Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.
No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.

“Self care” has become kind of a buzz term over the last several years. That isn’t a bad thing; in fact, I think self care is one of the most important commitments a person can make. Taking time to check in with yourself and do something that makes you feel good is really, really important, even if it’s just taking a ton of selfies because you feel good in what you’re wearing. For a long time, I’ve associated self care with the “treat yourself” mantra. I do think the two go hand-in-hand to a pretty significant extent, but I’ve also found over the last few months that for me, it’s also really important to pay attention to how I’m feeling at any given moment about any given thing. It’s important to know where my insecurities lie, and why, and how I can live my life without becoming paralyzed by those insecurities.

For me, self care isn’t just bubble baths and fancy pasta for dinner (though sometimes it is, at its core, a glass of wine in a hot tub after a hellish work week). It’s also taking risks to better myself, making terrifying phone calls, asking for advice on how to do adult things from people who make their living giving that kind of advice, and ultimately, taking care of things to seriously improve my situation. I don’t feel comfortable blasting specifics on the Internet about everything I’ve been doing over the last several weeks to get my life in order, but I will say this: in the last two months, I’ve changed full-time jobs, sold my primary form of transportation, moved into a new apartment, and sought out a second job to help with finances. I took a look at my life two months ago and said, “something has to change”. Then I opted to basically change it all.

To the casual observer, I appear to be a fairly impulsive, adventurous person. At the age of 18, I moved 3,000 miles across country to go to college after being born and raised in the same little tourist town, only traveling to neighboring states until jumping on a plane to visit my parents in New Hampshire right before my senior year in high school. My senior year in college, I traveled to the Philippines alone. Last year, I moved to Rhode Island to live with my partner. Last month, I turned my life upside-down once more.

These decisions are misleading. I’m not really an impulsive person at all. I’m very much a homebody with a deep commitment to commitment. I don’t like mass amounts of change. That being said, I’ve discovered that when I get too comfortable, I become paralyzed with fear of change. That’s not healthy. That’s not okay. So the question is, how do I accept change into my life in little pieces so that when the big changes come, they’re less scary? I think the key is going to be checking in with myself on a regular basis — if not daily (because I’ll be honest, I’m not that on top of things), then at the very least weekly.

Another key to this process of adjusting to change as it comes rather than refusing to acknowledge it until situations become super dire is going to be (you guessed it) self care. It’s going to be serious levels of self care in the form of doing things I love (reading books, baking, cooking, making blog posts, making mixtapes, listening to new music, occasionally binge-watching television shows, keeping up with friends). It’s going to be writing in a journal when I’m feeling overwhelmed and even just to chronicle experiences in my life. It’s going to be aggressively tackling debt so that I can someday go back to school and maybe, just maybe, open the business I’ve started to dream about. It’s going to be walking every day (partially because I have to, now that I don’t have a car, but partially because I’ve found that it makes me feel really good). It’s going to be cuddling with my cats when I’m not yet ready to get out of bed but also getting things done so that I don’t get stressed out about wasting time.

I’ve always been a very driven person, but some circumstances have caused me to drift a little bit for the last few years. I feel as if I’ve grown up significantly in the last two months, moreso than I have since before I graduated from college. I finally feel like I’m developing again, learning and growing and changing into someone I want to be (someone I’ve always been, maybe). I finally feel like I’m properly learning what adulthood means and how to navigate it. It’s a scary thing. Terrifying, actually. But I feel good about things in a way I haven’t for a very long time.

Today I’m attempting some new recipes and watching Netflix’s “Sense8” in my underwear. I’m snacking on a little chocolate and earlier I called my best friend of over a decade just to say hi, rather than to cry over the 3,000 miles separating us about how everything is falling apart. It isn’t falling apart, not anymore, and that feels… incredible. I don’t have it all figured out just yet. There is still a lot that I have to take care of. But I have a plan, and it’s a pretty solid one, and that’s better than I’ve had in a long while.

I wrote this post with the intention of talking about how self care, for me, has turned out to be more about being productive and taking care of business than soaking in a bathtub or indulging in extra calories for dinner on a bad day. I don’t know if I actually accomplished that, but… here I am, 25 years old and starting to properly integrate into the adult world, putting the past behind me and focusing on the present and the future. I guess that’s a decent thing to write a blog post about, too.

Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

“If it might touch your bum, we want it to be really clean.”

Here’s the thing: I’m generally the type of person who’s pretty in control of what’s happening in her life. But I’m also a really emotional person, someone who sometimes gets too caught up in one thing and forgets to pay attention to everything else. Trying to juggle all of the responsibilities of being a Real Adult is difficult for everyone, I think, but especially when you’re just getting used to living out of your parents’ house and having to really provide for yourself in every sense of the word. I’m lucky to have an incredible roommate and a growing support system to help me with that, but I’ve still been struggling to get my shit together, and that’s been really frustrating.

After a few recent kicks in the ass from Life concerning my tendency to procrastinate and my bad habit of half-assing several things simultaneously, rather than whole-assing one thing at a time (thanks for that terminology, Ron Swanson), I came home last night and had a small breakdown about it all. Then, at the suggestion of my roommate, I made a list of things that are good in my life. I watched a stupid MTV show that made me laugh until my sides hurt and went to bed with a determination to start balancing my world again.

