You’ve all probably heard or read about self-care sometime. The term seems to be gaining momentum lately. Therapists and ‘influencers’ alike are sharing their #selfcare moments with the world, and yet, many people have asked me about what self-care really means.
Often reduced to a synonym for drinking wine, self-care varies in the way it is used, by whom it is used and the situation surrounding it. Audre Lorde described “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”, and as her, I believe it is rebellious and self-preserving to care for oneself. For any person, self-care would be the practice that helps them ground back to a more desirable state both in mind and body. For someone with mental health difficulties, it could mean understanding specific needs and targeting them. For someone with psychological trauma, it would start by identifying the triggers and skills to be able to re-stabilize into “normality” after they occur. These are just some ideas, and of course they will vary much depending on your experience, culture, ability or race.
So how to go about practicing self-care? The first thing I consider to be of great use is to have a Self-Care Plan. You can write up this in a moment when you are feeling at peace and relaxed and when you are at a good mind space.
Your plan can be organized however you like, as it suits you better. It can be organized by areas, situations, moments of the day, or by places, among others. For example I organize mine by areas (food, exercise, people) because that works better for me, but some people may need to organize it by places (self-care at home, at work, on the bus).
After you make a broad classification, you can go ahead and add activities you will do that make you feel better. Sometimes activities will be individualized “take a bath” and often these behaviors will be specified as situational (if ‘x’ happens, do ‘y’).
If you are under psychological treatment, please talk to your therapist to create together your self-care plan. This plan could include going to therapy, taking your meds, or practicing something related to your treatment.
It is important that you create a plan that is manageable, and always reminding yourself that this isn’t homework. If it feels tiresome, it’s probably not a good self-care activity. Forget about Instagram stars sharing their self-care activities, or even forget about what I said. Write what would make you feel better, more grounded and more comfortable.
Of course this is not to say that it will be easy to apply it. It’s usually not. Women, and more so, women of color, carry with them this role of the “caregiver”. Under this lens, we’ve
all been taught to care for others, hide weaknesses and be selfless. This has traditionally only created burnout, mental illness and unhappiness. It will take a hard collective effort to care for ourselves and help others care for themselves.
I would highly recommend to have the list of activities and areas close to you at all times, either printed, written down or on your phone on the cloud. Some people also create self-care packages that they keep in their homes for moments of need. They may contain chocolates, bath salts, face masks, color pencils, popcorn… You don’t need to spend a lot of money and time creating these, for example check out some pinterest ideas for packages.
This may also be a great idea to gift someone who you know may be struggling with mental illness or just a difficult stage. You can even create your boxes together with a friend!
If you are looking for specific tools, I highly recommend this interactive guide to self-care by Jace Harr. It is most appropriate to be used in the moment, meaning it’s not that much of a plan but more of an instant helper. Check it out whenever you are feeling down or not completely grounded. Jace has a patreon page if you feel like checking it out (or you can also donate to their PayPal account).
I hope any of this helped clear some doubts!
What do you all think? What do you do for self-care? Please let me know if you would like to know more or ask for more examples of what you can do.