Ever since the 2016 election, self-care has been a part of any resistance playbook. But self-care isn’t just something you do when shit hits the fan. There are myriad ways to practice self-care, and you should be doing some form of it daily; keep your own glass full, so you can fill the cups of your family, friends, and community. Here are some of my most and least effective self-care habits from the last two years.
SELF-CARE THAT WORKS
Take a Walk
I have never, ever regretted going on a walk; I always feel better after I do it. Even in the colder months, your body and mind (and dog) will thank you for getting outside and taking in fresh air and physical activity. Instead of coming home from work and plopping down in front of the TV, try a quick 20-minute jaunt around the block to give yourself a little time to breathe, think, or chat with a friend.
Have a Daily Moisturizing Ritual
Taking extra time to ensure your entire body is thoroughly moisturized is a habit I have been preaching for over a decade. After showering, rub coconut oil all over yourself before applying lotion. This adds a lush layer to your skin, making you smell and taste like a snack. While your sexual partners will certainly enjoy your moisturized body, this daily ritual is mainly for you. After all, you have to exist in your skin for the rest of your life, so why not make it feel like butter?
Routines are important, but it’s also good to try new things and see what changes could work for you. After the holidays, challenge yourself to eating a plant-based diet or cutting out added sugar for a month. Or try upping your water intake to three liters per day. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your body, and maybe even shed a few of those extra holiday pounds in the process.
Reinvigorate or Rearrange Your Living Space
I think of my home as a living, breathing organism that needs tending to. When my space is messy or the feng shui is off, it affects me before I even realize it. Sometimes it takes the dog shitting on the hallway floor to launch me into a cleaning spree, which leads to me cleaning out my closet, rearranging the furniture, adjusting the décor, adding plants, candles, and so on. Even if you can’t afford to purchase a bunch of new items for your home right now, a new houseplant goes a long way, or just get creative with what you already have.
Make a Therapy Appointment
Simply deciding to address your mental health is an act of self-care. Once you recognize that you could benefit from speaking with an unbiased confidant (ahem, I’m looking at every single one of you), look for a certified therapist on psychologytoday.com and put something on the books. Now go get yourself an ice cream for scheduling self-care in advance. You deserve it.
The powers of palo santo (Spanish for “holy stick”) might seem a little woo-woo, but there’s no denying it smells good. The aged wood comes from a wild tree native to South America, and it’s rich in terpenes and essential oils, having long been used in indigenous medicine. White sage is also considered a sacred herb by Indigenous Peoples, who practice smudging to clear away negative energies in the mind, body, and spirit or to purify an area of the home. Woo-woo or nah, smudging has always made me feel happy and the space cleansed.
Sit Alone with Your Thoughts and Write in a Notebook
Sitting with your thoughts in a quiet place (ideally somewhere green) is a great grounding practice on its own, but have you tried sitting alone every morning and handwriting three pages to purge all your thoughts and feelings? Julia Cameron famously teaches this tool in The Artist’s Way. I’ve been trying it for a while now and I’ve discovered it’s helpful for writer’s block and daily morale.
Use Your Sick and Vacation Time (If You’ve Got It)
There’s a huge amount of pressure on hard-working Americans to just “suck it up” and power through when we’re feeling ill. But nothing’s as rejuvenating as taking a whole sick day to nurse yourself back to a healthy state. (And while you’re stuck on the couch, start planning your next much-needed vacation.)
SELF-CARE THAT DOESN’T WORK
I know baths are everyone’s go-to self-care ritual, and that’s great for them. To me, a bath seems time-consuming, unsanitary, and not as good as a shower. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice bubble bath with some Epsom salts, candles, aromatherapy, and maybe even a luxurious bath bomb from Lush. The problem with bathing in a soup of my own filth until I become a raisin is: I simply must clean the tub right before getting in, and then I usually want to do so afterward as well. Maybe if America had the kind of superior bathroom setups as they do in Japan, it would be a more enjoyable experience and less of a chore.
As someone who works at a fucking newspaper, I struggle to escape the never-ending stream of terrible developments that happen on a daily basis. There’s just too much. It can be impossible to look away from the dumpster fire that is our reality. At first it seemed like a good idea to self-soothe with a bunch of leftist podcasts and TV shows, and drown out the MAGA hats with my own echo chamber of delightfully angry resisters, celebrities, and pundits. In 2017, I would get off work after an entire day of being glued to the internet, then go home and watch The Daily Show or Full Frontal with Samantha Bee or Last Week Tonight. But eventually I noticed just how many of other people’s thoughts and words were swirling around in my head, not leaving room for my own stuff. So in 2018 I cut back on the number of podcasts I listen to; adhered to a strict news curfew (no news after working hours); banned all videos of Donald Trump; and stopped watching broadcast news altogether. And I feel 100 times saner.