For the last eighteen years of my life, I’ve avoided self care activities. I’ve always just felt like they were a waste of time and energy that I could be spending doing something more important. Because of the quarantine, however, I’ve had a lot of extra free time in recent days and I’ve learned that taking care of your mind, body and soul actually IS worthwhile. I won’t bore you with the whole ‘drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet’ spiel because if you’re anything like me, the hardest aspects of self care are the nonessential (but quality-of-life-improving) activities that are often put on the back burner when you’re burnt out or depressed. So, here are my top tips for how you can start taking care of yourself a little bit better when you feel like you may not deserve to be taken care of:
1. Make Your Bed. This is such a simple, quick task and it can completely change your day, especially when you’re stuck at home! I never used to make my bed in the morning because I didn’t have time, but now that I’ve gotten into the habit of it there’s no way I could ever go without. It takes just a minute of your time, but it makes your entire space feel less cluttered and more comfortable. Plus, climbing into a well-made bed feels WAY better than wrestling with your sheets all night trying to get comfy.
2. Wake Up A Little Earlier. I know, it’s easier said than done. My sleep schedule has been horrible for… well, years actually. But setting an alarm to get up a little earlier and going to bed a little earlier in the evening makes me feel like I’ve gotten the most out of my day. I don’t know about you, but waking up at 2PM makes me feel like I might as well just not get up at all, since half the day is already gone. If you’re able to adjust your sleep schedule to more reasonable hours, it really might help you feel a stronger sense of purpose and intention.
3. Engage in a Hobby. When I’m really busy with school/work/extracurriculars, I often forget that I have a life of my own. Doing something creative like writing, practicing an instrument, painting, etc. can not only force you to create time to do something you enjoy, but it can give you an outlet to better express yourself. Plus, the sense of accomplishment that you get from finishing a piece or seeing yourself improve is one of the best feelings in the world.
4. Clean. Seriously. I know it’s not a lot of people’s favorite thing to do, and when you’re mid-depressive episode it can feel like the most daunting task in the world. But I’m not asking you to rearrange your entire home or Marie Kondo your life. Just pick up your shit. It really does help. Have you been laying in bed eating snack foods for the past week? Get those wrappers off the floor and into the trash. If you’re feeling really spicy, maybe you can even vacuum! I promise, you will feel way less overwhelmed if the amount of junk around you is less, well, overwhelming.
5. Take a Bath or a Shower. Yeah, I get it, this is like… basic hygiene 101. But when you’re depressed, it’s not that easy. You have to get up, get undressed, run the water, stand or lay there with nothing to do but think about all the stuff you don’t wanna think about, and then you’re cold and wet for awhile. It sucks! But it doesn’t have to. Feeling the water on your skin can help you reconnect with your body. Spending some time with your thoughts can be a good way to reflect and grow. And most of all, getting clean helps you feel (and smell) SO much better. The hardest part is getting started. Just start. I promise you’ll feel better.
6. Start a Journal or Planner. It’s a lot of effort, I know, but hear me out: studies show it takes about two months to start a habit, and this is a habit worth starting. Journaling allows you to get your thoughts out of your brain and out into the world. It forces you to reflect on how you’re feeling, what your days look like, and what you want to accomplish. And if that’s not enough, consider this: journaling is an amazing way to identify patterns in your behavior that influence the way you feel, which allows you to make positive changes to your lifestyle. A planner is equally valuable in that it allows you to lay out exactly what you need to get done so that you can feel a sense of control over your work rather than letting your work control you. A tangible, accessible way of looking at what you need to get done each day makes even the most hectic weeks feel more manageable.
7. Try Working Out. I’m not asking you to become a proper bodybuilder or to run a marathon anytime soon, but moving your body really does help. It grounds you, it wakes you up, it can decrease both mental and physical pain– plus, it’s a great boredom buster and it makes you feel good about yourself. Go for a brisk walk, download a yoga app, try an HIIT circuit; it doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you’re doing something. Your body will thank you.
8. Give Yourself a Break. Because of the quarantine, there’s more pressure now than ever before to do something incredible. Everybody wants to change their life, invent something amazing, improve as a human… but the truth is, you don’t have to do any of those things. Life is hard right now, and it’s scary. If what you need is a week to just sleep, cry and eat ice cream, let yourself take that time to heal. You deserve it. It’s going to be okay. Reach out to your loves ones, check in with the people around you, and give yourself the time and space to just breathe. You have time.