How Do You Practice Self-Care?

How Do You Practice Self-Care?

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Have you heard the term self-care? If not, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as the practice of taking action to “preserve or improve one’s own health.”

In a recent article, the Times Style section expanded the definition:

Self-care is for anyone who wants it. It can be as easy — and as free — as taking a walk, or as complex as learning a trade. Self-care can include, but is not limited to: saying no; buying things; refusing to buy things; taking a long walk; helping others; exercising; crafting; stockpiling and organizing things like coins and arranging them meticulously into Ziploc bags; stretching; listening to disco; spending time alone; singing karaoke (sometimes, alone); intending to one day start meditating.

Do you do any of the things listed above? Do you consider them “self-care”? If not, what else do you do to preserve or improve your mental, physical or emotional health? Why?

Here is how some Times employees describe their routines:

Francesca Donner:

When I was growing up, my dad made spaghetti. It wasn’t fancy. It was basic and chunky, a meat sauce spooned over coils of pasta with blocks of butter tossed in.

Not all of my dad’s dinners were good. He had a penchant for celeriac boiled in water and liverwurst with onions. But the spaghetti was always the same, and it was always good.

Nowadays, dad’s spaghetti is my spaghetti: as much therapy as it is dinner. When life starts spinning too fast, I go to the supermarket and get what I need: ground beef, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, flat leaf parsley, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, dried pasta. My world starts to calm just seeing the ingredients collected together in the basket.

Sandra E. Garcia

Using my hands has always brought me back to center. Whether it’s D.I.Y.-ing a nightstand I found on Craigslist for $5, reupholstering furniture or working on my bicycle, taking something apart and putting it back together helps me focus my thoughts and temper the noise of the news cycle. It gives me permission to get out of my head.

Jonah Bromwich

I don’t think I am very good at self-care, but I do like to exercise. It first became part of my routine in ninth grade; my brother and I would go to our high school early in the morning to lift weights before classes started. I was a very gangly, awkward teenager — not exactly what you might call “coordinated.” No one had explained to me that the act of lifting dumbbells above my head would force me to assert more control over my limbs. After a couple of months, standing up straight was less of an effort. I was stronger.

Bonnie Wertheim

I am an introvert, which is to say that I love socializing, but it exhausts me. So I try to do at least one thing alone every day. Most mornings I’ll run a few miles around my quiet neighborhood listening to a sexyish playlist that’s sometimes just “Motivation” by Kelly Rowland on repeat. It keeps my interpersonal-emotional tank full and also reduces the daily number of nagging dysmorphic thoughts that pass through my brain. The days that start this way — with an hour of dedicated, active time to myself — are almost always better.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Do you consciously practice self-care? How? Describe your routines in as much detail as you can. Even if you’ve never considered your habits “self-care,” describe what you do to take care of yourself.

  • Some of the answers in this piece are surprising: One person says she hangs upside down like a bat, another rolls coins, and a third likes to go to karaoke bars alone and sing Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton songs. What are the most interesting or offbeat ways you’ve found to fight stress or make yourself feel happy and healthy?

  • How do you know when you need self-care? Is it most likely triggered by the stress of school or work, by relationships or by something else? How often do you stop and take time for yourself?

  • Are there any ideas in this article you’d like to try out? Why?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.