Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Take Care

I start my senior year of college in less than a week, which is equal parts terrifying and thrilling, but with the approach of my last first day of school has come a resurfacing of old fears, insecurities, and doubts. Since being in college and gaining more and more independence and responsibility I've learned that at this stage in my life my biggest responsibility is to take care of myself, which sounds so much more simple than it's been. The practical activities such as remembering to get the oil changed in my car and feeding myself meals more substantial than peanut butter toast have come fairly easy for me, but regularly checking in with my emotional wellbeing and taking time for "self-care" is a bit less intuitive. Over time and with the influence and support of my close friends I have found that really good, productive, and effective self-care is not just one thing for me. I can't just spend the day painting my nails and watching Say Anything, I've also got to cry about it, call my mom on the phone, and then share a pizza with my roommates. It's a lot! Sometimes it takes a whole weekend and sometimes I really really don't want to do it. But I'm always brighter and lighter after it all.

So, since it seems to be the season of sharing "back-to-school" tips I thought I would share what I think is the key to success - taking really good care of yourself. This is what works for me, maybe it won't work for you, but I hope that it might at least get you thinking about what might.

It would seem that my preferred method of getting my feelings out into the open is generally in the form of crying/yelling/word vomit, usually late at night when I'm too exhausted to hold it in anymore, to anyone who'll lend an ear to listen. I always find this to be the most painful part of my self-care. It means I have to admit to myself that something is wrong and that maybe I don't know how to fix it right now and that it's affecting me way more than I wish it would. But once it's out, it's out, and I'm not letting it back in. 
Unloading everything that's been swirling around inside my head and heart generally really really exhausts and often discourages me, causing a bad/mad/sad day. To be honest, I don't deal with bad days well. I thrive on being someone who is fun to be around and can lift other people up when they're feeling low, which is hard to do when I'm feeling low myself. But I'm really working on accepting my bad days for what they are when they happen and trying to understand that they can serve a purpose if I let them. So when a bad day does happen I let myself take the time I need to be grumpy and mope around eating every cookie in sight, forcing a cheery disposition onto myself won't help me or anyone around me. It's okay to let yourself steep in those feelings for a day. This article from  Darling Magazine is one of my favorite pieces of writing about dealing with bad days. 
I am firm believer that good self-care cannot happen in total isolation. In order to take a step back and really see the situation for what it is I need people who have some degree of separation from whatever issue I'm dealing with and can talk me down from my emotionally exhausted, and often irrational, state. My parents are the people in my life who are always able to bring me back down to reality and put things into perspective. They remind me that I've made it through every bad day that I've ever had and will continue to, that everything seems a bit easier after a good night's sleep, and that I am the one in charge of my own emotions.  
Recharging seems to be what most people think of when they think of self-care, but I find it to be most beneficial once I've gone in and done the work to pull out all of the confusion and frustration inside of me. Depending on your personality and your situation, recharging can be a lot of different things. For me, as a strong introvert, it generally means some good alone time. Taking time to cook myself a good meal, taking a long shower, putting on my favorite pajamas, watching a film, or cleaning my room are where my instinct takes me. It is also sometimes retail therapy but I don't know if I should be encouraging that. Simple acts that help your mind and body get back to equilibrium and make you feel a bit stronger than before - more prepared to tackle the days ahead.  

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