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What Self-Care Really Looks Like

What Self-Care Really Looks Like

Last year, 2020, was no doubt the year of tremendous self-care. Between a global pandemic, an unprecedented presidential election, and protests against police brutality, self-care evolved beyond bubble baths and face masks into a means of survival.

Scrolling social media, it would be easy to think self-care is just perfectly curated Instagram posts, candles, and your favorite ice cream. In some respects, I suppose it can be. However, I gained a different perspective about self-care in September 2020, while listening to activists Angela Davis and Ericka Huggins speak on a Zoom webinar. Both trailblazing women are former members of the Black Panther Party who were incarcerated for their activism.

Huggins discussed asking her attorney for a yoga book, because she wasn’t able to stretch in her cell. The time she spent in solitary confinement sparked a meditation practice that she still does to this day. Davis struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression, as she awaited her trial in solitary confinement. She was prescribed medications and even tranquilizers but nothing seemed to help. One day, the Black Panther Party’s primary doctor suggested yoga and gave her a book. Both women began to think less about their incarceration and more about their well-being.

One of my favorite writers, Audre Lorde, amplified what self-care looked like as she documented her battle with cancer. Her book, A Burst of Light: and Other Essays, is now a statement for the Black woman identity. Lorde writes, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

By the time we had to self-quarantine last year, I had been working from home for five years. I had no transition to make; however, I quickly started to feel confined. Part of my self-care routine was working from my favorite coffee shop or bookstore a couple of days a week. I no longer had that to look forward to. Also, meeting in person with my writing group took away a much-needed community.

So, here is where I further changed my perspective: Self-care is not about being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself, so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can be creative, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish.  

As someone who has battled anxiety all my life, I lean into practices that focus on my emotional and physical health — writing, reading, journaling, walking, and meditation. Within my four walls, I began to check in with myself every day, to see how I was doing and what my mind and body were telling me. I stayed in touch with family through FaceTime, opened the cookbooks I had on the shelf, and rediscovered how much I love to create in the kitchen. I started showing myself grace if I was having a rough day, downloaded the Calm app (which helped me sleep better), and spent less time on social media.

With the uncertainty of a global pandemic glaring at me each day, it was more about expanding my scope of what self-care actually looked like. It’s different for each person. As self-care has become more mainstream, the definitions have started to become more relatable. Self-care is anything that you do for yourself that feels good and nourishing. That can certainly be something relaxing or calming, or it can be something that is spiritual, intellectual, or physical.

On Instagram, celebrities shared their self-care routines and tips. Kourtney Kardashian offered calming techniques and advice on sexual health. Gwyneth Paltrow advised people to “write a book, learn an instrument or language, or learn to code online, draw, or paint.” Our favorite girl Lizzo played her flute in a room filled with crystals promoting healing.

Resources such as BetterHelp and Talkspace have not only made professional counseling accessible but affordable. Through online chat, video, or phone, people can speak with a licensed therapist from anywhere at any time. I found both services were covered under my insurance.

There’s no right or wrong way to practice self-care because everyone’s definition is their own. It doesn’t have to be about spending money or having extravagant experiences (though it certainly can). Whatever brings you more joy, do that.

Truth is, self-care requires a personal commitment and intention to invest in your well-being. It’s a personal choice that is well worth the time and effort. If the pandemic year taught us nothing else, it’s normalizing being kind to and taking care of ourselves.

We all experienced various forms of change and indifference last year — not being able to mentally or physically stretch. It caused us to develop our own definitions of self-care so that we could survive through a difficult time. We also realized that self-care doesn’t have to be something to practice during difficult times, but it’s more about maintaining peace and focus at all times. It’s what we all deserve.

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