This morning, I meditated for the first time in weeks. I had a delicious cup of Constant Comment tea with agave nectar. I flicked through a few news sites on my phone. And after I dropped off my roommate at work, I came home, finished re-reading The Looking Glass Wars, took a nap, and got to work cleaning the apartment.

Cleaning Selfie
Very Serious Housecleaning #Selfie. Sports bra and shorts, scrubbing up a storm. (via Instagram)

Listen. If your life is out of order, clean your apartment. Seriously. I’ve never been someone who enjoys cleaning (and even now, I get easily grossed out, but my tendency to gag has been steadily declining, which I’ll call a win) but there’s something really refreshing about the act. It’s almost as if getting your apartment in order acts as a first step to getting yourself in order. Living in a clean place makes everything else feel a hell of a lot easier to conquer.

Today I swept and Swiffer’d the floors, scrubbed the bathroom sink, scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed at the toilet bowl, cleaned the tub, and even wiped down the two mirrors we have with some Windex so that they’re super clean. (As a bonus, that will contribute to mirror-selfie quality, which is obviously Very Important.) The place looks good and smells great and I feel like I’ve accomplished something huge.

My roommate constantly tells me that they like to clean, which has always seemed weird to me, but the longer I live with them and the more I help keep the place in order, the more I realize that they’re kind of onto something. Today when I busted out the baking soda to clean the tub and got down on my hands and knees to scrub sticky bits off the kitchen floor with Goo Gone and sprayed Method and Mrs. Meyer’s yummy-smelling cleaning stuff on sponges and scrubby brushes and paper towels, every bit of dirt that I picked up made me feel a little more focused and a little more in control. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

I’m taking a break to write this post before I delve into doing the dishes (including wiping down the dish rack and cleaning the counter underneath), but I feel good. I think getting overwhelmed by Life is normal, but for whatever reason, lately it’s felt like Life has been conspiring against me in every possible way. It’s not a good feeling, but I decided as I was cleaning that I won’t linger on it. Shit happens and the important thing is to do what you can with what you can. That’s a lesson I’m still learning.

I’ve made a mental to-do list for the upcoming week and I’ve made a promise to myself to start some new, healthy routines. People are messy and sometimes I get extra messy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take back control and start exceeding my own expectations again. I started with simple stuff, like tea and cleaning (man, cleaning!) and this week, I’ll do more of the complex stuff, like paying bills and making scary phone calls. I can do this Adult thing. I totally, totally can.

I had no idea that this kind of resolve could come from something like scrubbing a toilet, but if I had, I would have gotten into the cleaning thing years ago. If you have other suggestions for ways to redirect about the trajectory of your life, please leave them in the comments!

“If it might touch your bum, we want it to be really clean.”

The power of pampering yourself

To-do lists are a big part of my daily life. My time management depends on them, in fact. Without these lists, I often end up forgetting important tasks (like going to the bank and paying bills). I also forget to take little breaks from the important tasks to do things like: read for pleasure, make food that I can enjoy tomorrow on my lunch break at work, listen to a great mix on 8tracks, etc.

The relaxation bits are just as important as the business bits. If you don’t agree, then you should consider the importance of pampering yourself.

Admittedly, I often spend money I can’t afford to spend on things like sparkly nail polish and makeup. But I firmly believe in retail therapy and furthermore, in the power of buying products that make me feel empowered. So when I walk into a Lush Cosmetics or hop onto DressGreen’s shop on Etsy, it’s with that idea in mind.

Photo from my Instagram.
Photo from my Instagram.

Today, my to-do list consists of: editing articles, helping friends with their work, cleaning the bathroom, doing several loads of laundry, helping my parents cook dinner, and reading. I decided, after cleaning the bathroom, that I wanted to take a bath. I haven’t done so in weeks, largely because I never have the time (or I’m not home on the days that I do).

Let me tell you: this bath might be the best bath I’ve taken in years.

Thanks to the utter kindness of AR‘s mom, who gave me an Easter basket when I visited last weekend, I was able to immerse myself in a scalding hot tub full of bright pink, bubbly water. Part of her Easter basket contained a bath bomb from Lush Cosmetics, as well as a bubble bath carrot. The entire bathroom smelled absolutely heavenly, especially when I unearthed and lit a soy candle from my dresser that I haven’t lit since I received it as a gift several years ago.

I spent over an hour soaking in the tub, relaxing and furthering my reread of Harry Potter and the Prizoner of AzkabanAfter the water started to go cold, I ran some more and scrubbed my entire body with the last of a creamsicle-scented body scrub that I love. (Now that it’s gone, I get to used the coffee-scented one I ordered last week, a scent I currently use every day in bar soap form. Yes!) Then I shaved my legs. Then I showered.

I feel fantastic. I still need to do the laundry, finish my reread of this Harry Potter book (so that I can move on to the next), help my parents cook dinner, and do some more work. But I’ll be doing all of that with a new sense of purpose and more energy than I had this morning — all because I took a break and got in the tub.

Pampering yourself can make you feel refreshed and invigorated, as well as empowered. Taking little breaks to take care of yourself, even if it seems frivolous, will help get you through even the most daunting of to-do lists and the worst of days. Sometimes, a simple cup of coffee or a new manicure can help me feel better about a terribly stressful day at work. I may spend too much money on things that make me feel good, but the point is that they make me feel good. And in my opinion, that’s all that matters.

The power of pampering yourself