Illustrations by VinnieDraws
Here are 10 Things Adulting Taught Me On Putting the Self in Self Care
The topic of self care has become extremely popular within the last couple of years and can be seen in many conversations from women’s studies to mental health and from social activism to public health. It’s a topic that has been revisited many times over and it’s value can’t be underestimated. It was the legendary Audre Lorde who offered the wisdom that, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
In my own journey to self care and dealing with anxiety within the last year, these words have certainly rang true. What I have found essential to coping with my day to day is creating moments and patterns of self care that transition it from being a foreign umbrella word appearing in these larger discussions to something that feels tangible, accessible, and extremely personal because at its core, it is self-preservation. Personally, I define self care as an intentional act that provides a sense of restoration to oneself and offers reprieve in some form from mental, physical, and emotional stressors.
Regardless of how you define it, key to the concept is the fact that self care is not a monolith. The most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever you do, do so because it’s what makes you feel well. Self care will look different for everyone so it’s important to explore a variety of options and create habits that are individualized and grounded in your needs and experiences. For some of us who have anxiety, deal with other issues around mental health, or any other experiences, just getting out of bed can be a challenge. When we do it feels like a victory and most certainly an act of self care and that’s okay. I recognize that effort to intentionally and holistically nurture and replenish yourself no matter what form self care takes on.
Please note that in no way is this article a replacement for the help or advice of a licensed professional, but the hope is that something provided here from my experiences and shared moments with friends will be helpful in terms of guiding you in finding something that helps you in your journey as well. So without further ado, here’s my 10 lessons on self care.
1. The Game Plan
I’ve found that creating a checklist or self care plan can be incredibly helpful to have, even the most simplistic of self-made guides or reminders can do when you’re not feeling your greatest. This list could contain a step by step action plan, list of suggestions (like what’s listed here), a to-do list i.e. did you wash your hair, take your medication, did you eat today?
2. A Room of One’s Own
It can be challenging to create a safe space for yourself and even an act of privilege to be able do so. My safe space has been my bedroom many times in the last two years, but there have been times were it hasn’t felt as such. In those moments, I have found refuge in the spaces owned by friends and others in my support system. Being able to nap at a friend’s house and have an impromptu sleepover has reminded me that a safe space can also be found in the comfort of checking in with another person, a cup of tea shared at a local café, my work space where I keep a picture of my mother, or while taking in the city with a friend on the steps of a monument. It can be challenging to confide in others but doing so can be an incredible act of self care.
3. Just Breathe
It’s important to know your limits, your boundaries, and most important when it’s time to rest. I have constantly felt rushed and when I’m not on the move, I feel as if I am stagnant. Establishing a work-life balance and understanding that taking a break is a part of the journey as well – that you are still in motion on your journey to becoming who you want to be even while at rest, has been something that still challenges me.
4. Wiggle Your Big Toe
Taking time to stretch, take a few deep breaths, and flex my muscles each morning or night has been a good way to ground myself and practice some mindfulness. What started off as homework for physical therapy has turned into a meaningful daily reminder to myself that I have ownership on this vessel and I’m driver, not my anxiety.
5. Set the Mood
Candles can be an easy and inexpensive way to alter the mood of a room. A diffuser can be a wonder alternative as well and it has been my best friend. I often mix grapefruit, sage, and lime in the mornings and then switch to lavender at night. If you don’t have either options, take some essentials oils like lavender or eucalyptus and add a drop your hands and cup over you mouth for a deep easy breath or two during a shower or before bed.
6. 8 Glasses and Counting
Every organ is your body requires water to function. I have a tough time maintaining a good habit around drinking water, but recognize how much better I feel when I do. Making sure you stay hydrated is another way to ensure you’re feeling your best self and able to take on your day.
7. The Great Outdoors
I discovered that I loved hiking after a friend dragged me along. Whenever I feel stressed, a good hike does the trick. It’s an activity that not only stimulates my mind from the visual component but works my entire body. Going for a walk or just spending some time outdoors on a porch is a wonderful and simple way to also clear your mind. If you lack the ability to get outdoors, opening the windows to let in some fresh air into your space could be a simpler alternative. I also keep a miniature garden of succulents at my work desk and the act of caring for nature serves as substitute as well.
8. Affirm and Repeat
I keep affirmations on my mirror in my bedroom. The latest one reads “I am at peace with my journey and in control of my experience, stay positive and breathe.” Place affirmations and reminders in places your frequent whether that’s your bathroom mirror or in your planner. Write notes to yourself when you are having a good day to read as needed and repeat the act of positive self talk and self love.
9. Express Yourself
In whatever, however you can whether that’s writing, doodling, journaling, painting, coloring, playing an instrument, dancing or all of the above. Expressing yourself and using your hands or body can be an amazing way to refocus your mind and channel your energy into something you may find to be more constructive. This has also been a therapeutic way for me to work through whatever I’m feeling. Reflecting on my writings has been an interesting way to chart and recognize my stressors.
10. Find Your Simple Joy
When my mother passed away my freshman year of college, one of the ways I coped was by watching reruns of old Scooby Doo episodes and playing my PS3. Even to this day, my PS4 is one of my favorite ways to de-stress. Anxiety screams at my brain to focus on this thing over here, and gaming allows me to engage my mind in an alternative way. So find your go-to for joy - watch an episode of Sailor Moon, play a game, listen to your favorite album or playlist, bake yourself cookies, sleep, or watch reruns of The Office on Netflix (all of which make my list and I’d recommend to you).