take care

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This article was written for the FIGS Feels Blog.

Had I been asked about “self care” a year ago, I’m pretty sure I would have described it as taking a sick day to lay in bed and have a full-on Julia Roberts rom-com marathon. While this answer isn’t necessarily wrong, it doesn’t quite encompass the scope of a movement that has found its way into every realm of media today.

Whether it be in the form of dry brushing, oil massages or an Egyptian clay mask, beauty rituals have become an essential theme of this trend. But trying to cram every one of them into a morning before work doesn’t exactly result in a feeling of peace and calm. On the other hand holding out all week on any form of pampering in order to indulge in  a “self care Sunday,” isn’t the way to do it either. The thing is, as humans we are really great at over complicating everything, and we have made this beautiful practice another big to-do: a seemingly dreaded task, even.

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Here’s an idea: if “self care” is really just taking care of ourselves, shouldn’t we be practicing it every minute of each day? What if we didn’t even call it a practice—what if we made it a thing just to live our lives taking care of ourselves? Setting aside an hour or so out of your day to meditate or slip into an epsom salt bath is a glorious way to take care of yourself, but don’t let that one hour be the only bit of attention you pay your body. It deserves so much more.

Forget everything you’ve learned about what you’re supposed to do, even the stuff recognized as good or healthy, and give your body what it’s asking for. The trick is quieting the mind: all that information you have stored about celery juice and tongue scraping isn’t going to help. Is your body craving something refreshing and cleansing, or is it merely that voice inside your head reminding you that a certain Instagram influencer won’t go a day without a glass? There’s a difference.

The ways in which you take care of yourself can look so much smaller than an exercise class or facial. I’d argue that the smaller choices we make have the greatest impact on our overall well-being. Stretching every morning upon waking; taking a few extra minutes to actually sit down and eat a meal with intention; driving the long way home along the winding, tree-lined roads. Breathing.

Really listening, you’ll find that your body wants to be nourished—The specifics are different for everyone, every day, and we have to learn to honor these differences. There’s no point in comparing self care habits here.

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The other morning, immediately upon waking, I pulled on my winter coat and sat outside on the fire escape because in that moment, the sunshine was all my body craved. This is self care for me. I don’t feel pressured to do this every day, and I think that’s what makes any form of “self care” all the more effective: no obligations. So long as you’re aware, your body will decide what it wants. Maybe some days that looks like five hours in the bathroom, other days a plain shower is just as satisfying. Some days a Netflix binging session is in order, other days are spent with your feet the the grass, skin bared to the sun.

I’ve come to realize that I have one job in life: take care of myself. If I wake up every morning and ask my body what it needs to feel great that day, and do my best to honor these wishes, the day is set for success. Take care, and everything else will follow.

Kelsey Gleason