In popular culture, self-care has come to mean many different things. Some see it as a trend, a meme or just a questionable excuse to indulge. Buying that cute top you can’t really afford or watching just one more episode of Peep Show before you start your essay can be morally justified if done in the name of self-care.
But I have come to understand it as something much practical than this. Looking after and loving yourself is sometimes more boring and every day than Lush bath bombs and fairy lights (though I strongly advocate both).
Here is a small (and unexhaustive) guide to everyday self-care: a list of the things I find conducive to a solid foundation.
- Notice the little things you do for yourself. It sounds obvious, but when you become aware of the little things you do everyday that have become habit, you realise how much you do for yourself, and how deserving you are of it.. Notice how it feels when you shower off the worst part of a hangover, or spread butter over toast for your first meal of the day. They may seem like tiny things, but they can be the best part of a bad day. Sometimes just managing to get out of bed is an achievement, and that’s looking after yourself as well.
- Find art and media that you see yourself represented in. Maybe the things that get you down and excite you don’t seem dignified enough to make music or art about. But if you’ve felt it, there’s usually something out there about it. You may have to dig a little deeper to find it, but surrounding yourself with art that reflects your experience can be comforting and uplifting. A favourite of mine is Sally Nixon, an artist who creates soothing (and oddly beautiful) illustrations of girls and women, just doing the little things.
- Unfollow everything that make you feel like less than enough. You know that person you follow on Instagram that you convince yourself is ‘goals’, but really just makes you feel a bit worse about yourself every time they appear on your feed?? Unfollow them. This is especially important when it comes to body image. Unfollowing fitness or ‘wellness’ accounts and replacing them with radically body positive accounts is life changing. You don’t realise how much your social media feed affects you until you take charge of it.
- Know that sometimes self-care means work. It seems contradictory, but sometimes self-care means pushing yourself. It means sitting down and writing down everything you have to do that week, or even taking the bins out. It’s caring for your future self and your surroundings. Your head will feel clearer when your room is tidy and your to do list is a little less long.
- Listen to your body. Learn that when it comes to eating or exercising, your body usually knows what’s up better than any ‘wellness’ blogger or diet plan. For self-care recipes that talk about food in wonderful, guilt free language, I recommend Ruby Tandoh’s cookbook ‘Flavour’ (and her entire Twitter account). Cooking and eating food can become oddly cathartic when you shed any guilt attached to it. If you’re someone who has periods and a monthly cycle, get to know how it works. Apps like ‘Clue’ are great for tracking both physical and emotional changes. It’s useful to know, when you feel like the world is falling apart because Lidl is out of spaghetti, that it might just be PMS screwing you over, and Tesco Express is just down the road.
- Create yourself a safety net. Make sure you have a few things in the back of your mind that you can turn to when you do hit rock bottom, when you can’t do the little things or the work. Create a first aid kit, physical or not. It could be an episode of Gavin and Stacey, a Spotify playlist full of voices that calm you down, or a phone call home.
Your list might not look like mine. This is different for everyone, and I find that just thinking about what you would include is self-care in itself. Take time to think about the things that sustain you, and allow yourself to enjoy them.
image: GeorgeB2 via Pixabay