Looking after my mind with a gentle curiosity. That’s what self-care is to me. A fundamental part of life that I have always strived towards, yet only recently have managed to truly make time for. The concept of self-care, taking the time to look after ourselves in both body and mind, it’s a tougher challenge than it appears on paper. It has taken years for me to ever manage to get and stay on this path.
For me, self-care is a culmination of several different things. It is a necessity for day to day living that allows me to feel a closer sense of self-control over the situations that may lack it. By making, what ultimately is, only a handful of small changes and thought processes over a period of time, I have learnt to focus on what I can handle, be that mentally, emotionally etc., dedicate specific time frames to thinking about current anxieties that I face and even manage my thoughts to a certain extent where I do my best to not go straight to a worst-case scenario, instead attempt to think about things more logically. I can’t stress enough just how challenging that is to do, but even if I manage it only once in a while I see that as a win. Any progress is a win for me.
The general act of nourishing our bodies and minds while also giving ourselves the space to embrace the thoughts that whittle away at our brains. Pushing our anxieties down, not wanting to acknowledge those negative emotions that make us all so uncomfortable and ultimately bottling them away, these are the things that so often lead to a culmination where you feel you can no longer cope.
When I think of self-care, I think of all the stereotypical things such as skin care routines, eating healthier, meditation, journaling. And, stereotypes or not, a lot of them do ring true for me. At the end of a long week, I love nothing more than to take time for myself by unwinding with some good music playing in my room, maybe a caramel latte and pain au chocolate if I’m feeling fancy, I might light a candle and try writing, either here or in a personal journal, just try to organise my thoughts, all while a face mask sets. I find this such an incredibly therapeutic way to fill my days. I give my mind the space to breathe all the while still acknowledging how I am feeling. The writing part truly helps.
On a more day to day basis, I try to focus on everything around me. I find drinking a coffee is good as I truly take the time to focus on each sip, more so than I would with tea. Stopping for even just a few minutes in a busy day can really just help me to collect my thoughts before letting them overwhelm me. Of course, if I am feeling particularly anxious that day then I avoid coffee entirely because I don’t need anything else speeding up my heart rate.
Hot drinks aside, I think my daily care continues to lie in the little things. Taking the time to truly be in the moment with Emily rather than be thinking about other stresses or scenarios is very important. Not only does it allow me to empty my mind for those few moments but I also get to genuinely appreciate our bond too. Decluttering and organising, be it my room or the kitchen or bathroom, it’s obviously the big one. It allows us to hold onto that control we often feel that we don’t have. Once my external view is tidy and organised (to the best of my extent), I feel more capable to deal with my internal issues.
Taking a step back from social media is another key one for me. The endless world of our multiple virtual timelines can be so exhausting. No matter how real we may be supposedly portraying ourselves or not. It can feel like such a toxic environment, every so often when I choose to log out of one of them, be it Instagram, Twitter or whatever, I just feel such a weight off of my chest. No longer having to deal with the wormhole that I can honestly feel so trapped in is an amazing feeling altogether.
Even as I write this, I am currently trying to unwind from an exhausting day. I’m sitting on my comfy bed, a blanket over me and a pile of pillows behind me. A safe place. I have the fairy lights on behind me, glistening in every possible reflection it can find, scattering further light across my room. Taylor’s Swifts ‘Evermore’ (my latest obsession), is playing gently as I type. I have just come up here after some cuddles with Emily and a nice hot cup of tea – it’s too late for coffee. This is my self-care at this exact moment. And these are the steps I take daily to try and make progress to feeling somewhat okay.
Every day is different though. Sometimes what I need is a walk to clear my head. Maybe it is a cigarette to exhale the negativity, or some exercise to sweat it out. And maybe, some days, it admitting that I am struggling to just get out of bed, and knowing that that is okay too. Sitting on the floor of the shower because standing just takes too much energy. Picking at the food in front of me even though eating a full meal may feel too overwhelming. That’s all okay too. Sometimes the tiniest of steps can harvest the largest progress. We are all entitled to bad days. But we don’t have to let them take over. Being aware of our emotions, and curious enough to explore them all while being kind to ourselves. That is what I honestly think self-care is.