The news isn't good again. I can't remember the last time I read the news and felt anything other than dread and sadness. I feel like a collective anxiety has taken over most everyone I know. In times like these, it is important to remember to take care of yourself -- and easy to forget.
Body Maintenance: did you shower today? That counts! Eat food, drink water, brush your teeth? This is all literal self-care in that you are taking care of your body. Anything you do to take care of your body, from a haircut to trimming your nails, is all a part of self care. While you may not have energy for full blown exercising on your low days, try stretching for five minutes for both a sense of accomplishment and to relieve tension in your body. I personally love doing a forward bend that is supported by a sturdy chair (mostly because I have zero flexibility.) The chair helps me feel steady while the bend takes a lot of tension out of my back.
Space Maintenance: doing the dishes, the laundry, taking out the recycling (my own personal struggle) -- all of this is actually about taking care of yourself. Not only is your life better when you have clean clothes, clean dishes, and room to walk in your kitchen (again, I struggle with recycling), it is a way of saying "I matter." This stuff is not fun and is often the first to go when we're stressed out. And then it piles up. And then we feel really bad about it. So do yourself a favor and pick one of these chores and work on it for five to ten minutes. Wash two dishes, sort your laundry, bag your recycling -- you don't have to do it all, and you will feel better after.
Social Maintenance: Reaching out to friends via text, email, or even social media is another way of taking care of yourself. Everyone needs a support network, and any time you spend maintaining yours will ultimately help you better take care of yourself. Feeling extra ambitious? Don't just reach out -- make plans! And even if you feel really tired and like you just can't, I encourage you to keep those plans. Again, you'll likely feel better after. It helps to make plans closer to your house or even at your house if you are feeling extra low energy.
Luxury Maintenance: Here is where all the usual self-care stuff happens -- shopping, bubble baths, vacations, spas, resorts, etc. These definitely have a place in self-care, but they are not always as accessible as some folks need/want them to be. Self-care doesn't have to look like a wine tasting or yoga retreat. But if that is the type of thing that helps you take time for yourself, go for it! But also spending extra money on time saving can be a great form of self-care. For example, I get my groceries delivered (yay NYC!). I know a lot of people who use laundry drop off services. Some folks use meal kit services to inspire them to eat more variety. Research has suggested that people feel better about spending money that saves them time more than other purchases.
Dream Maintenance: This one is harder to define, because everyone had different dreams when they were growing up, and a lot of people have had their "dream life" change as they got older. But we all want something. Finding a way to keep that dream alive, however small, is a huge part of taking care of ourselves. For me, it is constantly trying to make room for writing in my life when I have so many other things (like recycling) taking up my time. I also have been actively pursuing my professional dreams like starting my own private therapy practice, and while these goals are hard to focus on and sometimes seem impossible to accomplish, even sitting down and brainstorming steps helps me feel better. Doing research, planning to take a class, finding fellow hobby enthusiasts -- these are all ways that people keep their dreams and interests alive. Dream maintenance is all about keeping hope going -- imagining a future that is better than where you are right now. Even in these hard times -- especially in these hard times -- it is essential that we can picture a brighter tomorrow.
Try making and keeping a list of ways you like to take care of yourself to refer to when you feel sad, down, and stuck in your life.
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.