Treat yo’ self. Take some time for you. It’s self care! There is so much out there about the importance of self care. A quick Google search has you drowning in “ten easy self-care hacks,” “how to practice self care without spending a dime,” and “Taking time for you is important.” There’s also a billion and one think pieces on self care for people with mental illness. Particularly people with depression or anxiety, but as those of us who struggle with mental illness in vast and complex forms know, self-care is a project that can often seem daunting. It can even cause secondary guilt and anxieties around not practicing self care enough.
So, I am putting on my best Professor McGonagall voice and shouting, ENOUGH!. Instead, let’s come together and cast little spells, give ourselves what we need and not what we think we should need. Does that sound vague enough to you? Good. Casting self care spells is like a horoscope. These are simply skeletons. Words– lines, that you will fill with you and all of your beauty and all of your longing and all of your vast, complex, emotional variety. But it’s a secret, so keep it close. Hold it with you as you push through your days and just know that I, and others like me, are with you.
- The “Taking on the Day” Spell: You did it. You opened your eyes, the day is here. You are in bed with yourself, your partners, your trusted pet. But you feel heavy and exhausted. You are unsure of how you are going to slog through another one, like there is some sort of anchor around your ankles. So, you cast a tiny spell. Sit up, sit up, sit up, you mumble to yourself or repeat in that dawning mind of yours and, like pulled by some ethereal string, you do. And then you make coffee, make coffee, make coffee or take a shower, take a shower, take a shower. And you listen to your body and you take on the day one step, one task, one little spell at a time.
- The “Overwhelmed” Spell: If you are a student and a teacher like me, you get to work and realize that you have four seminar papers to write, an article to revise, and fifty papers to grade and you feel your chest start to tighten. It feels like there are mountains of paper piling on top of you, even if they’re not due for several weeks. And that’s okay. You just need to feel okay. So, again, you cast a tiny spell. You steal away to an office, a bathroom stall, a couch, someplace a little quieter. You hold a small object in your hands and, just for a moment, you let it borrow a piece of your heart. You let it tell you that you are going to take it one task at a time. That you can complete it. That the doors are not closing in. You stop telling yourself you are crazy and take a few moments to breathe. And then, when you are ready, you take back that piece of your heart and you walk back into your day.
- The “Stuffing Food in Your Mouth” Spell: You get home at 6 p.m. and you are exhausted. You just want to sit on the couch and watch TV or maybe crawl underneath of your covers and go to sleep. But you haven’t eaten yet and you are not sure that you can. You don’t have the energy to make dinner and you don’t have the money to order out. So, again, you cast a little spell. You stand in your kitchen and try to remember all of the grains in your cabinets, the fruits, the vegetables, maybe meat if that is your thing. You catalog them and wait for one to sound right. Maybe its some cheese or an orange or a pile of rice. Whatever. You did it, you envisioned that thing and you pulled it into your hand. And you chop it, boil it, or eat it whole. Eat it cold or hot. Sit if you need to. Listen to your body singing or moaning, but knowing that each little bite is feeding it. And feeding your spirit too.
These are just a few of my little spells. The point is that self care is not this grand act of pampering yourself or some heroic feat of scheduling. It can also be quiet, careful, loving, nurturing. It is you taking a quick moment to celebrate your ability to do one task at a time. To inhabit the present moment. And that is a magical act too.