One day, a friend sat me down. She was anxious and exasperated, and she needed to vent to a listening ear. There has been immense pressure on her back, she says, from everyday news, the pandemic, and the instability of her finances. We couldn’t find a single term that combined frustrated-scared-anxious-exhausted and the middle ground between that and manic. So I simply told her, cry if you want to. She did so, and she felt better after.
For the past few weeks, I couldn’t write. I spent way too much time steering clear from my deliverables. I stayed out as late as I could, surfed as much as there were still waves, played loud music in my bedroom, drowned myself in Pinterest, and binge-watched Gilmore Girls. Then I realized I was proceeding blindly into distracting myself to mask the true effects of my stressors.
In tinkering with my self-care habits, I’ve come to believe that it’s a profound and very personal process each time. Let me rally behind the concept that self-care is not a long road; rather, it’s an individualistic method to re-calibrate ourselves. Self-care is not exacting, stringent, or finite.
It’s present when you light your favorite scented candle or smudge sage. Or when you deep clean your bath, or when you get a haircut, or when you take a day off and sleep in. Self-care also comes in the form of tears (or a breakdown), before you sip your tea or after you’ve had 5 glasses of wine. It’s when you show up for yourself, even if it isn’t always a pretty spa day.
The act of self-care is an act of self-preservation.
When I say cry if you want to, I mean really cry if you want to. As human beings, we have a natural tendency to intellectualize our thoughts. The cerebral part of our brains tells us that we can only cry in times of tragedy and loss, or that emotions have to be reasoned out.
I disagree. There are triggers to crying as a reaction, but there are no necessary precedents for it. Emotional release could be aimless yet still make absolute sense.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to self-care. No one can hand you an instructional manual. But if anyone asks me what my self-care routine is, I say: take a moment and give it a good cry. Weep for something, or nothing. And don’t apologize for it. It works for me, even when I least expect it to.
I’m not making this stuff up. Harvard says that your body will thank you for it.