By ena ganguly
I wake up in the morning and drink two bottles of water. I put essential oil in my diffuser before bed. During the weekends, I do my skin care routine. I do laundry. I call my mamma. I go grocery shopping and I cook. I go to therapy. I eat ice cream and it’s midnight. These are ways I take care of myself. These are the ways I heal, process, and love myself. I understand it’s quite a privilege, to have the time and resources to do such things. It took a long time for me to understand that I need a high level of care, and mothering myself is always, without fail, inconsistent, messy and emotional.
In light of all that is happening in our world today, it is vital that we create routines for moments, if not sustained practices, of self-care. I know, ultimately, that’s something I’m working towards. We millenials talk a lot about self-care and self-love, concepts that perhaps never entered our parents’ generation, especially if they were and are immigrants, blue-collar workers and people of color.
Because we live in an era where we can see the distorted images of violence, bloodshed, genocide, political and climate upheaval, we are a generation that desperately needs sustained practices of restoration. A type of self care that goes beyond bath bombs and Korean face masks. And if coping is a part of that, then so be it.
Self care isn’t always pretty. More often than not, it looks like pretty gritty work. It looks like remembering to take medication. Cleaning the bathroom. Doing the laundry. Letting go of toxic people, toxic thoughts, toxic environments. It looks like creating a safe space within yourself. It looks like trusting those you love, and working to move through the trauma that has kept you from doing that, for so long. It looks like therapy. It looks like breaking through pain, to heal. Sometimes, it's also about sheltering oneself. Taking extended moments of respite from social media, crying, laying in bed, and not wanting to process all the things in the world, all the time.
Self care isn’t always what we think it is. Coping is a form of self-care to me, just like healing, processing and improving are extensions of self care. Sometimes, we need to cope, yes. It’s important, though, that we recognize when we are coping, and what we are coping with. Why do I crave to lay in bed and watch T.V. when I feel so intensely? Am I simply running away from my feelings?
If I recognize that I’m coping, I allow myself to do that at times. Yes, I am running away. Yes, I am overwhelmed. No, I don’t want to process all this right now. Yes, I want to watch Black Lightning, next episode please!!!!
And that is okay!
Other times, it’s not healthy for me to get stuck in “coping mode”. I still tell myself that isolating myself to go eat in bed is a form of self care, when ultimately, I know that it’s a move I make when I am coping. I alienate myself from others in the hope that I will have time to process and feel all these feelings, but I end up anxious, depressed and bitter. And I don’t want to be alone when feeling all that. When I know I get like that, I encourage myself to do something that builds momentum, not stagnation. I may write, or call a friend. I may take a nap then go cook with someone, or go out with my partner and try a new place. I try to be with others when I feel like I want to crawl up in a hole, and my body and mind thank me for it.
It’s important for us to be aware of our emotional bodies so we can be gentle and kind to ourselves. More than anything, it is important that we be kind to ourselves. Self care is not a competition. Take your time. Do what you need. Love yourself, regardless.