Self-care seems to be a catchphrase these days and has lost its meaning, but I believe it is important especially in this time when it feels like rage is the emotion du jour. We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of other important things in life, like the people we love, the issues that are important us, and our country that seems to be headed to one dumpster fire after another.
Before self-care was appropriated by celebrities to mean anything frivolous that they might do for the day, self-care had an actual meaning. It means to actively take action to preserve or improve your own physical, emotional, or mental health. This could involve anything from taking your insulin on time to sleeping in for extra ten minutes.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma towards self-care because it is viewed as a selfish act of indulgence. Because of these views, self-care can be seen as something that only the privileged can participate in, primarily those who are white privileged. This is difficult when people of color especially need to practice self-care because this demographic often suffers the most economically, medically, and in terms of emotional and mental health.
Our nation at the moment is barely holding on emotionally. Speaking for myself and a friends that I know, the rage is exhausting. How much longer can we go on feeling this kind of anger? And I’m not talking about anger from our personal lives, this is the anger that stems from seeing what is happening in our own country.
Self-care is how we make it through. According to this Psychology Today article, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Think about it: It’s a deliberate act. How often do we deliberately take care of ourselves? When we get caught up in the rage of babies in cages or endangered species becoming endangered again, how do we take care of ourselves in that moment?
We don’t, because “the practice of self-care is something we are occasionally allowed to indulge in and that self-care should feel like an indulgence…Self-care is not an indulgence. Self-care is a discipline.” It’s not bath bombs and chocolate cake every night like the media has portrayed it to be. Self-care is actually taking a moment and evaluating what the healthiest choice is for you. Maybe it’s cutting out a toxic friend from your life or enrolling in a Spin class.
Self-care is creating a life for yourself where you don’t have to be fake, you don’t have to be phony, and you don’t have to run away from in order to feel better because you feel so overwhelmed.
Thomas Oppong says, “Self-care is the opposite of overwhelmed…Self-care isn’t a guilty pleasure; it’s an important part of your wellness. It’s a preventative measure that can help you overcome the stress of life.”
But how does someone start with self-care if they’ve never really used it before? I’ve decided to give some suggestions to help someone either start with a self-care routine or maybe add to their list.
Self-Care for the Sense of Sight
- The Happy Thoughts Shelf: Keep a shelf, box, or drawer where you can place items that remind you have happy things. These could be photographs, rocks from a camping trip, Shopkins, coins, whatever… anything that makes you happy when you look at them. Bring these items out when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed and spend undistracted time with each item. Silence your phone. Turn off Netflix. It’s just you and your Happy Thoughts.
- Nature Walk: It’s exactly what it sounds like, go outside! Unplug yourself from whatever you’re doing, including your phone, music, work, and go outside. Take a walk and breathe. Look at the trees and flowers. If possible, go to a park and really take in the sky and any wildlife. Become comfortable with the silence. If you live in an area where parks aren’t nearby, just stroll along the street. Observe your surroundings. Feel the hum of the cars, the heat from the buildings.
- Netflix/Hulu: It’s okay to stare into oblivion and stream a show you enjoy. Watch with abandon and don’t feel guilty about not getting to the laundry just yet.
Self-Care for the Sense of Hearing
- Listen to guided meditations: Want to hear a soothing voice to help you relax into a peaceful nap? Tracks to Relax is perfect for you. My daughter and I listen to one about drinking a magical elixir so we can fly and it puts us out every time.
- Listen to a podcast: Podcasts are a great way to escape for 45 minutes to an hour and you can usually find one on any subject. My current favorite? Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend , a podcast in which Conan interviews different celebrities looking for a friend because after years of doing his television show, he has realized that he never had time to make friends.
Self-Care for the Sense of Touch
- Applebutter Lip Mask: If you’re like me and get chapped lips a lit and lose chapstick all the time, this lip mask is the one to use. Take a break from the cheap chapstick and use this mask and you’ll be happy you did. It lasts forever, too.
- Hug: It sounds corny, but hugging is important. Adults who are touched frequently have fewer mood swings and have lower heart disease. Find someone you are comfortable with and give them a hug, fully embrace.
- Body scrub: Our skin can become dry and brittle from not only the weather, but also being in and out of the air conditioner or heater all day. Exfoliating gently can give our skin a nice healthy glow while also making sure we are spending the needed attention to our bodies while in the bath or shower. No need to go out and buy an expensive scrub (unless you want to), here is a recipe to make your own:
- Mix ¼ cup honey with 2 tablespoon of olive oil, coconut oil or baby oil if that’s all you have. Stir well and add ½ cup of brown sugar. Use it during shower to gently exfoliate dead skin. OR
- Mix 1 cup sugar, ½ cup almond/coconut oil and a few drops of essential oil (optional if you’re not allergic to it) into a bowl and squeeze 5 Vitamin E capsules.
Self-Care for the Sense of Smell
- A diffuser with oil: I admit, I used to make fun of essential oils all the time, probably because a lot of people sell them where I live. But Santa brought me one for Christmas last year and I’m so grateful to the big guy because I sleep so much better and I love how my room smells. This particular diffuser comes with oils and a graphic explaining what each oil is good for, but there are several sites that will explain what different oils are used for. Most importantly, diffuse what smells good to you!
- A new perfume: My mom would always tell me to wear perfume each day because it’s a little pick-me-up, and she was right. Buying a new perfume in the travel spray is great way to show self-care because when I’m out of the house and feeling down, I can just spritz myself and have a moment to myself. I try to buy the travel spray size so that I have more variety and I don’t have to commit to any one scent. The latest scent I’ve purchased is Kate Spade’s In Full Bloom, which is a nice light floral scent.
Self-Care for the Sense of Taste
- Torani Syrup: Flavored sodas are a big hit where I live, and if you’re able to make them on your own then you don’t ever have to leave your house. Torani Syrup is the magic sauce and is honestly my go-to self-care. You can find them in grocery stores and you can also purchase them on Amazon as sets, but it is a little pricey and you can’t pick which flavor will go in your set. Torani’s website has a ton of recipes that you can experiment with, and so does Pinterest if you do a search. My favorite combination is having a Dr. Pepper mixed with coconut and vanilla. Heaven.
- Dark chocolate blueberry & acai berries: I admit that I have these berries in my happy thoughts drawer because they do, in fact, make me very happy. We started to buy these berries when my little girl was little and she would eat so many that they would make her poop–they’re called poop berries in my house. Regardless, they are delicious and the perfect treat for those moments when I need to take a breath on my own and walk away from the news.
Self-Care for the Sixth Sense
This isn’t about seeing dead people or ESP. This is about the self-care we can pursue in order to protect the emotional health we can’t necessarily articulate. The times we feel like we can’t disengage from the news or Twitter out of fear that we will miss something, or that if we don’t respond to someone’s thoughtless comment then we will have “lost” something.
It’s just one suggestion but it is the hardest thing we can ever do: Log off.
That’s it, log off. The news cycle doesn’t need us. The rage cycle doesn’t need us. In fact, that’s the hardest truth to accept: Rage will continue either with or without us, so why are we participating? We don’t do anything to dissipate it if we are there, so why are we? Step away from Twitter and walk in the park. Log off of Facebook and do a body scrub. Turn off the news and try a new soda. Take care of yourself.
If this airplane of a country is going down, remember: Who do flight attendants remind to put on their air masks first before they can help anyone else?
Because that’s self-care.