It’s more than just taking care of yourself.
If you follow my Instagram, you could easily think that I’m not stressed. Everything I post is positive — from home-cooked meals to daily walks — evoking what seems like a constantly happy life. But, despite what you see, I regularly deal with stress. Some days it’s non-existent — as if it’s distracted. Other days it rears its ugly head, sucking me into a spiral of negative misinformation: You should be writing, not playing games; You didn’t make your bed today, so you must be lazy; You’ll never make it as a well-known writer.
Of course, I’m not the only one who deals with stress. So long as you’re a human being, you can get stressed too.
However, there is a surefire way to overcome stress, and it’s called self-care. This is an umbrella term that focuses on all the actions we take to preserve our health and wellbeing: eating well, going for walks, visiting the doctor when sick, and keeping your fluids up. Interestingly, in recent years, self-care has become more focused on our mental wellbeing. But overall, it’s focused on how we feel.
In my opinion, self-care is the actions we take that help us live a fulfilling life.
How I Practice Self-Care
The first step towards self-care is learning to love yourself. But it doesn’t have to be complete and utter devotion — as if praising yourself all the time. That would feel monotonous after a while. To me, truly loving yourself is as simple as having a glass of water or allowing yourself a long, hot shower. It’s seeing that you are stressed or sad and finding ways to just be there for you — like you would for any other loved one.
The second step is accepting that you cannot solve all your problems. But you can alleviate them. Currently, my biggest problem right now is being stuck in lockdown. I’ve been mulling about at home for nearly two months, with my only respite being essential trips to the shops or going for walks. And even though all my needs are met, including financially, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about the future.
But just because I can’t fix the problem, it doesn’t mean I can’t mitigate the symptoms. This is why I continue sticking to a routine — however successfully. Between waking up and going to bed, I do things that benefit my well-being. I shower and feed myself, clean my surroundings, and keep myself entertained.
And as well as having a routine, I always work on loving myself through self-care. When my mind crumbles and I feel the physical symptoms of stress coming on, I dig into my bag of proven tricks to calm me down. Things like herbal teas, music, deep breathing exercises, daily walks, and journaling.
These tricks work because they allow me to focus on myself and not on the negative thoughts scrambling my brain. It’s not about stopping the thoughts, but redirecting my attention towards other thoughts. Ones that are worth thinking about.
Going out for walks is especially soothing because I experience the world around me; the beautiful trees, the interesting architecture, and even witnessing the pure joy of others.
This is self-care in a nutshell; it’s loving yourself, accepting you don’t have total control, and using various methods to refocus your flailing mind.
Of course, there is one more trick that is part of my self-care repertoire. This trick is not a particular action like loving yourself; it’s simply a lifestyle.
And here it is:
The Art Of Profluence
Profluence is a literary term, originally coined by John Gardner in his 1983 book The Art Of Fiction. It’s yet to go mainstream, though, as my Google dictionary refuses to accept that it’s a word. However, some dictionaries do accept it, describing it as: “smooth or copious flowing.”
To Gardner, who built a career on creative writing, he describes it more aptly: a story with great profluence should read as if it is “getting somewhere.” And that’s precisely how you should live your life. As if you are getting somewhere.
It doesn’t have to be somewhere grand; most people prefer to live a humble life with a good-paying job and a nice family. And if you’re one of the few with crazy career ambitions, more power to you! But to live a life of profluence, it’s all about doing things that progress your future.
An amazing novel paces along a trajectory, revealing more and more plot points that act like breadcrumbs for the mind. We are captivated, wishing for more. Imagine how your life would be if you apply the same trick to it. Throwing little nuggets in front of you, coaxing your life along.
But you don’t need to do productive things to feel profluence. You can feel it just by doing your household chores. Because true self-care is not just looking after yourself, it’s progressing yourself as well.
In fact, my favourite lesson I’ve ever learned is this: there is always something to do. While the earth continues to spin, you’ll always have clothes to wash, a body to nourish, a room to clean, friends to chat with, and talents to explore. Unfortunately, with this global pandemic going on, too many of us are wondering: what’s the point of it all?
The truth is, I don’t know if this pandemic will ever end. But I’d rather act as if it will. I’d rather my soul be ready for an open door, rather than having to pick myself up when I see the light. To act with profluence, if you will.
There’s a great quote I’d like to end on. It is credited to Alan Kay, a former Chief Scientist at Atari. He wrote: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
The fact is, none of us can accurately predict what’s going to happen tomorrow. There are so many things going on behind the scenes that could alter our very existence. But that doesn’t mean you have no control over it. You could wallow in self-pity, thinking all is in vain, and nothing will get done, but there is a very good possibility that this pandemic will eventually end — which means all that time wallowing is time wasted.
So you may as well get on with it and hope for the best!
And whenever you’re in the throes of life, remember: there’s always time for self-care.