Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dancing to Vaguely Depressing Music

My intermittent self-love series continues...I don't like to feel like I'm saying corny things (uhh, because I'm such a hardcore badass? Not really, my knuckle tattoo is fake after all), but it's kind of inevitable here.

To reference bell hooks yet again, care isn't the same as love, but it can be an important part of love. I feel like self-care might be like daily weight-lifting for your self-love muscles. I wanted to write about self-care in this post, but it's become such a prevalent concept that it probably deserves its own. I was going to write in detail about the theory and definition of self-care...about its relation to activism and how the concept is gendered in out culture, but maybe I should take my own medicine and jump to the part that amuses me most: Lists. Yes, self-care seems to have manifested largely in list form, and some people's lists are indeed large. (Here's an example of a long list of one person's self-care ideas.) Usually when I read about self-care though, I am overwhelmed by activities that don't appeal to me in the slightest. Such as bubble baths. I literally have not taken a bath in 15 years (although yes, I do attempt to shower regularly). Just thinking about having pruney hands...shudder!

We all know that I love making lists, so of course I wanted to make one of self-care activities. Although if I'm at the point where I have to pull out a list to figure out how to take care of myself, shit must be getting real. At those times, I am likely to get overwhelmed by a list of any great length. So I decided to cap my list at ten items, but only the most powerful strategies would make it on there. They had to be easy and accessible. So here's my list so far, with explanations of why I chose the things I did. It's definitely one of those documents that's going to change over time, based on what does and doesn't end up working.
  1. Dance to music, especially vaguely depressing music. (You don't have to be Martha Graham here; any movement really is sufficient, but I find that just listening isn't enough to lift my mood. This is really the best strategy I know.)
  2. Make a list of 10 good things about yourself. (If you're feeling down on yourself, it might take you a really long time to think of 10 things...it's normal, don't get discouraged. I've always found this exercise to be worthwhile.)
  3. Go near water or somewhere in nature. If that's too much work, just step outside. (When I'm in nature, it's the time when I don't worry about being "productive", and when I feel like I'm doing exactly what I should be doing without second-guessing myself. But just being outside the house can be a substitute for "real" nature. Sun helps.)
  4. Cook a balanced meal with plenty of veggies. (For me, the best self-care activities are those that absorb most of my focus, which cooking does, and challenge me a little bit, but not enough to be truly frustrating. I find that when I'm feeling anxious, I sometimes put off eating for too long, or eat mostly carbs.)
  5. Ride my bicycle. (Whenever I get on my bike, I think, "Why don't I do this more often?" Riding at night is especially soothing to me.)
  6. Drink tea. (Is there something relaxing IN tea or is it just the act of drinking it?)
  7. Pet a cat. (Speaks for itself.)
  8. Make a drawing. (For the longest time, my premier drawing theme has been repetitive words in different fonts and configurations, kind of like you'd imagine a strange serial killer doing. But, it's always been a good way to vent.)
  9. Have a conversation with someone. (For me, e-mails don't count here. It's got to be a real-time conversation.)
  10. Leave nice notes for yourself to find later. (I guess this is more of a maintenance thing. Truth be told, I haven't done it much yet, but I'm trying to find ways to motivate myself positively rather than beating myself up. This could be one way to help me accomplish that.)
So, has anyone made a self-care list? What was on it? And did it help you?


Anonymous said...

I've never made a list like that, but were I to do so I'd add reading to it. There's a lot of nice old poetry out there especially, and taking the time to read it carefully can be quite absorbing.

I particularly like your idea of riding a bike at night. I like walking at night and I like biking, but with all the cars around here I'm too nervous to do much of the latter. There are almost no cars out at night though: it'd be a perfect time to just ride a bike!

Ily said...

@Heorrenda: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I like the idea of reading poetry. You're right, it can be very absorbing, especially when it's hard to understand ;)

Zanzibel said...

Funnily enough, whilst clearing out my room a couple of days ago, I came across a 'self-care' list from my school days. I do similar things these days as I did then (and some are the same as yours). I love an excuse for a good list, so hope you don't mind me adding mine!

- Play music (Although I tend to play the saxophone more than the piano in general i've always steered towards the piano when i've needed some self-therapy! It used to help me enormously at low points)

- Listening to music, particularly live music.

- Summer music festivals (Small, preferably, for the intimacy... Friendly people, relaxed, live music, sunshine, new friendships, often creative workshops taking place... perfect remedy)

- Getting out into nature (Beaches, parks, woods, fields... The sun does wonders for me, and I love golden glow at dusk)

- Making a veggie soup (I just find it comforting)

- Tea (normal, green or chai)

- Travel (I like appreciating little things and travel is perfect for the whole ‘awe, wonder, big little world’ thing)

- Catching up with old friends (Letter, email, phone, in person... Preferably in person... My friends are incredibly important to me and I don't like feeling out of touch)

- Thought clouds/thought maps (I used to do these more a few years ago.. I'd fill pieces of paper with bubbles that contained words relating to things I was worrying about or whatever.. That really helped)


Ily said...

Hey, it's Zanzibel! Aren't lists great for containing the chaos of life? Travel is a good one, and I find I don't have to go very far to feel like I've "traveled". Just going an hour away will do it...although this is also a testament to the fact that I may not get out as much as I'd like to. :P Thanks for sharing your list!

heidi said...

Good idea, focusing on self as well - I left dozens of post-it notes for a roomie (A) who had a rough semester... "Dear A, I love waking up next to you! Love, A" (that one was tucked under her pillow)

"Dear A, you are the light of my life! Love, A" (stuck inside a lamp shade)

...dozens. It was great fun and made me super happy =) Might just try it on the spouse...

Ily said...

@heidi: That's such a sweet thing to do, I bet it cheered her up.

Emily said...

Oh my gosh, dancing, yes! Whenever I start to get overwhelmed and stressed out, I know it's time to take a break for an hour and just dance. I'd never go out to dance, though. I'm not comfortable dancing in front of people. I have to be at home, and preferably alone -- although dancing with my little sisters is acceptable too. :)

This is a very nice list. I also enjoy making lists, and I like this subject, so I think I might post on my own blog with a list of my top self-care activities. Thanks for the idea!

Ily said...

@Emily: An hour?! You have a lot of dancing stamina! Maybe I'll be able to build mine up, now that winter is coming and I won't feel guilty anymore about being inside playing DDR on a nice day ;)

On rare occasions when I dance in front of people, I have to actively pretend they're not there. I'd be interested in reading your list.

Emily said...

@Ily: Okay,that was a little misleading of me. My dance parties do last an hour (or sometimes two if I'm with my sisters), but I can't dance that whole time. I'm definitely not in that good of shape. Usually I can dance for ten to fifteen minutes max before I need a break. I think it's just nice to have a whole hour where I'm not requiring myself to do anything other than dance, rest, and dance some more, you know?

Ily said...

@Emily: Yeah, that sounds more my speed :)