Now that the United States is run by bigots who’ve made it their daily work to increase the oppression and marginalization faced by everyone who is not white, cis, hetero, able-bodied, and wealthy, there’s a lot more conversation happening around the importance of self-care. This uptrend is wonderful and much needed as self-care is central to maintaining physical and mental well-being while navigating life in a toxic environment. This is especially true for members of PoC, disabled, and LGBTQ communities, as most of the heavy lifting required for reformation hangs on our shoulders alongside our societal burdens rather than on the shoulders of our oppressors where it belongs. We are unfairly tasked with protecting and caring for ourselves while the government fails to do so, which makes practicing self-care far more necessary for us. This is why it’s astonishing that most suggestions for the “best” forms of self-care — taking vacations, spa-days, trendy fitness classes — are options that are inaccessible to a large portion of PoC, disabled, and LGBTQ folks and make self-care seem like a luxury rather than a right and a necessity.
Those previously mentioned self-care options are great for those who have access to/can afford them, but they’re also pretty exclusive and privilege heavy. Most spas and fitness classes are still not safe, welcoming spaces for trans, genderqueer and non-binary people, and their services often only cater to the able-bodied. Plus finances are historically tight for members of minority groups so this model of self-care ultimately leaves far too many people out. They’re getting it wrong. Self-care isn’t just something you do once in awhile as a reward after fighting through the sea of bullshit that is life right now to give you just enough energy to keep hanging on. It’s more than a band-aid, it’s a mindset. A lifestyle that can and should be accessible, simple, and part of a daily routine.
Here are some of my favorite deglamorized methods of self-care.
1. Do Everyday Things With Intention
There are things you’re likely doing mindlessly everyday that can easily become moments of self-care if you slow down, take an extra few minutes per task and do them with intention. Focus on the sensation of your fingers slipping through your hair while you wash it and massage your scalp. Turn putting on lotion into a mini massage and as you run your hands over your skin, note any muscles that feel sore or tense then give them a little extra love. Stop a few times throughout the day and just breathe, really paying attention to your breath and heartbeat. These little check-ins with your body can tell you a lot about where you hold your stress and help you find a way release it.
2. Create Something
Creating engages multiple senses and brain functions so it’s a fun way to get in touch with your feelings. There’s a reason coloring books have become such a huge trend lately. Everyone is stressed the hell out, and coloring is fun and soothing. Getting in the zone while you focus on a task is amazing for stress relief and when you’re done you have something badass — art, a playlist, a song, a recipe, a mess — that you made to be proud of.
3. Set and Maintain Boundaries
Boundaries are the ultimate self-care tool. Their whole purpose is to protect and maintain your peace and safety, and in a time when every day is an attack on your personhood creating and standing firm in your boundaries is key. This can mean setting digital boundaries which could look like curating your feeds to block out as many triggers as possible, choosing your troll battles wisely (if at all) and setting limits on daily social media use. Set emotional labor boundaries, like knowing when to stop teaching others at the expense of your well-being and giving yourself a break from taking care of others. Or, work on social boundaries like saying no to socializing if you’ve been avoiding time with yourself or yes to catching up with a friend if you tend to isolate.
4. Communicate Your Needs
It can be scary to advocate for yourself so explicitly, but the alternative of silently struggling with feeling overburdened, unfulfilled or neglected will burn your rainbow out with a quickness. If you need help, ask for it. If you need space, express that. The more honest you are with yourself and others around you — and clearly communicating your thoughts, wants and needs — the more your support system and the universe can conspire to make sure those needs are met. Take care of yourself by letting others know how best to support you in doing so. It can be scary to advocate for yourself so explicitly, but the alternative of silently struggling with feeling unfulfilled or neglected will burn your rainbow out with a quickness.
5. Celebrate the Small Things
Sometimes getting out of bed and onto the couch is the biggest thing you will achieve in day, and that is okay. Sometimes thinking about getting up will be your biggest accomplishment, and that is also okay. Everyone has low days, and if you’re living with trauma or mental health conditions, being gentle and kind with yourself and learning to be proud as fuck of even the seemingly small things you accomplish is an invaluable self care skill. If you do one thing — feed yourself, answer an email, wash a dish — be your biggest cheerleader about it. Throw away that napkin that’s been sitting on the floor directly next to the trash can for longer than you care to admit then be as hype about it as those videos of parents that do way too much at their kid’s graduation. It’ll feel silly at first but feeling silly is better than feeling hopeless, and it takes an amazing amount of strength at times to do things that feel simple on better days. Try to make peace with where you are, accept that it can change daily and that’s normal and okay,
And hey, realizing you can’t care for yourself right now and need someone else to is also really really great self-care.