My job, and my life in general, is stressful on a good day. My partner and I joke about my job being primarily staring human suffering in the face and shouting “NOT TODAY SATAN.” Which, really, is only half a joke. I’m a social worker with anxiety and intermittent depression. Compassion fatigue is something I struggle to deal with on a regular basis, and in the midst of trying to help other people solve their problems both in my personal and professional lives I often forget to take time for myself.
I was talking with my therapist a couple weeks ago about my difficulties making time for myself and she said something along the lines of “No one knows better than you how to take care of yourself. Not your partner, not Jesus, not Allah, not Aphrodite the goddess of love.” Now she was being snarky and making a point about how I’m the only who really knows what I need, but it got me thinking. I have a hard time sticking to healthy habits. It’s just easier to revert to bad habits when I’m too stressed to think straight and too tired to stand than it is to make healthy decisions for myself. One way I’ve had luck in the past doing things that are good for me are making them devotional activities to my gods. For example, I hate going to the dentist, it is my least favorite of the necessary health care appointments. My solution? Make going a devotional activity to Apollon. He, like (hopefully) most spouses, likes it when I take care of myself and is a god of physical health so it works out.
However, asking him to help me develop better coping skills was a bit of a nonstarter. He is not a god of mental health, per se. And while he does appreciate it when I take care of myself in terms of my health he’s…not always the most flexible about things – see: that time the cupcake I wanted to eat flew out of my hand and into the trash. Also part of my difficulty taking care of myself stems from a place of not liking myself very much. I figured my therapist’s off-hand comment about Aphrodite might actually be a halfway decent place to start.
Aphrodite and I have a bit of a difficult relationship. I am not super femme, neither in terms of my understanding of myself not always in terms of my presentation. I have a hard time relating to her. And we’ve had some communication errors in the past, most of which have since been resolved but require a lot of vigilance to keep from repeating. We get along well enough, but sometimes she can get on my nerves a bit, if I’m being honest. Difficult relationship or not, she’s never steered me wrong, so I reached out to her in hopes that she could give me some self-care advice. What follows is the set-care regimen she prescribed in no real order.
Aphrodite’s Self Care Advice for the Overworked
- Drink more water. Seriously. Drink water. All day. Please. Staying hydrated helps your skin, your organs, and your body chemistry not hate you. Especially in the hot months you NEED to drink more water.
- Eat small amounts throughout the day if you can. Your stomach is not as big as you think it is and it’s healthier to eat small amounts than a few large meals.
- Take your meds and make sure you have the right amounts of vitamins if your diet is lacking them.
- Find things you appreciate about your body. I know bodies can be hard to deal with, especially if you don’t feel like your body suits your image of yourself. Even so, you only get one body per lifetime and you should find things you can appreciate about it.
- Take it easy on yourself sometimes. Not everything has to get done right away.
I’m mostly focusing on the first three right now. Small steps. Two bottles of water a day – my water bottle has Aphrodite-themed stickers on it to remind me. Eating less in a sitting and spreading it out more. And fixing my vitamin intake. The other two are going to be more work but if I stick to it hopefully I can work on getting myself into a better place.
As I get used to the new additions to my routine I’m hoping I can work with Aphrodite to figure out at least some patch measures for my self-esteem issues, but she wants me to get my body on track first before we dive into the howling abyss of my mind.
I’m also working on some small daily rituals I can do moving forward to give myself some encouragement and reinforce the habits I’m trying to build. I haven’t entirely decided what those rituals will look like yet, but they will likely be small daily devotional practices like I have for Apollon, or every few days like I have for Hermes, Athena, or Artemis.
Please note, working on this with Aphrodite is not a substitute for working with my therapist to address my mental health issues. If you have a mental illness please continue to see your therapist and take your prescribed meds, and talk to your psychiatrist if they’re not working. Magic, mysticism, and religion are not substitutes for healthcare, but they can help to support your efforts.