I always struggled with the concept of self-care, viewing it as a sort of vacuous, indulgent excuse to buy yourself nice things or hang around in your pjs all day. Being alone with my thoughts was, as it can be for many people, my idea of hell.
This ultimately says more about me and my inability to relax, something I was forced to reckon with at the start of the pandemic. Although society has opened up significantly and self care may not be the buzzword it was when this all began, the threat of another lockdown looms. We are still far from being back to normal, and the constant awareness of the threat of Covid adds to an ever-present undertone of stress.
Social media bombards us with tempting products that promise ultimate happiness, willing consumers to ignore the fact that the truest form of self care cannot be bought. In these scary times it’s important to discover what works best for you with regards to your mental and physical health. Here are some things I have discovered about looking after myself when the world seems to be falling apart.
I’m naturally a very scatterbrained person and have had to work hard to be organised and disciplined. However, without attention and effort on my part, my organisation will fall apart at the drop of a hat. This then leads me to intense anxiety about getting things done, which is why a simple but efficient structured routine is a perfect form of self care for me.
Maybe your social commitments have gone from zero to a hundred as society has reopened, and you’re finding it hard to remember everything. Why not plan your week on a calendar, whether physical or on your phone, and set little alarms an hour before each event? You can do the same with exams, essay deadlines etc. Adding structure to your life reduces stress and increases efficiency, especially if, like me, you’d end up staying in bed all day if you didn’t.
The little things
I was able to discover my version of self care by focusing on the small stuff: putting my slippers on over my socks in the morning so my feet don’t get cold later in the day, going to the corner shop to buy myself a pot of soup, using nice smelling shower products. I was sucked into the world of skincare videos and developed a pseudo – routine (sometimes just consisting of washing my face and applying moisturiser) which helped me feel like I’d made a little bit of effort every day.
The physical (and not just exercise…)
During the first two lockdowns I was taking online classes, writing all my assignments online, and working online as a video editor. The amount of time I spent staring at my screen left me feeling like a big ball of mush at the end of each day. I found that the only cure to this is to do something physical, and it doesn’t have to be exercise!
Anything that distracts your eyes and brain can be a break, whether it’s reading, baking, or going for a walk. Crafting became a huge source of enjoyment for me: through modelling clay, painting, and sewing my hands were occupied and my mind distracted from my online life. Running is also key for me, but we’ve all read the millions of articles banging on about exercise. While it has its many merits, for those of us who aren’t so athletically inclined, tapping into anything that gives your eyes a break from the screen can be just as good.
Talk about your feelings! If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of assignments you have, unsure how careful you should be around the new variant, or just feeling a little off, reach out to a person you trust. A simple text asking someone out for coffee can go a long way, especially if they’re struggling too.
If you want to be alone with your thoughts and talking feels a little too much, why not try journalling? Recording your emotions and thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness fashion can help you organise and understand your feelings, and sometimes bring clarity about certain situations.