[Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to be a dig at anyone or their habits. It is more of a reflection on my self care journey, and how and why that term has confused me for a long time.]
Over the past year, the phrase “self-care” has become almost inescapable in modern culture. It’s everywhere. On Instagram, on Twitter, on your freaking bath bomb advertisements. But no one really seems to know what it means. In some ways, this is a good thing. Self-care can mean something different for everyone, depending on your needs and how you take care of yourself. But on the other hand, it almost isn’t, because it leaves it open for other people to decide for you. Like corporations, or the million dollar self-help and wellness industry that now exists.
At first I thought self-care was just physically pampering yourself. I tried face masks and bath bombs, which seem to be the cornerstones of quintessential “self-care.” On every day off I could, I would do a face mask, clean the apartment, and try to make things around me look pretty so I wouldn’t feel so shit. After a while, I started to become even more depressed, thinking that if face masks and bath bombs weren’t making me feel better, something must REALLY be wrong with me. I was so fucked up even Lush couldn’t fix me.
At that point, I moved home and started doing things a little differently. Food became more and more important to me. I was at the point in my depression where my mom had to step in and say- okay, from a scientific standpoint this is what you need to be eating, these are the vitamins you need to be taking, this is what you physically need to be doing. It was summer, so I got outside more, and the depression started to fade.
By the time I moved in to my new apartment this past October, I was almost totally healed. That’s where my self-care journey really began. I live alone. Sure, my mom is only a ten minute drive or a phone call away, but on the whole, I alone am fully responsible for caring for myself.
When you live alone, it can be hard to make yourself do the things you know will make you feel better. Sometimes I will lay on the couch, in the middle of a shameful America’s Next Top Model binge, scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram on my phone. I notice that I feel like crap, but I can’t make myself move. I become paralyzed. That’s when self-care really is important. To me, a huge element of self-care is: kicking my ass off the couch, putting the phone down FAR away from me, and doing something ELSE. Taking a shower. Doing yoga. Cleaning my room. Reading a book. Going for a walk. Touching some damn moss. Anything other than laying slumped on the couch in shame. I’m not saying watching TV can’t be self-care. Some weeks, the entirety of me taking care of myself is 30 minutes alone with New Girl before my bedtime routine. I’m also not saying that self-care can’t be a face mask, or a bath bomb. Baths are so good for your body physically, I could never rule that out. I take a bath nearly every Sunday. But sometimes, I’m not in the mood for a bath on a Sunday, or on a mental health day, and then I think, “Butts. How do I take care of myself now?”
I think it’s important to suggest some alternative methods of self-care in case baths or face masks aren’t your thing, or your budget doesn’t allow for that type of lifestyle. Let’s consider the barriers to entry that we have on our current self-care culture. Can we expand it, make it more inclusive, rather than exclusive and dare I say monetary? Can we encourage a self-care culture that hinges on us holding ourselves responsible for taking care of ourselves, rather than always pampering? I think that’s what the problem was for me. A bath bomb wasn’t the self-care I needed. Healthy food and walks were. But Instagram told me that those things were what self-care was and if that didn’t make me happy then I was either 1) doing it wrong or 2) beyond help.
Ultimately, I don’t think that you should Google what self care is. I think you should try to define it for yourself. Take time to figure out what the heck makes you happy, and then turn that into a toolbox to which you turn whenever you are in need. It won’t be immediate, but over time and with practice, you will eventually start craving the things that are good for you when you feel like shit. I promise.
Now, without telling you what self-care is, because it is truly different for everyone, here is what I’ve found it to be for me.
Eating well. Did you know that your gut is your second brain, and seriously impacts your mental health? Yeah, I know. Freakin stressful. But I started drinking kombucha early this year, and it has impacted everything from my seasonal depression (by significantly decreasing it) to my periods. So, yeah. Eating well has become one of the foundational points of taking care of myself. Eating vegetables, cutting down on sugar where I can, drinking more tea, lots of water, and kombucha twice a week has helped enormously.
Being in nature. Eli and I have discovered an amazing park by the apartment, and have vowed to go there every Sunday we can. We walk around, find new things, take pictures and sit by the creek and meditate together. When I return home afterwards, I feel like I just went on a three day spa trip. Would recommend.
Making stuff. Sometimes I feel sad for no reason, and that’s when I know I need to make something. I need to take a picture, write in my journal, draft a blog post or edit a video.
Watching “Mom’s home alone shows.” Like America’s Next Top Model, Big Little Lies, Riverdale, or Jane the Virgin.
I hope this self-care rant has helped you in some way, and that we can continue the discussion on how we take care of ourselves and our mental healths. And I think the best way to encourage self-care is by encouraging everyone to check in with themselves, however that manifests for them. Self-care can be whatever you need it to be. It’s just up to you to figure out what that is for you.