Taking Care of Yourself: Self Care Check #1

So, I do realize now that I should have given you some type of warning before I disappear. I forget that people consistently read this, and for that, I am grateful. This won’t be the last time I take a break, especially as a Duke student, but I will try to keep things somewhat normal for people who are still expecting something new.

I decided that I was going to try to take a mental health week and just check out from writing. I love writing, but self-care is something that I value as well, and today I want to address what it is, how you can do it, tips, and why it is necessary today.

Mental health is something I am very aware of, as is my family. This is difficult, because overall, American society carries the negative stigmas when thinking about the scope and spectrum of mental health. What people don’t realize is that even something as small as stress falls into the scope of mental health in terms of care. For stress, one usually goes to speak to someone, and then they get prescribed some medicine to help with the stress, and they go about their way. And that may work for some people, but this method doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. In fact, studies have shown that people of color respond differently to psych meds than white people. And that’s where self-care comes in. Self- care, as defined by Wikipedia, is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.

Despite stereotypes that taking a break off from work means that you are lazy, breaks are very productive. American is the only “developed” country that promotes working even past overtime, and working for the majority of the year. In other cultures, breaks are cherished and used to spend time with families and friends. Taking self-care breaks are needed, because they give us that time to be with friends and family more, without interruptions. I have a really bad habit of getting on my phone while watching a movie at home with friends, or when I’m having a conversation with them, and that is definitely not good self-care. Taking a break means checking out from as much social media as you can (though I do understand necessary communications via social media).

What else should you do while taking a self-care break? That answer is broad and specific simultaneously. Do what makes you happy. I like to go and watch Criminal Minds, listen to music from the early 2000s and late 1990s, and snuggle up under a lot of blankets. I also enjoy cleaning my entire apartment, but I know that seems like the opposite of relaxing. If you still feel like there’s no possible way you can come down from the stress that you’re going through (and I have definitely been there before), take a deep breath, and go get yourself one of those adult coloring books (or kids, if that pleases you). Get some colored pencils, markers, crayons, you name it, put on some instrumental music, and just have at it. I know that seems childish, but these coloring books often put you on one track, having you focus on coloring rather than other things. It’s very soothing.

I take mental health breaks because for me, I know it works better than me going to a psychiatrist all the time, and it allows me to be one with myself again. This is often difficult when your life is literally commentating and deconstructing bits and pieces of the racist, white supremacist world that we’ve been living in. Mental health allows be to space out, relax, not think about the next protest or rally I’m going to, not think about what micro-aggressions I may face, and so forth. My mental health is something I need to take care of, as it’s a thin line between intelligence and insanity, and I would much rather not cross that line.

-JW

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