Last week, I covered mental health, a subject that I am passionate about because of my own history with it. I encouraged people to reach out to each other. I encouraged people not to turn away from their friends in trouble or from their own needs. But I know that sometimes it is very hard to do that, and sometimes anxiety, depression, or sadness win. The need to isolate follows.
When I isolate, I feel stuck. I used to spiral, and at times I still do. It feels like I’m on a train that won’t stop or that I’ve been knocked underwater in the ocean, and waves won’t stop pummeling the space above me. I finally realize that I have to let go, and so I retreat deeper beneath the surface until I feel strong enough to swim back up again. The problem with this is that the deeper I sink, the more pressure I feel from above. I lose more and more control, and the chance that I won’t come up again looms larger than before. No one can hear my voice beneath the depths, and depression is keen on getting me alone. But something I’ve learned is that isolation is one of the best times to see myself as I am and to nourish myself.
Self-care is a very trendy hyphenated phrase. It is commercialized as yoga and meditation and green juice, and those things can all be integrated into caring for yourself, but the very core of self-care is a reminder of what you are worth. When my therapist and I brainstormed about how I could best practice self-care, I came up with ideas like going to yoga or vegging on the couch. Instead, she encouraged me to ask myself a few questions. When did I last have a full, healthy meal? When did I last take a shower? Is there anything about my space that makes me unhappy? How can I help myself feel balanced and peaceful?
The core of self-care isn’t to look outside of yourself for stability but to make sure your basic needs are met. So, sometimes it means taking a break or skipping a class to have coffee with a friend, but mostly, it means nourishing yourself, your body, your skin and your mind. It means that you drag yourself out of the hole in your room and bake some chicken. You put on fresh, clean clothes. You brush your teeth.
While the list above might seem mundane, basic care tells your body that it is worth caring for. Love isn’t extravagant gestures. It’s repeated acts of respect and kindness. You show yourself love by living healthily, by drenching yourself in warmth. You self-care when you let yourself cry. You self-care when you clean your room, creating a joyful space to exist in. You self-care when you read your favorite book before turning out the lights. You self-care when you set healthy sleeping patterns. You self-care when you refuse to participate in unhealthy relationships or life practices. You self-care when you set boundaries for yourself and others.
A tenant of staying alive is realizing that you are worth living for, and we will never learn this truth from other people. No, we must teach ourselves. I encourage you to try to recognize when you need to love yourself a little more, and then I want you to be brave enough to show yourself the same love you think everyone else is worth.
Sometimes, caring for yourself looks so much more difficult than laying on the couch and medicating with poor life choices, but you’re not looking to dull your pain. You’re looking to completely reset your path. Anything that reminds you of your inherent value as a person is self-care. Poor mental health tells you that self-care looks like a loss of inhibition. It doesn’t. Self care is time, peace and love. It is saying that you are worth self-respect and boundaries, and then it is living out that mantra.