Self-care isn’t just an act of loving oneself; it’s a way to fight oppressive attitudes and behaviors that surround you on a daily basis. American women report higher rates of stress than their male counterparts, and BIPOC report higher rates of stress than white people. Unfortunately, these studies do not count nonbinary folks in them, so we do not have an adequate reflection of those struggles, but we imagine them to be similar, based on personal experiences and the accounts of friends and peers.
Audre Lorde, a Barbadian feminist, advocates for self-care, saying “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Even legendary Angela Davis says that the biggest thing that she has learned from young activists is the importance of self-care. “Self-care has to be incorporated in all of our efforts. And this is something new,” she said. “This holistic approach to organizing is, I think, what is going to eventually move us along the trajectory that may lead to some victories.”
We may have developed a high tolerance for emotional pain and physical discomfort, but that does not mean that it isn’t incredibly important to stop and listen to our bodies instead of trudging on through the emotional and political frontlines of being a woman, femme or member of another marginalized group in this society. As activists and revolutionaries, we often dismiss the importance of physical self-care as mere acts of vanity. For femmes, presentation is often part of our presentation, and complex beauty rituals part of our heritage and identity. However, folks within marginalized identities often do not have the money for these things.
Here are eight ways to fight the sads and give yourself space for self-care.
1. Take a Bath.
You don’t have to have the latest and greatest bath bomb to get a great deal of pleasure and relief from taking a bath. Just a plain bath of hot water is good for your mind and body and calms the soul. However, if you want to take it up a notch (or several) but do not want to leave the house, there are tons of things around the house to perk up your bath.
If you want a super easy bubbly soak, this is a great recipe. If you are a bit of a kitchen or craft witch, you may have glycerin to make this amazing blend — and then have plenty left over for future baths. If you are sick and need a deep detox, this ginger soak is an excellent choice — but beware, it heats up! The internet is aglow with homemade bath ideas, so if these don’t sound good, there are tons of other options.
If you are a bigger-bodied person or have a disability that makes taking a bath difficult or dangerous, a hot shower with luscious-smelling gels or a mood-lifting DIY shower bomb will save the day. If you’re reading this on a good day, perhaps set aside a day to create some of these wonderful bath and shower bombs and soaks. Future You will totally thank Past You.
2. Move Your Body, Take Deep Breaths.
Move your body for the sake of movement and the joy of feeling it function in whatever way works for you. As a person with a disability, I understand that this is not an easy thing for everyone — and then there’s the body politics of exercise for the sake of weight loss. Don’t do it for weight loss — do it to celebrate the feeling of your muscles stretching, the cleansing energy of deep breaths and the opportunity to change the physical space that you are in — especially if that space is contributing to your emotional funk.
If you are unable to take a walk or take your mobility device out for a stroll, you could potentially do some stretches from your seat or bed. Get your heart beating while taking deep breaths.
3. Get The Hell Away From Social Media!
When you are already feeling down, social media can take you further down that rabbit hole. Feeling acutely single? All of those “happy couples” staring back at you aren’t going to help — and neither is stalking your ex’s page. Having a bad body day? Quit comparing yourself to other folks on the internet. If you can’t fully unplug, distract yourself with a craft project, book or movies.
4. Sometimes Self-Care Looks Like A Netflix Marathon, But Be Mindful of the Content.
You know what? It’s OK if you need to wrap yourself up in your warmest, fuzziest blanket to watch six episodes of The IT Crowd before you take a shower … even if that shower is followed by crawling back into your dark blanket cave with your cat to watch a few more. If you feel like this is becoming a habit that you are having a hard time breaking, set some alarms to disrupt your zombie-like concentration on your show. If you are having some really dark feelings, perhaps keep the content of the shows lighter; maybe instead of The Killing, you might switch it to The Mindy Project or at least switch to comedy or animation every few episodes.
5. Collage or Journal About It.
Sometimes it can help to write out your feelings or create a visual representation of where you are at emotionally or what you want. Allow yourself to get lost in the project. It doesn’t have to be a perfect artist rendering. Sometimes the act of cutting beautiful or meaningful things out of magazines is enough to calm me.
The same thing goes for journaling. It does not have to be technically well-written to give you relief or help you gain insight into a problem. If writing a journal entry feels daunting, create a list. Start with writing out simple words that describe what you are feeling, the things that are bothering you and what you want. You’ll find yourself writing full entries before you know it.
6. A Hot Beverage Can Feel Like a Nutritional Hug.
You know how great that bath felt? Sometimes a hot cup of tea, cocoa or even just plain warm water can do similar things. Hot beverages can ease constipation as well as relaxing other muscles, improve blood circulation and they promote digestion. Additionally, a mug of hot water helps promote detoxification, especially with a spritz of lemon. The body absorbs the hot water with greater ease, rather than having to bring a cold beverage up to temperature. Dehydration can affect your concentration, mood and cause anxiety and cognitive disabilities in people.
In general, folks should consume between 6 and 8 glasses a day, and if you are a bigger-bodied person, consider more. If that sounds like a lot, remember that tea and naturally enhanced water (think: a slice of lemon, cucumber and mint or a splash of lime juice or sliced up strawberry) count toward your intake as well. Just don’t add diuretics like extra sugar.
7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Food Choices.
Following that advice, if you need comfort foods while you are depressed, don’t beat yourself up over these choices. Whether you are a fat liberationist or a fitness addict, everyone has a different relationship with food. Sometimes we find comfort in familiar foods and carb-loading.
When I get sad, I often eat my feelings. It may not be great for my body, but sometimes it’s a Netflix and snacks kind of night. I like to give myself one day of less-healthy foods, otherwise I don’t feel physically well beyond that. Listen to your own body — it will tell you what it wants.
8. Have A Spa Day or Just Do Your Hair/Makeup.
I may be a femme who loves the ritual of doing my hair, makeup and choosing my outfits, but I’m also fairly low-maintenance. When it comes to my home life, it’s yoga pants and a tank top. I often work from home or spend long days writing in a low-key space, so I do not always feel like there is a reason to do my hair or makeup. Often, that is the source of a minor funk that I may find myself in.
One of the ways that I fight this is simply by giving myself a spa day. I hit up Daiso, pick up a few $1.50 face, hand and foot masks, a nice exfoliant, break out my moisturizing creams and pick out a hair mask. I’m a bigger bodied babe, so sometimes taking a bath is more work than it ends up being worth. Taking a hot shower and treating my hair, skin, and soul well often are enough to force me out of the house.
Everyone has ups and downs. If you find yourself down more often than up, please talk to someone. There are some things that Netflix, tea and spa days cannot fix. Please do not be afraid to ask for help. People love you and are here for you.
If you need someone to talk to, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There will be someone there 24/7 who is willing to listen and help. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone.
We see you, we care about you and we want you to thrive. You’ve got this — and if you don’t, there are people here to help. We believe in you.