What do you think of when you hear the words “self care?” Do you think about spa days and mani/pedis? Do you think about taking a little time out of the day to meditate and center? Is it something you have to spend money on? Or is it just some new fad being used as a marketing tool? Self care can mean a variety of different things depending on who you are and what you need. If you’re a parent (or a caregiver of any kind), it might mean finding 10 minutes out of the day when you’re not caring for someone else to sit and absorb some peace and quiet. If you’re a busy student, it might mean finding a solo space and a good playlist to let your school worries drift for a bit. When you have mental illness, self care often refers to the basics of living. But it all boils down to this: are you getting what you need to be healthier, if not happier.
Now let me say up front, if you need to take care of yourself with pampering so you feel more relaxed to care for others – please do so. I don’t want this to be a judgment on others taking care of their own needs. But it is important that we understand that self care isn’t always what the world-at-large thinks it is. For example: have you considered brushing your teeth as self care? “No, I do this every morning. It’s
automatic. That doesn’t sound like pampering.” Well, self care isn’t always pampering and those little things you do automatic don’t always come easy, right? But let’s look at it step by step.
You have to go to a store and find the aisle with the tubes of paste and a toothbrush (and there are WAY too many brands of toothpaste out there . . . do I want a brighter smile, gum care, tooth fortification, mini-turrets to take out plaque). You then have to wander your way around people you may or may not be anxious around and make your way to the cashier where you have to hope there’s enough money in your pocket or in your bank account. Then there’s taking 2 minutes to pry yourself out of bed to stand upright at a sink (if you remembered or were able to pay the water bill), and move your tired arm so that brush works your teeth clean. To some people, this is a simple task. But to others . . . it’s almost insurmountable. And it’s easy to write it off as something you don’t need to do to take care of yourself when everything else in the world seems so large and looming.
How about medication. Do you take it? Did you take it? That’s self care. Getting outside, being around people, or getting away from damaging people can also be self care. When you have mental illness, performing some of these tasks can feel like a whole mountain of tasks that you can’t possibly tackle. Taking out the trash might as well be a trip to Mordor (it takes the precious recyclables to the curb in a separate container, hobbitses) when you aren’t in a good place.
If you’re someone who finds yourself struggling with those elements of self care but also don’t know how to start or where to start (it starts at the Shire, hobbitses, then it works it’s way to Mordor), there’s a website that can help. It’s a choose-your-own adventure of sorts but all about the basics of self care. Even if you don’t need help, I’d suggest giving the website a look if only to get a better understanding of just how basic self care can be. Maybe you’ll find some things you need to help you . . . be.