What Does “Self-Care” Look Like?

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Blog, Write Now Columbus Essay Archives


Self-care has gotten a bad rap. Bubble baths. Pedicures. Massages. But what does self-care really look like? Recently, here’s what it means for me.

My Current Experience of Self-Care

When Ed was in the hospital, self-care to me meant going home every night to sleep in our bed. The alternative was a hard, too short, not quite wide enough pull out sofa under the air conditioner ceiling duct by Ed’s hospital window. It meant buying a small, green salad from the hospital cafeteria and trying to make the salad portion larger than the macaroni and cheese portion. Self-care meant finding a long, almost empty hallway, and walking back and forth. The nurses forbade me from doing laps on the cardiac ICU ward. I needed to burn anxious energy and didn’t have time to run.

Once Ed was home, self-care meant going into the basement for 10 minutes without my phone. I only did that once. I returned upstairs to liquid food all over the floor because the feeding tube line had come unhooked while Ed was napping and Scarlet was lapping the spillage off the floor. We had to clean the recliner, Ed, Ed’s clothes, the floor, and the dog. But that ten minutes alone in the basement was nearly worth it.

Mid-pandemic, mid-revolution, mid-book launch, and now that Ed is on the mend, self-care looks like longer, slower runs, and walks with the dog after dark when the humidity and temperature have dropped enough that Scarlet can go more than half a mile. I also reach out to others even if I prefer not to talk to anyone and listen instead of giving advice. Holding space for others who are hurting helps me as much as it does them. Self-care also means blogging more often, doing more writing practice, and reading deeply.

What Does Self-Care Look Like for Others?

A friend whose mother is in a nursing home finds solace by sitting outdoors in a lawn chair outside her mother’s window where her mother can see. Her mother has dementia but smiles at the nice lady who visits her. My friend takes a long nap when she gets home.

A runner friend has embraced hard training. The long miles and intense workouts reduce her anxiety.

Some writers have started new books, while others are back to basics, filling blank notebooks with ink.

Thousands of people are taking care of themselves by protesting and pushing the edges of society in an effort to break hundreds of years of racism to smithereens. For others it’s choosing to buy books by authors of color and supporting black-owned businesses because the person is immunocompromised or lives with someone at-risk. I support them by buying from black-owned businesses and listening to any of my friends who are in a marginalized group. It’s a way to care for my heart.

And what about the people on the front lines? How does a doctor or a nurse or a restaurant worker or a janitor or a teacher or a bus driver take care right now? And how about the people with children, especially the single parents, who are trying to work while school and daycare and summer camps and vacation are all essentially cancelled? I’d bet their self-care looks a lot like that ten minute break I stole in the basement, ten minutes that resulted in more work than if I hadn’t taken it.

Internal Self-Care

But let’s not forget internal self-care: Meditation. Therapy. Mindfulness. Mantras. Affirmations.

For my inner self-care, I joined a 28-day meditation challenge. It’s free to essential workers and activists, and is offered on a sliding scale to everyone else.

And you?

What does self-care look like for you? I would love to hear from each of you.

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