Self-care is not a product. It doesn’t come in a box, it isn’t something that you can keep replenishing at your local drug store or find a knock off brand of.
Self-care is not a room. It’s not a cozy, cushioned atmosphere of safety with impenetrable walls and a lock on the door.
Self-care is not a destination. You can’t escape to it, counting down the days until your vacation where you pamper yourself after deserving it for so long.
Self-care is constant. It’s a decision making process. A state of mind. A tool box. You do not have to earn self care. You do not have to buy it, wait for it, or escape to it. It is always with you, within your grasp.
There is knowledge about looking after yourself that you can carry with you always.
This is your Self-Care To-Go Guide
- Breathing techniques
like this gif above, 4-7-8 breathing, and alternate nostril breathing can all help to calm you, get more oxygen into your bloodstream, and help you focus
- Know your Go-To’s
Whether it’s an outfit you feel confident and comfortable in, a meal you can make with your eyes closed and always have ingredients for, a song that makes you feel happy, or the time you have to leave by to make it to work on a normal day. On days when making choices, or even getting out of bed seems impossible knowing your go-to’s can make miles seem more like feet.
- Make yourself feel safe in public
If being on the subway, in crowds, or the thought of people looking at you makes you uncomfortable than find tools that make you feel more in control. For me, it’s sunglasses – I feel safer when people can’t look me in the eye. For others it might be a book, headphones, and carrying important objects like a wallet or phone in your pockets instead of a bag.
- Know your confidence
Whether it’s in a power walk, wearing lipstick, or doing a certain task at work. Knowing the things that make you feel more confident are important. Being able to give yourself a pick-me-up by doing something you know and are good at/can rock will make you feel safer and more calm.
- Have an anchor
This can be a mantra you repeat, a person you talk to, a physical object, or something you know to be true. Know what brings or keeps you grounded.
- Understand your boundaries
Often we come across situations that we haven’t encountered before and don’t know if we’re comfortable with. This can cause panic to arise, and uncertainty to take over. Knowing and understanding your boundaries is important – even if you don’t know how they apply to the current situation – you have a basis of knowledge and experience that you can go back to and find points from.For example, you’re at a new job and being trained for cash. You’ve never done this before and the thought of it makes you nervous. You know that you are bad at math, but good with people. The anxiety here would be the money aspect. You know the till will do the actual math equation for you, all you have to do is count out the physical change.
You knew your strengths and weaknesses and could therefor find comfort as well as a solution to your anxiety. This is also beneficial because it helps you focus on a solution instead of the problem which is empowering
- Look out for your future self
Sometimes avoiding the things that make you feel anxious seems like a good solution. It can be if it’s going to a bar, or hanging out with a friend and you don’t have the social energy. All of these things deserve consideration though, especially if you’re like me and panicking can sometimes lead to not being able to go to work. At the time it can be a relief. If you have to pay rent, buy groceries, and pay bills then that missed day of work can later lead to a deeper panic. You have to be able to decipher if how you’re choosing to take care of yourself now will affect how you can take care of yourself later.
- Be honest
It’s simple. Be honest about how you’re feeling and why. Even if it’s just with yourself. If it helps, be honest with another person too. Call someone you trust and tell them you are having a hard day – even if you don’t know why. The act of taking what you’re feeling outside of yourself can really help lighten the load.
- Give yourself a voice
This is a lot like the point above, but giving yourself the power to voice how you are feeling takes away power from the things inside of you that are telling you you’re scared, anxious, worried. I always tell my coworkers and partner when I’m having a tough day. Not only does it make me feel better to not internalize everything, but it helps me to try and change how I am feeling, be aware of how others are affected, and also let the people in my life know that it’s not them.
- Keep a plaster kit on you
To patch up the things that make you feel bad. If hunger is something that deeply affects you, keep snacks on you. If dehydration is a problem, try and always have a water bottle handy. If you feel like you have too many thoughts floating around in your head, bring a journal with you to release some of them. If you have nervous energy, bring silly putty or knitting with you so you can do something physical. If you suffer from OCD bringing hand sanitizer or having an organizing game on your phone may help you. Whatever it is that makes you feel the most uncomfortable, nervous, or self-conscious put a remedy for it in your bag or pocket.
- Bring your focus inward
A lot of the time we are in ourselves. In our thoughts, what we’re experiencing, how we’re feeling. But when we actually focus on these inner experiences, look at them for what we are and how we’re letting ourselves conduct conversations with ourselves a lot of magic can happen. Yes our feelings and experiences are valid, but are we perpetuating things that aren’t making us feel good simply by how we are thinking about them? Try and give your negative thoughts a positive spin and see how you feel.
These are all tools. They may not all be useful to every individual, but it’s a start to building your own Self-Care To-Go Kit. We can’t always be at home in our PJ’s, or determine when anxiety is going to hit us. But we can be prepared for these things.
Take some time to find out what works for you. Write it down. Make a physical version of your kit with little reminders and tools if that’s your thing. Ask questions, find answers, and seek solutions. Don’t limit what your self-care looks like.
Written by Forest Greenwell