Perhaps because I’ve hit a certain age (cough cough, officially in my 30s), or maybe because my interests have shifted hard toward self-preservation since Donald Trump took office - I’ve found the focus of much of my personal time has moved toward trying to be good to myself. The phrase “self-care” absolutely enrages me, but I guess we’ve all signed on to call it that, soooooo… here we are…
Over the past year I’ve tried to understand what “self-care” (ugh my nose crinkles every time I write it…ick) actually means for me. There’s a zillion products & brands across beauty, wellness, skincare, and personal care dying to sell us things to achieve a self-cared state. I’m a sucker, so I’ve tried a few. A couple of them are helpful, but I have to believe that self-care is more than buying stuff and waiting for it to make me feel good. And here’s the kicker: self-care isn’t usually about treating myself, or making myself feel “good”, per se. A lot of the time it’s work…most of the time it’s not glamorous. I sometimes feel like my brain is sprinting faster than my body and soul can, so I’ve tried to focus my self-care on bringing myself back to a state of sync. I try to divert energy from my brain and direct it toward my body/soul. It typically results in moving in slow-mo, enough that I feel like I am deliberately slower than the Information Age raging on around me. This isn’t an easy task when you live in the Techie-Disneyland that is the Bay Area. But I try.
Now that I’m up on my pedestal, let’s kick it down real quick: I am not above treating myself to a nice, calming face mask!! I love the Glossier Mask Duo, I also like a couple of Origins masks: Out of Trouble and Drink Up Intensive. They are a lovely, indulgent treat.
But here are the things that really make me feel like a human in a body.
Unplugging. Leaving my phone off, leaving it at home, not checking emails, ignoring social media, realizing that it’ll be okay if I miss a few news updates or a text from my sister. Good or bad, it’ll all be there when I return. The effects of unplugging start to take effect after three hours of separation, and it works best when I can get away from technology for at least five hours.
Eating food with a focus on how I’ll feel in an hour instead of how it’ll feel in the moment. Cooking in general. This is about balance. When I’m stressed I sometimes let myself have an immediate, indulgent, distracting food: usually ice cream or candy. But then I try hard to think about food that is both satisfying and restorative in the long term, and I try to cook something that will a) take at least an hour, and b) feed my body what it actually needs. I love making lemon-y chicken noodle soup or sopa de lima from scratch. Chopping onions, feeling the resulting eye burn. Holding a oily, heavy lemon in my palm. The sound of vegetables sizzling and softening in oil or butter. The slippery-ness of an egg noodle in broth. I zone in as hard as I can on the details.
Phoning a friend. There are only three people on earth I still have long phone conversations with. Those conversations are an unequaled balm for my heart, on happy days and hard ones. (Sidenote: I wrote lots of letters as a kid, and I’ve always wished I had someone to write to as an adult. There’s something time-stopping about putting a pen to paper and accepting that you could pour into a page that doesn’t have a “delete” button: even scratching out a word is a deliberate, considered choice.)
Walking, an irrationally long distance if possible. Most of the time a long walk is heaven for me, but sometimes its a hell of me forcing myself outside on a shitty day while I’m seething with anger or crying with frustration. No matter how I enter a six or seven miler, I come out of it with a beating heart and warm cheeks. Sometimes my head is more clear, sometimes it’s not - the real payoff is in the trying.
Staying on top of medical needs and appointments. So unsexy, and so easy to ignore for years (believe me, I have). Dealing with doctors and appointments is so annoying and nerve-racking to me that I struggle to this day to make myself deal with it…but isn’t that so, so stupid?? That I feel like my health is a nuisance to be dealt with?? Oy. I’m promising myself right now that I will have a physical before the end of 2018 (and I’m not gonna tell you how long ago my last one was 😳).
Listening to classical music, or music in other languages. Especially on vinyl. I’m a musical magpie: obsessed and enthralled with shiny things. I am not overstating when I say that I have music playing during 97% of my life…I come from a family of musicians, and as a result music has been my entire world since before I could talk. I’m a pop music fanatic, and pop is typically pure serotonin. I love it. But when I need to slow myself down, listening to music that takes a while to build, or that has lyrics I can’t understand, can feel meditative. Since I always have music on in the background I have a habit of not paying super close attention to it, so it also helps to listen to things on vinyl. I try not to multitask (no simultaneous reading, nail-painting, or chore-doing), and just sit on a pillow on the floor and pay attention.
Making out. For a really, really long time. Until I feel like shimmering heat on desert dirt.
Drinking tea out of a mug at least as large as my head. I cannot tell you why this works. I can only tell you it is a silver bullet for my overwhelm.
Reading something printed on paper. I spend most of my working and commuting hours (~10 hours a day) hustling between my phone and laptop, reading and replying, typing and sending, staring and staring and staaaaaring at screens. This goes along with my first point, but getting away from screens is absolutely crucial for my health and happiness. Reading something, literally anything, on printed paper helps me slow down. Magazines and newspapers work well, but nothing tops a great book. If you need some book suggestions, NPR just came out with their best books of 2018, and you can narrow down by your desired genres. I narrowed down to “Cookbooks & Food” and “Love Stories”, and got The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo - I can’t wait to pick it up.