Self care can get a bad reputation as something that thin-skinned, weak-minded “snowflakes” do when the world is “just too damned hard”. In reality, self care is vital to your mental and even physical well being. Practicing this type of care is important for neurotypical folks and individuals struggling with mental health issues alike. It can be hard to learn how to set the time aside to focus on your own health and wellbeing. Failing to do so can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health, leaving you exhausted.
There are levels to self care. At its most basic, self care involves doing the basic things you need to do to stay alive. Things like getting out of bed, eating, and taking care of personal hygiene are the building blocks of self care. Paying bills, buying groceries, and attending health care appointments are also important aspects of self care. If you find any of these tasks to be particularly challenging, give your family doctor a call. It could be a sign that there are bigger health issues at play. You can also contact NAMI, CMHA, or MentalHealth.
It is becoming increasingly important to be aware of your own need for self care. The American election has been somewhat of a catalyst for so many people. It has inspired some to increase their political involvement. Others may be terrified of how Trump’s policies, Executive Orders, and administration in general will treat them and their loved ones. Others still may find Trump’s ability to gaslight large segments of the population eerily familiar. Whatever the cause is, most of us are in need of at least a bit of self care.
Allow Yourself To Feel
On any given day you may feel a ton of different emotions. Anger, fear, hope, frustration, betrayal, vulnerability, and rage are just a few. Most self care activities focus on doing things that bring you joy. Obviously, being able to find ways to bring happiness into your life during difficult times is crucial. At the same time, you need to let yourself feel those other powerful emotions too. Suppressing or ignoring the anger you feel won’t make it go away, nor will it make you feel any better in the long run.
Instead, try and find ways to channel those emotions. Picking up a sport or other form of physical activity can help you work out your anger. Hobbies like arts and crafts, writing, and reading can help you work through negative feelings. Engage in other, affirming hobbies as well, but remember to allow yourself to feel. Sadly, we do live in a world where your anger and fear and frustration are entirely justified. Coping involves acknowledging those feelings, not ignoring them.
Place Limits On Social Media
There is no law anywhere that says you have to be Facebook friends with anyone. Nor do you have to read your Twitter mentions or engage in back-and-forth communication with trolls. Unless you openly invite it, you don’t actually have to debate anything with anyone. That is the beauty of using a platform run by a private company – blocking or ignoring isn’t violating anyone’s rights. And it just might save your sanity. For many of us, hearing “give the guy a chance” or any other defence of his presidency can be deeply upsetting. This is a man who has staffed his entire administration with people who want to deny rights to others, who have openly engaged in racism, who are literal neo-nazis, and who would prefer to torture others than to co-exist with LGBTQ folk. Just this past week an Executive Order was signed that essentially prohibited Muslim immigration. These racist policies are blatantly obvious. It can be infuriating to still hear someone we thought cared about us tell us to continue giving him a chance.
In some cases, there simply can be no dialogue. It’s virtually impossible to have a constructive conversation when you first must convince the other party that you or the group of whom you are speaking deserves to have equal rights. And you are under no obligation to engage in dialogue with someone who refuses to acknowledge the humanity of an entire group of people. As long as you are getting non-partisan news, or news from a variety of different reputable sources, you can consider yourself well informed. Your ex-coworker’s friend’s sister’s best friend’s mother-in-law’s post is not required reading.
Placing limits on your social media is one way to disconnect from these demoralizing conversations. You can delete various profiles altogether, remove certain people from your list, unfollow/mute certain individuals, or block them. If you are using Facebook you can simply use their privacy settings walkthrough to learn more. Twitter users can take a look at this tutorial. Other tutorials exist for social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. You can generally find out how to tweak your privacy settings by reading the help menu of any social media site.
Find Other Superhero Friends
Being surrounded by a community of people who, like you, want to make the world a better place is empowering. It also gives you the freedom to speak your mind without worrying that you will need to defend your basic humanity or the fact that you deserve rights. You might be able to find a group in your community, online, or both. If you don’t know to start, head down to your library and take a look at your community board. Most community groups will also have a web presence, and from there you can expand your search. These groups can give you the space you need to be yourself, and may also give rise to some incredible ideas – this very website for example. There is always value in having friends across the political spectrum and with diverse political views. But if you are actively practicing self care, there’s no harm in surrounding yourself with other, likeminded friends.
The time you spend with likeminded friends does not need to be solely focused on your activist efforts. You can also practice self care as a group, by engaging in other, distracting activities. Even doing something productive but calming like knitting socks for your local women’s shelter while having wine and watching a Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries marathon can be a wonderful act of self care.
Distraction As Self Care
When it comes to self care the value of distraction cannot be understated. Distraction is an incredibly useful self care tool. You can combine it with other aspects of self care, to make chores or other tasks less tedious and boring. Listening to music or an audio book while you clean, for example, can help you temporarily think about something other than the current political state of the world. You can distract yourself alone or with a group of likeminded friends. Everything from novels to movies to cooking can be a distraction technique.
As you search for distracting material, remember that it is okay to enjoy problematic things. You can still fight against sexism and enjoy Love Actually. The issue with problematic media comes from consumption without critical or analytical thought. Or worse, defense of those problematic elements. It’s important to acknowledge the sexism or racism or homophobic elements, without excusing them or dismissing them. Enjoying a few problematic things does not make you a problematic person. As long as you have a well-rounded media diet, there is nothing wrong with the occasional less-than-perfect pop culture item. If you are struggling with this aspect, as many of us do, I highly recommend reading Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.
Remember That Self Care Is Political
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Audre Lorde was a key figure in Black feminism and her work on feminism should be required reading. She believed self care to be a revolutionary, political act. For centuries women have been told that taking the time to care for ourselves is selfish, and that prioritizing ourselves means we have failed our friends, families, and/or communities. This message disproportionately affects Black women and the poor. As a result, the very act of seeking out some small measure of self care can conjure feelings of guilt or inadequacy, having the opposite effect.
Taking a moment and insisting that you do matter; that you do deserve the same care you’re expected to give others; that your life, your body, and your health matter just as much as everyone else’s is making a political statement. Putting yourself first in a society that demands you constantly put your own needs last is insisting that you matter. Your needs are on par with everyone else’s, and to take care of theirs, you need to take care of yours.
Practicing self care, from its basic levels of eating and paying bills to watching your favourite movie and scrolling through pictures of cute fox pictures, is restorative. You simply cannot be the light you want to be in the world without self care. You will inevitably burn out. Taking the time to rejuvenate, to restore, to relax will help you face the battles to come. And unfortunately, there are many battles still to come.