Talking about self-care requires nuancing the term.
First, self-care isn’t about buying yourself things to feel better. Of course, that can be involved, but it is not required.
Second, self-care isn’t just things like bubble baths or warm drinks – it isn’t necessarily things you actively love doing. Of course, self-care is meant to be taking care of yourself, however, sometimes, it isn’t the most fun thing you can do.
Often, the discussions around self-care fall into two categories. Either, it focuses entirely on buying products – often ones advertised specifically for this kind of purchase – or it simplifies into behavior that is basic, for neurotypicals, to maintain wellbeing. Think things like “just do yoga and you’ll feel better!”
While the second focus of self-care is not wrong, the point of self-care isn’t to force you into a regiment that works for someone else. It is about finding what works with you to help your well-being.
For me, self-care is admitting that I need a million reminders on my phone to check in on my sibling or remember to take medicine. It’s encouraging myself to keep my space in a clean disorder, even when I have no energy.
It’s especially important for me to keep up the self-care at this time of the semester. As it grows colder, the days shorten and finals week nears, it’s easy to get swept up in the ever-present buildup of assignments and stress.
It is also necessary for me to remind you that you are not the sum of your work or the quality of your grades. You are a person, and you are so much more than what you can produce in an academic setting.
Whether your semester has been good or bad, I am proud of you for getting through it.
These are things I have to tell myself frequently. These are things I tell my friends without thought, but when it comes to telling myself, I have to slow down and believe the words.
Of course, as nice as it is to know that you are not just the work you’ve done, it’s still just a sentence and it doesn’t rectify all of the current stress.
Self-care, in my opinion, is both the things you tell yourself and the things you do for yourself.
For whatever reason, bad habits or stress or both, I’ve had to be more vigilant about eating, because I haven’t been eating enough lately. I have to actively remind and cajole myself into making the most basic meals – sandwiches and pasta. I have to stay vigilant because I will ignore my body, and this is not acceptable.
This is the self-care that is crucial: treating yourself with the respect and care you deserve.
Self-care is also making sure I take time out of my week to crochet. Even though my anxiety has been low, I find crocheting very soothing, and I can tell when I haven’t let myself do something besides writing papers or reading for classes.
For me, self-care is also much less necessary to my immediate academic performance. Sometimes, it’s about listening to what I am craving and letting myself have it. Recently, all I’ve wanted to drink is hot chocolate, even though it’s more time consuming to make than tea, and there are more dishes to clean.
I’ve been using my craving for hot chocolate both as a direct way of treating myself and as a motivator to complete my other necessary tasks, such as work or making meals.
I believe this side of self-care is important to discuss. As much as buying yourself nice things or treating yourself is part of self-care, there are also aspects to it that are mundane.
Self-care is more than a gaudy catch-phrase for positive mental health practices. It is the literal care and keeping of your wellbeing, whatever that may be.
It might involve talking to someone about how you’ve been doing, how difficult – or not difficult – life has been lately. It might involve realizing that you like structure and need to start planning your day more, or it might be the exact opposite.
It Is important to remember that self-care is about taking care of you because you deserve to be taken care of. Or, maybe it is easier at this time to take care of yourself because you need to accomplish a task or goal. If you’re not ready to dive deep into full positive self-talk, that’s okay! Self-care is working towards a healthier you.
Self-care does not have to be passive. It does not have to be one-size-fits-all.
Cover photo courtesy of socialsciencecollective.org.