It was in 2016 that Google searches for the term “self-care” skyrocketed, and understandably so. Politics were stressing us all out. There were arguments, a lot of anxiety…it was exhausting. And you know that old saying, “You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.” So self-care, in 2016, meant taking care of yourself before caring about the rest of the world, such as politics. Self-care continues to be a commonly searched term on the internet. But the roots of self-care can be traced back further than the 2016 election. In fact, the concept of self-care that we know today has its roots in the civil rights, women’s, and LGBTQ movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
One of the most referenced quotes about self-care comes from Audre Lorde’s 1988 book of essays, A Burst of Light. She writes, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” You see, for those that had suffered from and had been fighting against discrimination, the idea of being mentally and physically healthy was the very basis of their fight for equality. Being able to care for yourself is a basic human right that everyone should have.
While that may seem pretty obvious, it was a radical statement to anyone that had been oppressed. They were starting to hear messages for the first time that their welfare was important. That their physical and mental state did matter. That they were worthy of acts of self-care.
So that’s where self-care comes from. I have to admit, I was surprised to learn its origins too. I thought maybe some yoga fanatics that meet on the beach at 5am created this crazy idea. But now it makes sense. Life is stressful. There’s work, school, family, friends, and you are juggling all of these things, but how often are you taking time to take care of yourself? To help relieve some of that stress from keeping up with your day-to-day schedule?
Now back to that yoga on the beach thing. I had this assumption that self-care meant doing all of these crazy expensive time-consuming things, like becoming a yoga master or making spontaneous road trips to the beach, or going off-the-grid for a couple of days to hike to the top of a mountain somewhere. Y’all……..I do not have time for any of that. I work full-time, I go to school, I have two kids, a husband, two dogs, a part-time job, an internship……you get the point I’m trying to make here. If I neglect housework or laundry for one day, it will set me back like you wouldn’t believe. So let’s be realistic, how can we practice self-care when we are pressed for time, all of the time?
The key is finding little acts of self-care. And I mean little.
I started making my bed in the morning recently. I used to just roll of out bed, and how the sheets landed is how they stayed until my return that night. Then I would just shut my door during the day so no one knew my room was a hot mess (sorry Mom, if you are reading this). Then one morning, I decided to take 2 minutes and make my bed. I mean, it’s not up to hotel standards but it’s an improvement. I got this strange feeling of accomplishment. Like I had just woken up, but I have already gotten something accomplished for myself that day. It was a good feeling. Yeah, my toddler wore two different sneakers to daycare (without socks), but my bed was made. And I did that. For myself.
This past spring, my husband and I took our kids to a museum. They had a traveling children’s exhibit set up. I love art. LOVE. IT. I hadn’t been to an art museum in years. So, I left my husband in charge of the kids, and browsed the open galleries. No guilt. Quiet. Just me and some 15th and 16th century art. And. It. Felt. Good.
See what I mean? Small acts of self-care that I could work into my day. It wasn’t expensive. It wasn’t time-consuming. I didn’t travel far. But it made a difference in how I felt.
The other important thing to remember is to find an act of self-care that you will actually enjoy. If you Google self-care, journaling is a common one to come up, and I even included it in my list below. Journaling just isn’t my thing. It works for some people, but not me. So making myself do something like that would just stress me out even more.
So find some things you love and enjoy, and get started! Self-care helps you manage stress, promotes a healthy work-life balance, and helps you maintain a healthy relationship with yourself. It really gives you a chance to enjoy life. Below are some small acts of self-care you can think about trying today. But the possibilities are endless, and there are a lot more ideas out there. 🙂
Until next time!
- Read or watch movies you enjoy.
- Unplug from your devices.
- Learn something new.
- Research something you are interested in.
- Take a class for fun.
- Take a quick nap.
- Eat something you enjoy.
- Take a long bath or shower.
- Do a mini-declutter,
- Help someone.
- Go outside, even if it is just for a few minutes.
- Donate, whether it is things or your time.
- Spend time with the ones you love.
- Look up at the stars.
- Take the scenic route.
- Stay in the car to finish listening to your favorite song that is on the radio.
- Make your bed.
- Connect with an old passion of yours.
- Learn to say “no” to things you don’t want to do.
- Do nothing, even if it is only for 10 minutes.
- Reach out to an old friend.
- Organize a small area of your home.
- Watch the sunrise or set.
- Watch a funny video and laugh.
- Light a good smelling candle or scent warmer.
- Go window shopping.
- Take care of your skin.
- Get enough sleep.
- Prepare yourself for the next day by thinking about what you need to accomplish.
- Binge watch on Netflix and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Take a mental health day.
- Learn mindfulness.