by Rachael Finch, Lakeville Branch Manager
Hi there. My name is Rachael and I work at the library. Currently in my home are three children, a husband, one sister, a dog, and a suspiciously haughty cat, all under my care and listed in descending labor-intensive order. Some of them are elearning, some of them are working from home, some have copious extra-curricular activities, some chase each other by the tail, and all of them are very loud. Oh, and I love them. In case you are wondering, the answer is Yes. Yes, I am very tired. And overwhelmed. And tired. And worried. And did I mention tired? Sometimes I fall into bed at night and count the days until I don’t have to set my alarm. But let’s not talk about that number.
Self care has always been really important, but these days it’s skyrocketing to the top of everyone’s list. Firstly, it’s important that we understand what self care really means. Psychology Today has a great article on the topic, and even thought it feels like homework, reading it might help us understand what self care is, and more importantly, what it isn’t.
So often, self care is portrayed as simply taking a bath, or painting your nails, or, I don’t know, looking at a particularly fancy flower. All of these things can be self care, but if you don’t want to be doing that particular activity, it’s just another task on a list, which is the opposite of helpful.
Self care is a choice. It’s a choice to check in with oneself and be sure we are prioritizing our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It’s important all the time, let alone during a bout of particularly stressful e-learning. I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips, resources, and ideas to help you on your self care journey.
Here are a couple of self-care “rules” I use for myself.
Make time for yourself. Sometimes you just have to stop worrying about everyone else, and prioritize you. I know what you’re thinking; “I don’t have time to brush my teeth, let alone set aside time for meditation.” That’s completely understandable. Don’t meditate if that’s not your jam. To quote every toddler I’ve ever met, do you want to color?
You could color for 15 minutes uninterrupted. Coloring books have come a long way, and can help you destress and refocus. This Cleveland Clinic article explains the benefits of coloring, like reduced anxiety. The point is, my friend, take time for you. Make a cup of tea. Stare out a window. Whatever you do, do it for you, do it because you like it, and write it in permanent marker on your schedule. This. Is. Happening.
It’s so tempting to slip into what’s easiest, but making sure that you eat right, sleep enough, and get regular exercise are important priorities in self-care. Not to say that you can’t eat a cookie (or 3) but fulfilling our most basic needs is a key step in self-care. And this goes back to rule #1–be intentional. Plan your meals early in the week, so you don’t have to sneakily eat crackers out of your kid’s snack bowl in lieu of lunch (not that I’ve ever done that…twice…this week.) And guess what? If you do eat those crackers for lunch, welcome to rule 3…
We’ve all heard that there is no such thing as perfection, and now is a great time to cut yourself some slack. We’re all trying our best in this wildly new territory, and that’s enough. Set realistic goals for your day and, if something isn’t perfect, forgive yourself and move on. Tomorrow is another day to try, try, try again.
I know I told you to stare out a window earlier, and I stand by that, but it’s important to remember to be mindful in your self-care. This rule is a good reminder that even if we follow all the previous rules to schedule our self-care and pick the healthiest choice available, it all means nothing if we aren’t paying attention. Be present. Enjoy this time. Don’t do it just to cross it off the list. Practice gratitude, and more than that, practice self-compassion. You deserve good things. You planned them, you prioritized them; now it’s time to be there with them and enjoy it.
Protect your Boundaries
Oh, I love this rule, which is saying a lot since it ruins the beautiful “be” pattern. Pay attention to your personal interactions and, if things get too intense, remember to protect yourself. Burnout–feeling exhausted by all the stress in one’s life–is a very real thing and especially important to monitor right now. Sure, be the best person you can be, but if you need an emotional break, by all means take a break. I’ve ignored countless texts in the name of boundary protection (sorry, friends.) Those things can wait a few hours if they need to. These days, many people are experiencing high levels of anxiety, and it’s okay to push pause on the rumination button whenever you need. Remember that self-compassion suggestion? Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to solve everything. Sometimes, all we need is a reminder to take a break. Be your own Marge Simpson.
Where to go now? Here’s a list of a couple handy dandy web articles to get you started. Click through for specific ideas about how to practice self care, what self care means, and how COVID has impacted all our plans, including self care.
Are you looking for some uplifting social media? Maybe try following some of these Instagram accounts for fast, positive self-care ideas. And sometimes, just a little good news.
Cleo Wade on instagram @cleowade
Alexandra Elle @alex_elle
Tanks Good News on Instagram. @tanksgoodnews