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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Drink tea. (Is there something relaxing IN tea or is it just the act of drinking it?)
- Pet a cat. (Speaks for itself.)
- 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.)
- Have a conversation with someone. (For me, e-mails don't count here. It's got to be a real-time conversation.)
- 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.)