Life is busy and free time is hard to come by. When you’re rushing from one place to another, supporting your friends and family, and trying to get everything done, it can be easy to let yourself fall by the wayside. The very idea of self-care can sound silly. After all, how can you take time to paint your nails or read a book when you get off your shift at 11, your best friend just called crying because they broke up with their boyfriend, AND you have a history test tomorrow you haven’t studied for?
Why is self-care important?
For many people, the phrase “self-care” can bring up images of bubble baths and pedicures. Treating yourself at the spa can be a great form of self-care, but there’s so much more to it. Self-care is doing activities that reduce stress. Practicing self-care is important for living a healthy, as-calm-as-possible life.
Audre Lorde, an activist and self-described ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’, wrote powerful words about self-care: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This means she said that self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a way to stay strong and fight outside pressure. Doing so is a conscious decision.
What kind of self-care is right for me?
To decide how to practice self-care, think about what makes you feel good and then try to make time for one self-care activity per day. Maybe it’s taking a long shower with good-smelling soaps. Or it’s going for a run or having a solo dance party. Maybe it’s calling up a good friend. What makes you feel cared for can be different depending on your mood or the day. Cuddling your pet might help you unwind at night, while listening to music might help get you excited for the day. Pay attention to how you feel.
What’s the difference between self-care and self-indulgence?
Sometimes, eating a whole box of cookies or spending two hours scrolling through Instagram feels great. And, in moderation, enjoying sweet treats and social media can be a healthy part of a nourishing self-care ritual. It’s totally okay to feel pleasure from these activities. But notice if what you’re doing to feel good (which is positive) turns into something negative. Are you avoiding important tasks, spending a lot of money, or doing anything that seems fun in the moment but is far from fun later (like missing a deadline over time wasted or feeling sick from overeating)?
Self-care isn’t always exciting. Self-care includes tasks like cleaning your room, doing your English assignment or even taking a shower. Taking care of basic needs can feel boring in comparison to watching a funny YouTube video or texting a meme to your friend. When you’re stressed (like a big test coming up) it can be tempting to put off these tasks in favor of a more relaxing activity. Doesn’t scrolling Facebook on the couch and calling it self-care sound good? Not so fast. Self-care doesn’t always have to be productive, but it should help you stay on track with what you have to do so your time is later freed up for what you want to do.
How can I practice self-care? I’m too busy!
Self-care is often needed most when it feels like there is no time for it. With tough stuff like break-ups, troubles at home and school pressure, it feels impossible to schedule in time to take care of yourself. Remember that healthy habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, moving your body, and taking a few moments to calm and center yourself will make a huge difference in how you manage the hard stuff in life.
Plan for moments in your day when you will engage in a self-care activity, just like you would for completing homework, studying, or going to work! You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money. It can be discouraging to feel like you need to fit in an hour-long meditation or pay for a fancy yoga class to properly care for yourself. But self-care can be simple. Take a short walk outside. Write down a few things you love about yourself, or look at pictures of cute animals on Instagram. Think of these as necessary measures you must take to restore and strengthen yourself, so that you can face the stress you’re experiencing head-on.
It can take some time to figure out what kinds of self-care work best for you. Check out some of these resources for ideas to get started. Here is an awesome text-game for when you’re feeling really, really bad and want to feel better. Here is an article on self-care, especially for people of color and other marginalized communities.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.