Self-care is important in all facets of life, but it is especially vital when dealing with a mental illness. There are so many different ways to achieve self-care, so it’s never too hard to find the perfect fit for you!
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity or practice that can ease your mind, clear your head, or just make you feel more calm and peaceful. The purpose of engaging in self-care activities is to schedule some “me-time” for yourself. Life can be stressful and you may not always know what is around every turn, but taking time for self-care puts you in the driver’s seat. Even if the only control you have during the day is an hour for yoga or art class, these small amounts of time can add up and really produce a positive change in your life.
Is there a right or wrong way to engage in self-care?
NO! Part of what is awesome about self-care is the “self” component. You are the star! If you try out a self-care method and it turns out not to be your cup of tea, scrap it! It may take some experimenting and some trial and error, but once you find that sweet spot… the difference it makes can blow your mind. While your friends may engage in certain self-care techniques that they recommend to you, don’t feel pressured to fit their mold. For instance, my best friend always goes on a run when she feels stressed and needs to clear her head. However, when I go on a run, the result is sweat, shortness of breath, beet-red skin, and probably even more stress than before (if you can’t already tell, I’m not a runner). Take the advice of your friends or family with a grain of salt, and explore what works best for you!
When looking for my perfect self-care technique, where do I start?
Great question! There are many different categories that self-care techniques can fall into, such as exercise, music, and creation. For example, exercise as self-care could mean running a few laps around the block, or it could mean doing some sit-ups while you binge watch Netflix (killing two birds with one stone, score!). In the expansive realm of music, you could find anything from singing in the shower to learning a new instrument. As a violinist, I’m partial to that category, but I can confirm that the screechy string sounds of a novice musician can be less than pleasant (just ask my mom). Creation is possibly my favorite category because the sky is the limit. Creation could mean painting something that expresses your emotions, cooking a creative dish with whatever you can find in the kitchen, or planting some flowers to create a beautiful new aesthetic landscape. In fact, this is exactly what I used as my most recent self-care technique, and I’d be more than happy to share my story with you.
Gardening as a form of self-care is relatively new to me, as I live in Texas and working hard in the 100-degree heat was not always my first choice. However, this summer my parents commissioned me to help transform our backyard. This included going to the dirt yard in my pick-up truck, bringing dirt back and moving it around the yard to create flower beds, buying and laying bricks as a border, and purchasing and planting various flowers and plants to turn my parents’ vision into a reality. At first, I was only in this for the money, because I’m not the biggest fan of sweating (which I did a LOT of on my first day). However, as I continued working, I realized that this landscaping work almost transported me to another world. With my headphones in and the rest of the world shut out, I was free to think about anything I wanted. As I was shoveling dirt out of my truck and jamming to my tunes, I wasn’t worried about the summer reading I had to do, or the sporadic work schedule that I received that week, or even how I was going to make it up to my mom after I lost track of time and stayed out until 3:00 am the night before (which, if you know my mom, is something I probably should have been worrying about). With nothing but the [slight] breeze, the sun shining, and birds fluttering around my yard, I felt a million miles away in a nature-filled, stress-free world.
In my case, I wasn’t even searching for a new self-care technique, but it essentially fell into my lap. My previous go-to activities included painting, journaling, and of course, napping. But finding a new technique is always fun and informative because you get to learn a little something about yourself! So, the moral of the story is, don’t be afraid to try new things and always make self-care a priority, even if you think you don’t have time. Trust me, taking time to relax will save time that could have otherwise been consumed by stress; and we all know that stress-free time is the ultimate goal.
By Jackie Miller, AiT Contributor