I’ve been working in human services for about 15 years now, so the term ‘self-care’ is as familiar to me as vegemite and cheese sandwiches.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked in workplaces how I ‘take care of myself’ or how many handouts we give out to help people remember to ‘take care of yourselves’.
You all know what I am talking about: take a hot bath; write in your journal; do deep breathing meditation; go for a walk etc. etc. etc…
These things are all SUPER important, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded once in a while to stop ‘doing stuff’ and just relax or exercise or heap love on yourself or just to get up and take a shower on those really bad days.
But the reality is there is no such thing as one size fits all. And some of the things that are considered ‘not taking care of yourself’ are in actual fact the exact right things for YOU.
So here’s an alternative ‘self-care’ list
(and you won’t find ‘taking a hot bath’ anywhere)
- Buy a bubble-making gun. Go bubble-crazy!
- Make a cake for a treasured family member or a friend and invite them over to eat the whole thing. If taking care of others makes you feel good- do it.
- Write an angry ‘Letter to the Editor’ (or blog post or Facebook rant) about an issue you really care about. One of the most annoying things about the ‘take care of yourself’ mantra is that the people I journey alongside in counselling have genuinely experienced terrible injustice. As professional helpers we do too, and it’s just really super hard sometimes. ‘Getting a massage’- while awesome- doesn’t respond to that injustice, so sometimes finding a way to speak out and find ‘alternative justice’ is a great self care tool.
- Post a picture of yourself on Facebook at your absolutely worst. Really looking like crap. Don’t caption it.
- Sing. Loudly. Or crank the tunes if you can’t sing. In your house or in public or on a mountain or in your car. Ignore stares or the voices (real or imagined) that tell you your voice is awful. Sing louder. Dance too, if you feels.
- Ring someone. Someone you don’t usually call but just really want to talk to when you scroll through the numbers on your phone. Out of the blue. They’ll be cranky initially (because let’s face it, who RINGS anymore without at least 3 pre-planning text messages) but then they’ll be so happy you called. You’ll talk for an hour. That’s a week-long buzz right there my friend.
- Binge-watch Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race with carrot sticks, chocolate or your own wig collection and a mate who loves dress ups. Say everything great is ‘Sickening’ forevermore. And remember: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?!” Can I get an Amen in here?
- Think about any time you have ever been kind to yourself. What does that kindness look like? What thought did you have or action did you take to support ‘being kind to yourself’? Think or Do that thing again. Right. Now.
- Get drunk. Go out, sit in a bar, watch a band, talk shit to your friends and get stupid-drunk. Dance your arse off. Do not worry that you are 45 in the shade and… ‘what will people think?!’ Just cut loose. TomorrowYou will want to kill TonightYou, but maybe, just for now, TonightYou needs to LIVE.
- Don’t get drunk. Go out, sit in a bar, watch a band, talk shit to your friends, dance your arse off, stay out all night completely sober but with the freedom of a drunk. Tell everyone proudly that you were sober the next day. Or tell them you were drunk, whatever: who cares what they think.
- Text a friend- old or new- and say: ‘hey. I’ve had a rubbish week and I really need someone to talk to. Coffee’s my treat, are you free?’ Authenticity is brave and amazing, and 99% of the time people love being needed.
- Text a friend and say ‘S.O.S: I need you to come over and keep an eye on the baby while I sleep. Because I’m desperate for sleep. Love you.’
- Have wonderful consensual fulfilling sex with someone who loves and respects you and your body, and who you love and respect. This person may not be someone you are in a committed relationship with, but they should be someone who absolutely adores you, who cares for you and your needs, can look you in the eye with love, and makes you feel good about yourself without any kind of empty hole or self-questioning. Have a damn good time.
- Masturbate. Using whatever help you need with your body type and whatever material turns you on (so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else!) There are websites these days portraying sex that celebrates genuine diversity and is not misogynistic or violent featuring a variety of human-looking consenting adults, such as ‘make love not porn’ where you know the people are real and enjoying themselves. Masturbation is an excellent form of anxiety-relief as well as helping you feel more in control of your own body and giving you a good idea of what turns you on. Make it an event even if you feel nervous.
