Let’s talk about how to take care of yourself. Not the “self-care” that companies use as an excuse to get you to buy their shit, but how to cover the basic needs of your body and mind.
We all have a food we probably know we should eat less of. I’m not going to judge, but if something specific came to mind when you read that, you already know what it is. Maybe cookies. Maybe ice cream. Maybe take-out from a place that’s definitely not healthy but they’re always right there when you’re hungry.
Before you start beating yourself up about it, take a minute to plan out what you’d like your diet to look like, realistically. I don’t care if it’s high or low calorie, carnivore or vegan; but get yourself some kind of good food, and feed it to yourself early and often. Veggies. Protein.
If you’ve got healthy food in front of you, eat a lot of it. Then you won’t be so tempted by that tempting thing when it happens along. And if you do decide to treat yo’self, it’s no big deal because you’ve got such a healthy diet otherwise.
Exercise is ridiculously good for us. It reduces our risk for heart disease and diabetes, it sets us up for a lively old age, it sometimes takes the edge off depression or anxiety. Bottom line, your life is better with some exercise than with none.
So mark some on your calendar. If you leave exercise as your last priority in the day or week, it will fall off your schedule. Figure out what’s the minimum you can manage, then block off those times on your calendar.
No gym? Try bodyweight workouts, which you can do at home, or check out our guide to exercising in bare-bones gyms like the kind you might find in a hotel or apartment building.
It sucks to sit around in your own clutter, but we don’t all have the energy for a Marie Kondo-style purge.
So: Clean one thing. This should probably be a horizontal surface that you use a lot (or wish you could), like your kitchen table or your work desk or that pile that you’re pretty sure used to be a dresser. Spend 20 minutes and you’ll be surprised how clean it is. (Take before and after pictures!) Then declare it to be clean, and from now on, when you look at it, it won’t be “that mess of a table,” it will be “my clean table but with three things on it I should put away.”
What doctor’s appointments will you need to go to this year? What other big events are on your mental calendar? Pick a calendar (the default app on your phone is fine) and enter the important things, which basically includes anything you’re likely to forget. That deadline that you don’t have to worry about for another eight months? Set a reminder for seven months from now.
You get to decide what time to go to bed and what time to wake up, but make sure those two numbers match each other.
When you stay up late, whether to work or to party, there’s a line where you cross over from “gonna get a little less sleep tonight” to “tomorrow is really going to suck.” With practice, you will find that line; you probably already know where it is. Stop telling everyone you’re one of the rare human beings that can exist on four hours of sleep; you know you’re not. Go to bed.
Sometimes self-care is often a stopgap for care that somebody else should be providing for us, Shayla Love points out at Vice. To find peace of mind, for example, we look to bubble baths and meditation apps—but what if we lived in a society where we could count on good mental health coverage?
Recognize ways your society, family, or friends can help you, and ways you can help others. Should you go to the food bank? Can you give to the food bank?
If you need something you can’t provide for yourself, figure out how to get it. The first step may be approaching a friend or family member who can help you figure out what to do next. If you’re going through a hard time and you know people will ask how they can help, make a list of things you could use help with.
On the flip side, if you have the time and energy and money, consider agitating for better care for everyone else. That may be checking in on your friends, or it may be making some political phone calls. After all, building a better world is sort of the ultimate in self-care.