You know, I gotta admit it- I kinda think “self-care” as a term has reached an unbelievable point of over-saturation. It’s everywhere you look these days. From articles in The Atlantic and The Hairpin to Wiki entries and multiple Ted Talks (the topic has its own playlist), it’s become a new buzz word for our generation.
I mean, you can see it on the chalk boards outside of your nearest Lush for crying out loud.
And while the idea of self-care has been around for a seriously long time, it’s often been misinterpreted as a sister-act of Tom Haverford’s and Donna Meagle’s Treat Yo Self Day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Treat Yo Self Day and I often pick and choose too many days of the week to embark on that journey. Like for dinner last night, ordering a box of cheesy bread sticks from Dominos and some molten chocolate cake.
But this is more than that. It’s more than just the momentary joy you feel from splurging on sushi or the new Tarte concealer (seriously, the Shape Tape is everything). It’s about understanding when your mind and your body need a break from the stresses of everyday life. When you’ve had a rough day at work and you need just fifteen minutes of quiet to deconstruct and decompress from the last eight hours. Or when your news feed is filled with article after article of the woes of the world and you’re so damn tired from it, you can’t think straight.
When it feels like you’re living in The Twilight Zone and you’re just waiting for Rod Serling to come from the corner in a crisply tailored suit to let you know it’s all just another episode in the series.
It’s been a hard couple of weeks. Wow. Has it really only been that long? Can I say it’s been a hard eternity? Because that’s what it feels like, post inauguration. I feel like we’ve seen a new executive order or ruling every single day that’s going to shake the very foundation of who we are as a country, as a world- and I don’t mean that in a positive way.
I’m angry. I’m horrified. I’m devastated.
And I know I’m not alone in that. Which is where self-care comes in.
And this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep paying attention. Now, more than ever, we need to keep our eyes open to what’s going on around us. To see what’s happening even when we’re being told something different. But we can’t let it destroy us. And we need to know when it’s time to step back.
As a woman who’s been dealing with depression and anxiety for nearly her whole life, I’ve had to learn the hard way. When a panic attack is setting in, I don’t have many options. I’m out of breath, my heart rate is going a mile a minute and my head feels as if its in the middle of a vice grip.
The only thing I can do is to close my eyes and suck in a breath. I focus on something small, like the suspension of the hair tie I wear around my wrist, the way it bends and snaps when I pull at it. I create a little melody with the bed of my nail, a pattern that draws my attention as I start to come out of it. I’ve gotten better at it, but I still find myself tipping toward that extreme. Now, more than ever.
So, what do we do?
How do we balance this desperate urge to keep aware, to get involved, to do something with the necessity that taking care of ourselves is the only way we’ll ever be strong enough to stand up for what we believe in?
For me, it’s asking myself a few simple questions (with some particular follow-ups) to help create a safe routine for the hard stuff.
- Have I eaten today? or Have I had enough water?
- What about a cup of tea?
- Do I need some quiet time? or Do I need to plug in my headphones and turn up the dial?
- When was the last time I felt fresh air?
- How long has it been since I’ve used my phone or gone online? (If the answer is “I’m holding it right now” I need to give myself at least ten minutes of unplugged time.)
If after all those questions, I’m still on the verge, I know I need a serious break.
And even though I struggle myself with the concept of self-care (it’s so easy to get caught up), I think we all need to be kinder to ourselves and actually take that break. Even just fifteen minutes can do us all a world of wonder.
On top of those questions, it’s finding ways to put yourself first. It’s taking care of your body physically- basking in a face mask or exfoliating treatment. It’s finding a balance in your eating habits- making sure you’re getting enough veggies while also treating yourself to a delicious chai latte. Hell, it’s dying your hair pink if that’s how you really want to go.
It’s something specifically for you and only you. No questions asked.
Beyond that, it’s getting involved in ways that are productive.
We’ve seen incredible turnout in forms of protest recently. We’ve seen overwhelming pledges of donations to organizations like the SPLC and the ACLU – in fact, the ACLU saw over $24 million in donations over a single weekend from those dedicated in seeing stronger moral integrity (or any at all) from our new President.
And when it’s easy to feel helpless or useless during times like this, being apart of that can do a lot to lift spirits. Because it’s true- doing good can make you feel good, too. Especially when it comes from a genuine place.
How do you engage in self-care? Do you have a PlayStation 4 and a copy of Destiny? A really good book? Or do you have a serious collection of bath bombs to help you sink into a warm bath and meditate?
I think we all have our own ways, and what’s most important is that we pay attention to what our minds and bodies are telling us.
Because that’s the only way we’re going to get through the next four years, right?