- More on that topic, particularly if you are a woman and have received messages that this is ‘wrong’ then the next bit is especially for you: Buy yourself an expensive silicon lady-friendly vibrator (you can go to women-owned and gender-diverse-friendly stores online such as Pleasure Box), light some candles and pick up a sexy novel or Google something you’ve always wanted to. Be loving and kind to yourself. Be cheeky and really tune into your body, what feels good. Touch that. Add some Mindfulness if the shame bubbles are holding you back: Notice the thoughts coming into your mind: ‘this is embarrassing. I’m ashamed. I can’t do this’ Notice them. Allow them to be as they are, don’t try to change them. Watch/envision them floating down a beautiful trickling creek in front of you on a lovely bed of fallen Autumn leaves. Then pick up the vibrator. And remember: women can have multiple orgasms, or continuous orgasms. So you don’t need to stop after one. You may find yourself rolling around in a fit of giggles or exhausted the likes of which you didn’t know! Then go one more time. NB: nothing has to go ‘inside’ your body if you don’t want it or it doesn’t work for you. The clitoris is on the outside… but if you aren’t aware of that, check out information and advice from Cyndi Darnell (she was featured on Luke Warm Sex recently on the ABC) or other lovely sex therapists websites to get your self-game on.
- Spend money. On something you definitely don’t need. Or a vibrator.
- Find an image on Google or in a magazine, or an item that represents something you really value about yourself. If that’s too hard, think of something you value in your life and a memory that supports why you value that something. An example could be:
“Cooking Alongside”, because you have a special memory of cooking with your mum in the kitchen. Drench yourself in that loving memory, and form a little story tracing any and every time you have continued a tradition of “Cooking Alongside” (insert your own value and memory of course).
- Make a complaint to a professional conduct body, or the Ombudsmen, either online or on the phone. Don’t listen when people tell you to calm down, if something is seriously bugging you about the way you’ve been treated by a service then you have a right to complain. The Ombudsman can also let you know if your matter can be taken further. You can also write to the Minister. I have seen real change happen for those courageous enough to do this. Even if you don’t send it, it can help to gather your thoughts and feelings into a strong, succinct complaint.
- Do a Google search of every gym/yoga studio/dance class/music lesson in your area (whatever ‘that thing’ is you want to try but haven’t for some reason). Get the free lesson or the ‘two week’ cheap trial or whatever is offered. Even counsellors usually offer a free initial consultation like I do. Then allow yourself to do the next freebie on offer. Don’t feel obligated to sign up until you feel ‘This Is The One’. Sign up with whoever or whatever makes your heart sing or your body happy or your brain sparkle with sparkling growing neural passages.
- Dress your dog up in a stupid costume. Take photos. Unapologetically and proudly post 17 shots on your Instagram account.
- Grow something. Anything. Some parsley or a $2.50 ‘pot of colour’ from your local nursery in a bucket with a hole poked in the bottom. Be proud of however long it survives for. Put it on Insta! Do not feel like a loser when/if it dies. Just chuck something else in there. Dig your fingers right deep in the dirt and wriggle. Feel dirty and enjoy it.
- Write a letter to someone who would stand beside you in knowing that you are an OK person. A person who gave you hope or love or kindness when you really needed it. A person who, through those actions, showed that you are valuable and worthy or made you feel like you COULD. You may not even know them- they may be a musician or a sports star, or a beloved pet, or someone who has passed away. Write to them from your very soul, don’t leave a thing out. Decide if you want to give it to them, and if not then store it somewhere you keep Treasured Things.
- Stroke your own naked arms. Seriously. Downward, slowly, from the shoulder to the fingertips. Experiment with softer or harder pressure, with love, take you time. Do the other side. This kind of arm-stroking is called ‘Self-Soothing, and it’s great for kids too (you can show them by doing it on their arm for them at first). Simple.
- Find a forum online that is about an issue you experience or a situation you have survived. Instead of giving out meaningless advice or getting angry at the morons that have inevitably commented, find someone who you really think you can help with your story, in all it’s uniqueness. Reply to this person anonymously if you wish, but dig into your vulnerability.
Write to this person as though your life depended on it.
As though theirs does.
Exit the forum.
Know that what you wrote made someone feel heard, understood, braver and stronger.
- Get comfortable in your body and hug yourself. Tightly as possible. A major swaddle. If your body doesn’t quite do that, get someone safe and awesome to hug you, or even wrap you in a blanket if you don’t like touch, no questions asked. Seriously give yourself the most almighty cuddle. You deserve it.
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