A Foot in the Door of Self-Care

It’s one a.m. and I just finished my last nine-hour shift of the weekend. My feet are throbbing within my sneakers, which are covered in the remnants of a half-eaten meal I had spilled on them earlier on in the night — a piece of swordfish that sat in a pool of yellow broth that contained peas, carrots, and tomatoes. At this point the broth looked more like vomit and a single pea had managed to remain on the toe the entire time. Looking down at my feet, the low growl of my empty stomach sounded, reminding me that I had not eaten since one o’clock that afternoon. My two cats sat on the kitchen counter, awaiting their own meals. Big eyes watching as I set my purse down; I was not done serving just yet. At least these guests were soft and would thank me later by cuddling up to me in bed.

In the silence of my apartment, I leaned against the counter. Ticking off the mental boxes of a to-do list that never stopped growing. Tomorrow I had class, after class I needed to go to the gym, go grocery shopping, work on the two projects my professor had just assigned, finish reading a book, write a new piece, drink eight cups of water, do laundry, clean my apartment, oh, and wash my hair. I hadn’t done that in five days.

We always talk about self-care. Joke about it with our friends as we spend another $100 on items we don’t need or order another round of chips and salsa for the table, and yet, do we even know what that is? I’ve thought about what I would do if I had the time. Maybe I’d read the book that’s been sitting on my shelf for the past two months or maybe I’d go buy myself that cupcake I’d been craving since Tuesday. But perhaps it wasn’t about finding the time but making it. If I could manage to make time to charge my phone, then I could make time to do something to recharge myself.

Self-care is exactly that. It’s something that refuels us rather than takes from us. It’s an activity that we do purposely in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health such as going to bed earlier, putting on a face mask, or even eating a filling meal. It may feel selfish, but it’s also about being aware of what we need in order to take care of ourselves, and therefore, being able to take care of those around us.

However, what we don’t realize is that implementing self-care into our hectic routines can be as simple. It doesn’t have to be about pampering yourself, it can also be practical acts of kindness such as eating right, saying no to others, going outside, or even washing those dishes that have piled up in your sink. Which brings me to this question: how do we go about creating a solid self-care routine or at least making time for one? According to Counseling Psychologist Raphilia Michael, there are three golden rules on how to start:

1. “Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.” In other words, you don’t need to go search, what is self-care? or talk to your friends about their routines because it is different for every person. Instead focus on what you need in that moment and decide on a small act that could help. Remember this is about you and no one else.

2. “Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.” Like I said earlier, it’s about making time instead of finding it. Think of everything you make time for, an hour of self-care can easily be fit in to your schedule.

3. “Keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words, if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are.”

Despite being tired and worn, we must take the step to do a single action that will bring us comfort physically, mentally, and emotionally.