Have you guys ever noticed how articles about self-care always tell you to take a bubble bath? Don’t get me wrong; I love baths. I pretty much always have bath bombs from Lush on deck, and when I don’t, I will drive an hour to buy one. I have also had several epiphanies about myself while sitting in baths, so I am not about to belittle the value of some good ole self-reflection in the tub. But self-care is about so much more than bubble baths, and the heavy emphasis on pampering yourself makes self-care seem like indulgence, which people use to justify either not taking care of themselves or participating in some unhealthy behaviors and calling it “self-care.”
Self-care is about CARING for yourself, the way you care for a child. Caring for a child is not all about taking them to the circus and giving them all of the ice cream their heart desires; it’s also about making sure that they are fed and clothed and brush their teeth and get to bed on time, plus loving them and giving them a safe space to develop and grow. Just the way you would care for a child, you need to care for yourself. So to help you in your self-care efforts, I have compiled a list of self-care tips that don’t involve a bubble bath (though tbh all this talk about baths is just making me want to take one when I’m done writing this).
Have a bedtime ritual
If you’re anything like me, you have nights when you just crawl right into bed without doing anything beforehand because why bother, we’re all going to die anyway, right? Existentialism aside, having a bedtime ritual is extremely beneficial to your sleep hygiene and ergo, your life. Rituals trigger our brains to release the hormones we associate with these particular actions; so for bedtime rituals, our brains release melatonin, the sleep hormone. Basically, having a bedtime ritual conditions you to be sleepy at bedtime, making it so much easier to fall asleep. Sleep is important for your mental and physical health, so you should prioritize it.
Apply to a new job
This tip applies specifically to y’all who hate their jobs, or feel complacent in their jobs, or just feel complacent in general. Even if it leads nowhere, applying to another job allows you to envision a different future. Don’t resign yourself to live in an existence you hate. This can apply even beyond your job. Imagine your life beyond what limits you, whether that’s your job, your apartment, your friends, or your relationship. In short, whatever it is that is making you unhappy, take steps to change it: apply for a new job, look for a new place, make new friends, and dump his ass.
Go to the dentist
I’m sure there are people out there who are extremely diligent about going to the dentist; congratulations on being responsible. I, on the other hand, will put off going to the dentist as long as humanly possible, and then endlessly worry about them judging my tartar build up and live in an anxious ball until my appointment. Maybe for you, this is not going to the dentist, but going to the eye doctor, gynecologist, or other medical appointment. Regardless of what type of doctor, just go. It’s better than living in fear of all of the terrible diseases you think you have but probably don’t, and if you do, you need to, you know, see a doctor.
Prioritize plans with yourself
If you’re anything like me, you are intimately familiar with this scenario: someone asks you to do something, and you don’t really want to do it because you had been planning to curl up in bed and eat grapes and watch reality television, but that doesn’t really count as plans so you say “yes” anyway. Eff that. It doesn’t matter if all you did was make plans with yourself, you already have plans. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into going to your sister’s boyfriend’s poetry reading, either by your sister or by your own inner critic.
Clean and decorate
In moments when it felt like my life was completely out of my control, cleaning has been one of the most cathartic actions I have taken. When you can’t control your life, you can still control your environment. I especially like cleaning the kitchen. There is something about a clean kitchen that makes me feel so calm. I also love when my bedroom is all cozy and neat and Instagrammable (read: fairy lights, patterned quilts, and tapestries). Cleaning is not only good for your mood, but for your cognition. When I go into slob mode and make Clothes Mountain in my closet, it is so stressful getting dressed in the morning. In contrast, when I have hung and sorted all of my clothes according to style and color, I don’t start my day with any clothes-related anxiety (I will find something else to worry about instead).
Make yourself a meal
It’s so easy to fall into the same pattern of eating out, grabbing whatever is convenient, but there is something important in the act of cooking for yourself. Food is a way that many people choose to show love (i.e. me/my mom/my sister/probably your grandma/the coworker who always brings in baked goods). Why not show yourself that same kind of love? Make yourself a meal that nourishes you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sounds too lofty? Just make something that tastes delicious. Make grandma proud.
Play with an animal
At my college, they would have pet therapy day before finals to help stressed out students. This is because SCIENCE which tells us that animals have a calming effect on humans. Keep your blood pressure low by petting, playing with, or holding an animal, whether it is your pet, your friend’s, or some pups at the Humane Society.
Have a conversation with yourself
It might be hard for you to be kind to yourself. If it is, you are not alone. I have to actively combat negative and persistent thoughts of self-doubt on a daily basis, so I get it. Something that helps me sometimes when I am getting really down is to add some distance. I have a conversation with myself as though I am one of my close friends and I can approach the situation with far more kindness and love. When I have a feeling, I might say out loud, “I feel so ______ when _____ happens,” and I respond as though it was my friend who expressed this thought. Put a little distance between yourself and your feelings, and you may be surprised how much easier it is to accept them and move on.
Have you ever felt like social media is a drug that is slowly sucking your time and soul so you close the Facebook app in disgust and swear you won’t check it till tomorrow but then you check it again almost immediately after because what if something has changed in the last 20 seconds? Whether your social media addiction is as persistent as mine or you have a better grip on it but still feel the effects of information overload, it’s healthy to unplug once and awhile. You might try charging your phone on the other side of the room when you sleep, deleting some apps off your phone so you can’t check them as regularly, or deactivating an account or two. Some people get nervous at the idea of leaving their phone at home for a few hours because what if this is the one time there is an emergency? I get that because I am also a worrier; that being said, it can be very refreshing to leave your phone at home for an hour or two while you go for a run or go spend some face-to-face time with a friend, and you will probably come home to only a few promotional emails or no notifications at all, making you wonder why you own a smartphone at all.
Invest in people who invest in you
When I was younger, I spent way too much time on people who gave little in return. Now, I spend more time nurturing relationships with people who want to nurture relationships with me. The people you invest in are the people who root for you, who ask how you are and want to know the answer, and who you unquestionably know care about you. Invest in them by returning the favor; support them, think about them, and let them know however you do that best, whether it is verbally, written, or through acts of kindness. On the flip side, let go of (or if you can’t, distance yourself from) people who only care about what you can give them, who never show any curiosity about you and your world, and who leave you feeling depleted and used. Care for yourself enough to know that you deserve better.
Happy Wellness Wednesday, y’all! Go out and care for yourselves!