Self Care: It's not selfish; it's necessary
When Belle is lonely and feeling like an outcast in Beauty and the Beast, she picks up a book and escapes into the pages. Jasmine retreats to her garden with her pet tiger Raja. Simba repeats “Hakuna Matata” and Peter Pan flies with the help of happy thoughts. Even Mary Poppins recommends that spoonful of sugar to “help the medicine go down.” Sometimes, we need to take the advice of our favorite Disney characters and practice self-care. Self-care, in its most basic sense, is the care of yourself – psychologically, physically, mentally, environmentally, socially, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Self-care is different to each person. Many people have self-care routines built into their lives without thinking about it, without fretting about it, even without consciously realizing that they need it and are already doing it. It is when things change and those routines become interrupted that people need these self care routines the most. Here I’ve gathered some ideas, many familiar, some may be new to you, to help with your self-care practices. The first idea is often the easiest: make certain that the products you use at home are things you like. If you can (barring prescriptions or allergies) buy soaps and cleansers that have a scent you enjoy for everything. As an example, all of my personal hygiene supplies are either lavender scented or unscented. Anything I buy for use in the kitchen is citrus scented. These things make me relaxed and energized, respectively. Try to take 10-15 minutes each day to sit in silence with yourself. Meditate or pray, if those are your things. Sort your thoughts. Daydream. Plan your dream vacation or what you want to do when you retire. Rehearse a conversation that has to happen that’s making you anxious (only if it won’t make you more anxious). It can be helpful to do this with a friend or therapist. Read a book. Forget about what should be done (if it won’t make you feel worse) and escape into a fictional world for a moment. Or watch a movie. Immerse yourself out or in, which works better for you? Take yourself out to eat. No one else. Or go with a friend that won’t make you feel like you have to be sparkling and up all the time you’re together. Take a hike. Literally. Get out into nature and stretch your legs. Go camping under the stars or stargazing. Spend time with animals. If you can’t have any because of rental restrictions, consider volunteering at a no-kill shelter or other rescue organization near you. Ask if you can take a friend’s dog for a walk. Volunteer. Give of yourself in some way. It doesn’t have to be out in public if you aren’t comfortable with that. Many organizations also need envelope stuffers or other behind the scenes people. Find a free class and learn something new. Sit back and take a bath, light candles and just relax in the hot water. Here in Las Cruces we are fortunate to have the hot springs within driving distance! Get a massage or a manicure or pedicure or all three. Often there are schools that offer greatly reduced prices to help their students learn. Play a video game. Some people enjoy building things in a game such as Minecraft. Others feel that releasing anger with war type games is better for them. There are also puzzle type games that require you to immerse yourself in problem solving to play. Do a crossword or sudoku. Fix something. Clean something. These may sound more like work, but some people do feel better when they are doing something to change their environment. Decluttering our environment is good for reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms. Speaking of changing environments, find a cause to fight for! Locally, nationally, there are many causes that you can engage in to improve your social environment. Listen to or make music. Or both. Cook or bake something for you to enjoy. Whether that’s the chicken soup that makes you think of being a kid and safe on a stormy day or a birthday cake like Stephanie Plum, go for it! Make a list of the things you like about yourself. If you can’t think of any, make a list of nice things your friends have said about you. Go from there. Practice gratitude!! Make a list of things you’re grateful for, doing this for just three minutes a day can change your outlook. Put on your favorite outfit, your nicest outfit, or your most comfortable outfit - whichever you need right this moment. Make a blanket fort. Stay in it for as long as you want. Make tea or hot chocolate or coffee or your drink of choice. Work up a sweat somehow: go to the gym, play a sport, dance around your kitchen or go for a walk or jog. Call a friend. Building a support system is essential to your self care. Make an appointment with a therapist. Make an appointment with your doctor, dentist, or optometrist. Your physical well-being is of the utmost importance! Take the time to make the appointments you have been putting off. Let yourself wake up slowly on your own schedule, rather than to an alarm, if you don’t have to be anywhere. Sometimes the hardest things are the most basic. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Change out of your pajamas into daytime clothes. This list isn’t exhaustive, it never could be - self care is individualized. This list is not all possible for everyone as some of these things require time, money, or energy, and not everyone has access to any of that. Spend some time reviewing this list and see what speaks to you. Make it a priority to slowly add one or two things into your schedule each week. When you discover something that doesn't work, toss it out and try something else! Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. Everyone deserves to have themselves on their own side, to have the self-care tools that work for them at their disposal. If you truly find yourself struggling with this practice, seek a therapist who will act as a support for you! Maria Laquerre is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in addressing trauma with clients of all ages. Maria has practiced therapy in New Mexico since her return in 2008. Maria's current passion is supporting therapists in doing their best clinical work, which she pursues through offering supervision, consultation and trainings. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, discussing the psychology of pop culture and loves a good book!