Self-Care in the Moment

Life is hard. Period. It’s important to take care of yourself as you live your life and go about your day. As the term and idea of self-care has been popularized over the past couple years, so have general conceptions of what it looks life. You have probably heard of self-care before. For me, when I hear “self-care,” I think of face masks, Netflix, and ice cream on a Friday  — a reward for getting through the week. Now, while this is completely valid (and something I do myself and not just on Fridays), sometimes self-care shouldn’t wait until the end of the week or even the end of the day. We should look towards taking care of ourselves in the moment, if not every moment.

A way of thinking of self-care in the moment is thinking of ways to create safety for yourself when you need to. One conceptualization I think is effective is considering mental states as levels of balance. On any given day, your mental state should be in the middle, a safe place of homeostasis. It could go above, and this would be a state of anxiety, such as fight or flight — a tight feeling in the chest or butterflies in the stomach. Being below, or low, could correspond to a more depressive state. Self care in the moment focuses on bringing you back to the middle ground.

As an example, consider a stressful situation, such as speaking in class or at a public event. Think about how you can create safety for yourself, how to bring yourself back down to a level of homeostasis. This can take a variety of forms. One tactic is doing breathing exercises, before and after, to bring yourself back to this level center or your “safety” zone.  Another method would be taking breaks during the stressful activity to do such exercises in the bathroom.

These are just one of many ways to take care of yourself in the moment, and below are a couple more to try out. Remember that this care is for you, so it’s important to be self-aware of what works and doesn't work. — like many things in life, it is a process of trial and error.

  1. 1. Be self-aware of your feelings.

    In order to take care of yourself in the moment, you have to know how you are feeling and about what. Without being self-aware, you could try to take care of yourself in multiple ways without actually addressing your needs. For example, breathing exercises can be a way to help calm you down in a moment you may feel nervous or anxious. If your stomach is hurting from anxiety, you may need some water or food. Just paying attention to how you feel and why is the first step!

  2. 2. Breathing exercises!

    Breathing can help to relax and reset. One technique is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7, and then breathe out of your mouth for 8 seconds. If this may be difficult to do, whether it's holding your breath and letting go for those lengths of time or doing it in public, you can always breathe the way you normally do, but in a mindful way. Take deep breaths and pay attention to your body as you do so. Pay attention to the way your chest rises as the air fills your lungs, and to the air as you breathe in through your nose. Ground yourself in the present by your breaths.

  3. 3. Being mindful of the way you talk to yourself and offer encouraging words.

    The way we talk to ourselves and think of ourselves is extremely important. Negative thoughts about yourself can be internalized and manifest themselves in various ways. I know this is easier said than done, but try not to think or speak negatively of yourself. If you do so, try to have your following thought be a positive one or one that is affirming. “I’m not good enough” can be followed by “That’s not true. You are. Right now just might not be the best time and that’s okay.” Offer yourself affirming words. Talk to yourself the way you would speak to a loved one or yourself as a really young child. We are often more mindful of what we  say if we are saying it to someone else.

    Some of my favorite affirmations that you can try as well:

    1. I’m okay.

    2. It’ll all be okay.

    3. I am resilient.

    4. I am enough.

    5. I am the result and conglomeration of every ancestor and their actions, experiences, and love. I honor them.

    6. I am a living ancestor. What an honor.

    7. I am proud of you.

  4. 4. Be kind to yourself.

    This can be done in different ways, not just in words of affirmation to yourself as stated above, but also material indulgences or experiences. Think of how you can offer kindness to yourself, whether that be validation for the way you’re feeling, or the freedom to watch that episode (or season) of Game of Thrones and eat that ice cream (totally not talking about myself). Treat yourself in whichever way you can; a little goes a long way!