggles with mental illness, setbacks with her career, and entrepreneurial fiascos, she’s emerged an optimistic, and unapologetically vulnerable businesswoman. Now, as the creator and CCO of ban.do, a multimillion-dollar brand, she’s a BOSS in every way. As intimate as a diary, and as encouraging as a BFF chat, her new memoir The Upside of Being Down candidly covers it all. In the excerpt below, Jen explains a few self-care revelations she’s had, including the fact that a manicure may be a quick Band-Aid, but not a cure (something she discovered when she once accidentally set her nails on fire during a breakdown). We hope you all feel a little bit better, and the world feels a little less dark, after you read this advice from one bright star.
One of the first and most important acts of self-care is being honest about what actually makes you feel better. This is harder than it seems at a time when self-care has come to include everything from a face mask to a Netflix binge to buying yourself a new purse. Treating yourself to a doughnut might really be self-care, but numbing yourself with an entire box? That’s just avoidance. A great massage will reduce stress, but it doesn’t treat anxiety, and at this point we know a candlelit manicure not only gives you flame fingers, but it also does not treat depression. Alleviating symptoms has value (relief, not numbing, is a necessary part of self-care), but if you’re looking for a long-term solution you need to be willing to do some hard work. It’s like having a deep wound on your arm and putting a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid in order to help it heal. Suddenly you’re wearing seventeen Band-Aids and you have no idea if the wound is better and it gets increasingly difficult to wear long-sleeved shirts.
Sometimes a Band-Aid is all you need, but other times a cut needs stitches, or on rare occasions, surgery.
Because I have decades of experience under my belt, I can usually tell if, for example, I’m staying in bed all day because I truly need a day off, or if it’s because I’m overwhelmed and feeling avoidant and I would actually be better off if I tackled an item on my to-do list. But tuning into those needs is a skill that takes practice.
The next step is to identify any adjustments you can make in the short-term. Maybe you need more, or less, or better sleep. Maybe you need to improve your diet, or cut out stress. For me, self-care is a daily practice. I take my meds. I go to my doctors annually, even the dentist, which is really saying something, because for a decade I feared dentists almost as much as I once feared planes. I go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, which has a really positive effect on me, as does making the bed. It’s such an easy way to start the day with a win, and to send yourself the message, first thing, that you deserve to be treated well and that you believe in treating yourself well. I just started doing this recently, and the return on investment has been surprisingly huge. I also have that Wednesday night standing date with fun. You will never feel your best if you don’t have any pure enjoyment in your life.
Ultimately what I am encouraging is holistic betterment—I consider my physical and mental health, and my emotional and professional well-being, so that I’m caring for my full self and no single aspect of my life dominates the others. (Or, alternatively, so that no one area falls apart while I’m focused elsewhere.)
Depending on what’s going on in my life, my self-help and self-care needs change. I’m excited to share what has worked for me, but let me say up front that I know the depth and breadth of some of these strategies might be overwhelming, so don’t be intimidated. Take from this list whatever suits you now, and pick whichever strategy sounds the most doable. Start there. And if you’re feeling good right now? YAY. But it might be helpful to dog-ear this page should you find yourself slipping into a bad habit or in need of a little care.
Excerpted from The Upside of Being Down by Jen Gotch. Copyright © 2020 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
For more advice drawn from personal experiences, watch Jen Gotch discuss three ways that women can deal with their mental health struggles in the workplace: