I feel like self-care is a term that has been splattered across pastel Instagram posts, reminding us all to go for a walk, have a bubble bath, and breathe. Then there’s the next layer of self-care which tells us that looking after yourself doesn’t just mean taking a bubble bath and lighting a candle. It’s more than that, it’s setting boundaries and being honest, going to bed early and eating vegetables.
It seems that types of self-care are being pitted up against each other, all in a competition to be the most authentic, and the most necessary. I mean, I could go a bubble bath, that would be nice. I could also be better at setting boundaries. If only there was a self care pick-n-mix where we could scoop out what we felt like at the time. I believe each day, week and month brings a new needs and therefore different ways to take care of yourself.
This morning I went to the petrol station to put petrol in my car. I went when I had a quarter tank, which is a victory for me. I too often will let my car run towards empty and not think about petrol until the last minute. I sent a text to my partner which said, “Petrol in my car, air in my tyres, dusty windscreen cleaned. Boring self care done”.
I then got thinking about mundane ways to take care of yourself, things that aren’t luxurious or even peaceful, just things to inch you closer towards being a healthy, functioning human. I’ve put together a list which may not apply to everyone, though if I was standing in front of my younger self, I’d give her this list.
# 1 Go to the dentist
I will admit I’ve developed a dentist narrative I like to reel off whenever teeth come up in conversation. Oh, let me tell you. Upon rocking up to an innocent check-up when I was 23, I was told I’d need a series of fillings and likely a spare paycheck to make it all happen. I was distraught and frankly ashamed of myself. But, the lesson I learned was that teeth can be amended, cleaned and looked after, that’s what dentists are for. Since that fateful day, I’ve had a check up and clean twice per year and everything has been okay. My advice, go to the dentist when you can, even just for a checkup. It could save you a lot of money, and heartbreak. Floss your teeth while you’re at it too.
# 2 Make your bed in the morning
There is something about making your bed that makes you feel like you have your life together. While I don’t make mine for the night shift at the hospital, I do like to make it straight and neat. Having a sense of accomplishment and coming home to a tidy room are just some reasons to straighten up your blanket and pillows. While a simple task, it can do wonders for creating a calm and steady mindset in the morning.
# 3 Don’t sit at your desk for too long
Whether you have an office job or are studying for exams, sitting at a desk is a sure way to cramp up your body, particularly your hip flexors. Getting up and walking around, even just for a lap of the house or the office, will get your eyes away from the screen and your legs moving. They say sitting is the new smoking, so try not to light up to often.
#4 Do your washing before it becomes overwhelming
There’s a special type of stress that comes with looking at a pile of clothes or dishes to be washed. In the corner of the bedroom or at the kitchen bench, it will stare at you until you take that first step. It doesn’t need to be hard, it just needs to get done. One step at a time.
# 5 Get those health tests done
Whether it be a blood test or an STI check, these small efforts can potentially save your life, your sanity, and your relationships. I try and get a blood test every year to check my iron levels. I’ve had mixed results depending on whether I’ve been sick and how much iron I’m actually getting. STI checks can be a little intimidating, especially dotting out your sexual history on a clipboard, surrounded by strangers, but it’s a really important thing to do.
# 6 If you own a car, look after it
A car is a pricey investment, and you don’t want it turning into a lemon because you forgot to get it serviced or check all those random things under the bonnet. While expensive, a car service is important to keep you moving and ultimately keep you safe on the road.
# 7 Wear sunscreen
I have a friend who is a keen advocate for wearing sunscreen everyday, and it’s rubbed off on me. She once told me, “Putting on sunscreen should be like brushing your teeth, something you do everyday.” I also once read something that said, “Nothing looks good in your fifties like sunscreen in your twenties.” With skin cancer being one of Australia’s most common forms of cancer, there’s really no excuse for not lathering up with a good sunscreen or zinc.
There are many ways to take care of yourself and these are just a few things that I would advocate for. While some of these items may not be accessible or affordable for everyone (i.e. the dentist), any small step towards some version of it (brushing your teeth regularly) is going to be beneficial. Keep up the bubble baths and the scented candles, eat your vegetables, and don’t forget to get your car serviced.