This article is part of the Self-Care Season Series, in which our writers get real about balance.
It’s safe to say that self-care has become something of a trend in recent times. Her Campus, along with several other online publications, has published numerous articles about how best to engage in self-care, what types of self-care are the most effective, and how to go about caring for yourself. There are many different definitions of self-care, but one common thread stands out to me in most of what I’ve read: self-care is a treat.
I disagree with this. As someone who hasn’t exactly given herself a ton of slack over the years (and still struggles with it today), I understand the appeal of a treat: a once-in-a-while, enjoyable reward for doing well on an assignment, getting a job, or maybe just for surviving the day. That’s all great. But I think that my own definition of self-care (because its definitions are inherently subjective) is more like a ritual. I’m talking a regular, daily, expected, reliable, ritual.
There are a few reasons for my formation of this definition. The first is that money kind of freaks me out. I’m an obsessive saver, and I hardly spend money unless it’s for a necessity like food or clothes or a gift for a friend or family member. I often get the impression (and maybe it’s wrong or ill-informed) that treat-yo’self-care is about buying things for yourself. Bath bombs, candy, new clothes or makeup you’ve been eyeing, a latte at Starbucks. All that stuff is great, but the accumulation of it puts more stress on me than it relieves.
I’m also apprehensive of self-care in the form of a treat because I worry that I’ll become addicted to it; then the treat wouldn’t be so much of a treat anymore. If your gift to yourself is going to be something decadent or special, it loses those qualities if it becomes regular.
However, I am a huge fan of regular self-care of a simpler, more internal degree. I don’t think caring for yourself is something that should be relegated to special occasions. I’ve found that it’s much more beneficial to participate in self-care every day, even when you don’t have the time or when you don’t feel like it—because that’s when you need it the most.
So what do I mean when I say self-care? For me, the most effective form of it happens internally, without things like chocolate or a new bag to guide you (again: I love those things, just not on the regular). Most days, I practice self-care by lying on my bed, closing my eyes, and asking myself: What do I need right now? (Keyword: need.)
Sometimes, I need to be alone. I take that time, for myself, just to appreciate silence or quiet music or the trees outside my window. I’d lose my introvert card if I didn’t recharge like this regularly. Other times, though, especially if something especially stressful or sad has happened to me, I need to be with a friend or two. I’m lucky enough to live near several close friends who are kind enough to hang out with me when I ask them, so help is never more than a hallway away.
Sometimes, I need to go outside. I love nature, and I think that a lot of my peace and stability comes from being outdoors. Taking a bike ride or a walk on the gap trail is a guaranteed way to make me feel valuable for my individualism, not just for what I produce.
Sometimes, I need a distraction. Thanks to the technology available to me, Netflix is always there for me when I need it. I keep a few of my favorite books in my dorm, too, so I can revisit some comforting characters and their stories.
These things may strike you as mundane. People watch Netflix and walk around every day. But I think the intention behind these acts is what makes them special. You aren’t watching Netflix because you’re procrastinating your psychology paper. You aren’t going outside just to walk from your dorm to a class. You’re doing these things because you’re acknowledging that they’re what you need, for whatever reason. To me, that’s the best form of self-care.