Accessible self-care practices
I wrote an article on living well with mental illness and I found myself essentially writing the same article. Let’s talk about accessible self-care.
When one of my friends quit her low-paying, crappy job, everyone (mostly the higher-ups with reasonable salaries) was suggesting things she could do to relax before she started with her new company. “You should totally go to the Scandinave Spa!” was one of the well-intentioned recommendations.
When I heard this, I was kind of outraged. How dare these people with their comfortable lives tell this girl to go to a luxury spa that is miles away? Did they not realize she couldn’t afford a week between jobs and wanted to start immediately so she didn’t miss a pay cycle?
It dawned on me then that, yes, while these people were trying to recommend things they liked to do in their down time (as we all do, and what I'm about to do), they weren’t accessible to all of us. You know what? It’s not their fault that they have a different level of privilege here – but they should have been more mindful of their suggestions.
As we know very well, self-care is unique to the individual. Not everyone huffs essential oils as aggressively as I do, or is as willing to go broke for a week just to buy them as I am. Maybe you do want to try yoga – but you’re nervous about being in a group class, or you don’t have much money to start.
Well, I’ve got you covered. I’ve been broke, uncomfortable, scared, panicked, and all of the above at once. Self-care is crucial to our well-being. We all deserve to make time for ourselves, understand our individual needs, and feel those damn feelings. And we definitely don’t need exorbitant amounts of money or a picture-perfect life to make it happen.
Here are my suggestions for accessible self-care rituals:
Read things that make you feel good.
You likely already have books around you. Right now, I’m certain you have an internet connection. Pick up that old copy of Peter Pan. Search for blogs with feel-good listicles by like-minded people. Go into the depths of Wikipedia. Find out what Kesha’s favourite lipstick is. Read gossip magazines. Just read. Focus on those words and the feeling they give you.
My favourite things to read: I love celebrity gossip, and I’ve been keeping tabs on Spencer Pratt for years. I also re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I need to feel comforted.
Separate yourself from your cellphone.
I made the terrible mistake of choosing to only have a work phone that I also use as my personal phone. Don’t be like Elizabeth – separate yourself from work as much as you can. I am communicating with others nonstop throughout the work week, and every minute of my social life. It can be very demanding and it drains me. I need to be silent and inaccessible sometimes, and that’s okay. Emails will eventually be answered. My friends will still be there when I get back to my texts.
What I do to unplug: I pretty much abuse the “Do Not Disturb” function whenever possible, especially to keep things from disturbing my sleep/concentrated activities. However, I have people who would need to contact me in case of emergency (some family members and friends), so I put them on the “Favourites” list – it lets them bypass the DND and my phone will ring if they call.
Practice (hear me out here) mindfulness.
Mindfulness is really just being aware of your thoughts and feelings and how they can direct your actions – you don’t need to go to a fancy class or buy expensive books to learn more about it. You can practice it every day, for as little or as long as you want. Eventually, it becomes second nature and a really great tool to go back to whenever you’re feeling stressed or like you need to check in with yourself. I have a really hard time meditating in a standard way (i.e. sitting quietly, breathing, zoning out) so if you feel the same, I’d recommend trying this out.
How I practice mindfulness: If I start becoming frustrated with myself, I’ll catch it and ask myself why. For example, the “not working out” thing: I’ll get so annoyed that I’m “being lazy” and “not doing anything” and “should go to the gym.” It starts making me anxious, and that’s when I know I’m being a jerk to myself. I’ll sit and think about how I feel instead – I’m not going to the gym right now because I had a long day and I’m tired, I’m feeling cranky right now because I haven’t eaten in a couple of hours. Then boom. I know what I really want and need, so I can stop feeling the pressure of the “should” thoughts.
Truly. Again, because I have difficulty sitting still, I enjoy the mindful movement of yoga. You can easily drop into your body and your mind - the benefits are endless. The best thing about yoga is that everyone can do it, and now there are more ways than ever to access the practice and learn at your own pace. While there are ridiculously overpriced studios, some offer lower-priced drop in classes – I’ve been going to the same studio in Toronto for about three years and they offer select $9 classes. A little research goes a long way!
My favourite resources: When I was first curious about yoga, I was terrified of going into a class without foundational knowledge – and my mobility was very limited. I stumbled upon Yoga with Adriene and my life was changed. Body Positive Yoga offers a series of videos with modifications for different body types and disabilities. Good to know: a ton of studios offer energy exchange programs. You can volunteer for a couple hours a week and get free classes :)
Talk to a friend.
Sometimes, self-care is recognizing that you need to reach out to someone. When was the last time you had a deep, meaningful conversation? Call your best friend and talk about life. When was the last time you laughed at stupid shit? Send some memes over Instagram. You are under no obligation to spill the details of your personal turmoil if you don’t want to – you can just engage with another human being to feel better. It can be as deep or as shallow as you need. Communicating this may take the load off. I’m very lucky to have a couple of people I know I can talk to about anything, and I’ve slowly come to understand that I am not a burden to them if I’m reaching out. Real people wouldn’t make you feel that way. That makes it easier to remember I have the option of talking to someone when I need to – and I know it’s often the hardest thing to do when you least feel like doing it, but sometimes it could be the best decision you’ve made for yourself.
When I need a friend: After tons of practice, it’s now easy for me to shoot a text that says, “I’m fucking tired” and have it go from there. Sometimes, that’s literally all it will take to distract me or solve a problem.
Let yourself feel fine as hell.
Sometimes, you gotta embrace the good lighting and #selfiesunday that shit. Throw on some music; shake your shit. Overdress for work. Be naked on your couch. Eat pizza. Take a shower/bath. Slather that lavender shea butter lotion on. Masturbate. LEARN to LOVE YOURSELF and let yourself feel it. To me, that’s the root of self-care. Keep your cup full by knowing what you need to do to make you feel good, and understand that it’s perfectly fine if you don’t feel good. Want to feel good? Let it happen any way you can.
Things that make me feel fine as hell: MAKING A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO LOVE MYSELF MAKES ME FEEL FINE AS HELL. That’s all it takes. I’ve learned so, so, SO much since I found the body positive community on Instagram. All of these people are striving for the same thing I am – to love themselves and embrace and appreciate their differences. My favourite person is Kenzie Brenna, a body positive activist and actress (who I low key hope I bump into one day).
Self-care isn't always cute and warm like drinking tea and watching Netflix - sometimes it's carving all of your feelings into a piece of paper and throwing it away, asking for help, allowing yourself to recognize your worth. That's what I mean when I say it's crucial to our well-being. You may have noticed I repeated "practice" throughout this article. Self-care is an ongoing practice that you have to dedicate yourself to in order to see the positive results. You'll experience disappointing failures and joyous success along the way, but you'll eventually come to realize that nothing is more satisfying than learning what works for you.