“Self-care” has been a buzzword in the wellness and lifestyle community for some time now, especially on social media, where the hashtag accompanies Goop-esque photos of scented candles, yoga poses and acai bowls. This depiction makes it easy to write it off as fluff — an indulgence for those who have privilege and too much time on their hands.
But in this moment of high anxiety, with the threat of political worst-case scenarios and the loss of affordable health-care becoming a reality, learning to take care of yourself has become essential.
So why does a concept that should be intuitive perplex so many of us?
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“Most folks hear ‘self-care’ and think ‘I can’t afford to take a week off right now’ or ‘a bubble bath isn’t going to solve my problems’,” says Melissa Fabello, a body acceptance activist and writer based in Philadelphia. But they’re overthinking it. As she puts it, self-care is “simply making it a priority in your life to take care of your physical, mental and spiritual health.”
There’s your new year’s resolution, handed to you. Now, how do you get started?
Find your happy place
The first step to practicing self-care is figuring out what makes you feel good, from how you spend your time, to the people you surround yourself with. And those things will be unique to you.
“If you know that a used bookstore on a Sunday morning sounds like heaven to you, make more time to go!” says Fabello. “If you know that old friend Suzie brings negative energy into your day, don't answer her phone calls as often.”
Develop a better response to stress
Learn to identify the signs of high anxiety, and how to address them. If you notice your chest tightening up or your hands getting clammy, stop what you’re doing and take a moment to ground yourself, says Fabello. And that doesn’t mean leaving your desk to take a 45 minute yoga class.
“Do something small that resets you so that you can come back to the task at hand in a state of mind that allows you to work through the [stress], instead of trying to force yourself through it to the point of tears,” Fabello says.
That could be as simple as remembering to breathe. “One of the best practices to take care of yourself and your body is to simply deepen your breath, pause, and feel it,” says Joanna Andreae, a holistic health coach and guided meditation teacher. The best part is that it doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere:
“Breathe deeply for three minutes on your commute,” she suggests, or “take a few moments to feel the expansion and contraction of a deep breath in bed before going to sleep.”
Make time for reflection
“I always recommend people journal in some capacity,” says Andreae. If you never got into the habit, or the last time was when you were writing “Dear Diary” in grade school, Andreae suggests starting small with a gratitude journal. “Every AM (or PM) while brushing your teeth, jot down 3 things you're grateful for,” she says. “Eventually, this practice shifts your mindset to a much more positive place.”