It’s ridiculously easy to think of self care as an activity that takes thirty minutes at most. For a long time I’ve approached it as one single activity, like taking a walk or a bubble bath. I’ve even found myself putting self care on a to-do list, treating it as another thing to cross off before bedtime. But lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time we make some changes in how we think about self care.
A week or two ago I had a really traumatic experience with street harassment. It was coming off of a particularly difficult week and ended in me sobbing on Franklin Street in broad daylight. I called my best friend, cried on the phone to her, came home and cried a little bit more. Then I decided it was time for my self care. I curled up in bed with my laptop and watched a few episodes of New Girl on Netflix before my hall meeting. I set aside an hour for myself, that was good right? Totally enough. So after the meeting I filled my backpack to the brim and headed to the library to finish a paper. But once I had a moment in my corner of the library to be alone without distractions, I couldn’t stop reexperiencing the incident. It played over and over in my head. I tried to write my paper but I found myself opening up Word documents to vent into instead of analyzing Jane Austen. I texted my sister, Coco, frustrated that I couldn’t finish my work.
My sister left her apartment open for me. I cried a little more, emailed my professors and told them everything (I’ve never told so many people about crying in one day before). Then I opened up my laptop and watched reality shows until my sister’s roommate Emerson came home. We hugged, drank sweet tea, and blasted the Dixie Chicks until Coco came home too.
Once I dropped the idea as self care as one specific activity, I started to heal. Self care means different things to different people, but it’s important to remember to give yourself the space to fully feel your feelings.
Alice Wilder is our Social Media Intern. She works on a variety of outreach projects for education and advocacy.