Self-Care DIY: A How-To Just for You
Self-care is the act of intentionally and unintentionally engaging in thoughts and actions that have positive and affirming impacts on our mind, body and spirit. It looks different for everyone based on preference, culture and lived experience. It can change depending on our ages, our location, even the season. Self-care is one of the most valuable activities that we can engage in. It keeps us resilient and able to take care of others in a world that is hard on us.
As folks who are living at the intersections of many different experiences of oppression — queer, trans, gender non-conforming, people of colour, disabilities, class — self-care is more than just a practice, it is an act of resistance.
The rate of substance abuse in our communities is often very high and there are complex reasons behind this that include needing to cope through unreasonable circumstances. I do want to be clear that there is no shame in ‘coping’. Drugs and alcohol can be used in ways that are empowering and in ways that are disempowering. As a community, we have to be careful not to pass judgment on the ways in which we take care of ourselves and manage our trauma. We need to be supportive of each other to make decisions for ourselves in ways that are affirming as opposed to believing that we can or should be making decisions for each other.
We need to be able to create more spaces to learn about each other’s stories and work together in order to address the systems of advantage that shame genderqueer folks when they go see a doctor, the same system that doesn’t include education for and by First Nations people in our curriculum and the same system that disproportionately incarcerates people of color. We have to recognize that responses to this sick system can range from anger to suicide and when there are negative consequences it is not the fault of those who have been victimized by it, it’s is not that we are not strong enough, but rather that we have been strong for too long.
We need to be proud that we got up in the morning, proud when we take a self-care day to stay home from work, proud when you supported a friend and proud when you recognized your boundaries and knew that you couldn’t support a single person. Self-care is a process that is affected by everything around us, it looks more like a wavy line as opposed to a straight line.
It is from this place of affirmation of our intrinsic value, it is from a place of acknowledging that as author, teacher and feminist, Alexis Pauline Gumbs says, “you don’t have to do nothing to be loved” that I want us to reconsider self-care. These divisions are for the most part arbitrary and things that are under the ‘mind’ category could just as easily fall under the ‘body’ category and the all flow between each other.
For me, self-care is a way to transform my entire experience of life. Time passes by much more slowly, my gaze turns from outwards to inwards, and I am able to identify the standards I need others to meet when they want to express care.
We should start devoting time to take care of ourselves as young as possible, regardless of the resources we have access to. As a yoga teacher, I always remind my students that sometimes all we have is our breath. Meaning, sometimes, we might not have money or space, we might have too much work and not enough time, but we can definitely take deep breaths. Even the most simple of actions can be self-care.
Feel free to organize and plan out your self-care strategies in whatever way feels right.
Accountability Self-care is about us as individuals, but it is also about the ways that we are accountable to our communities. When we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not in the strongest position to support others. Sometimes this happens because we are overburdened with work, life and community commitments, but sometimes it is the “f.o.m.o.” (fear of missing out). It is so important to support each others’ events and initiatives, but it is also important to take a break and recognize that there will always be something happening and if you miss it that doesn’t make you any less awesome. We need to communicate with each other when someone’s actions affect us, but we also need to be able to offer help. If someone is struggling and they are unable to practice self-care, think about how you can offer support and take a load off of them so that they can have more time for themselves.
Accountability also means considering, whenever possible, how the resources that we are consuming, and the choices we are making, fit in with our values, issues of access, and checking our own privilege. Is it possible to support a local community-based artist, healer, or space in your search for self-care? Is it possible to consider the environmental impact of your choices? This will always look different depending on who and where you are. But work to make choices that are accountable to us, and to our communities by valuing and honouring those of us who clean, cook and build the integral parts of our infrastructure.
Body: Inside and outside and all the way through Everyone can practice yoga. Yoga is the union of breath and movement. It doesn’t have to include complicated postures or positions. It can just include light stretches and deep breaths.
Yoga for Queers & Misfits has a site with links to other resources to access yoga on the web: . You can also take a look at iTunes for yoga podcasts and videos.
Adornment: Self-worship This part of self-care is so awesome for me. This includes doing your nails, brushing, braiding and styling your hair anywhere on your body, throwing gold glitter all over your body (or getting any of these things done to you) — anything where you take a bunch of time to adorn or worship yourself.
You can make your own delicious shower and bath stuff, mixing delicious items like salt for exfoliation, oil for moisturizing (coconut oil is incredible) or honey for its softening and anti-bacterial properties. Check out YouTube for tons of amazing tutorials on how to keep it DIY.
Mind: Quieting your mind Create rituals for yourself: a morning movement in your wheelchair or a walk, writing in your journal for five minutes before bed, a video of yourself speaking in sign language, a long shower. Create intentional periods of time where you can be alone with your thoughts and reflect. Take time to have a digital technology detox. Block websites like Facebook or Tumblr if you need to in order to create a space without distractions.
Heart Part of practicing self-care in community and in our relationships is recognizing that we have pretty bad blueprints of what it means to love each other and support each other and hurt each other. So we need to be invested in healing our hearts.
A lot of experiences can injure us emotionally: breakups with friends and sweeties, families changing or rejecting our gender or sexuality, racist bullying, physical, sexual or verbal abuse. All of these are realities that we face and are often just expected to recover from. This can be particularly difficult if you have a long history of trauma. We all deserve support, healing and care. No one is disposable. Find a place that you can go to in order to talk about your history or present experiences. This might be a confidential phone line, or a website like communityandresistance.tumblr.com that provides support for folks of colour who are survivors. Engage in art to express complicated feelings. Online communities like Tumblr are good places to share your feelings anonymously.
Spirit: Creating sacred space Depending on your living situation, ways of creating a sacred space will look very different. If you are street-involved, the space you create might come from a few things you can carry with you or even just a poem, in whatever language you speak, that feels right or which you recite quietly to yourself in order to bring magic to your space. Sometimes the only space we can create is in our imagination, and that is an entirely sacred space. If you are in a home, think about an altar where you keep cards, images, flowers, anything that is of value to you and affirms your existence.
Community Be the change you want to see.
Part of practicing self-care in community and in our relationships is recognizing that we have pretty bad blueprints of what it means to love each other and support each other.
To end this piece, I want to provide an excerpt from Mia McKenzie’s blogpost “10 Things Us Queers (And the Rest of Y’all) Can Do Today to Grow A Little” from the blog Black Girl Dangerous:
“Create a boundary/respect a boundary. Creating boundaries is one way to let people know what you need. Respecting other people’s boundaries is one way to meet another person’s needs. The two go hand in hand. If you’re dynamite about setting boundaries and lax about respecting the boundaries of others, or vice versa, something’s off. I will admit that I have never been terrific at either of these things. But I’m much better than I used to be, and I’m working hard on both. What I’m working hardest on is understanding for myself the boundaries I’m setting and why I am setting them, where those needs are coming from, if they are real or just a way of controlling relationships and having the upper hand. If I’m just trying to get my way, without any regard for the needs of the people I claim to care about, that’s not real boundary-setting.”
These are a few of the many ways that we can treat ourselves in the manner that we deserve, with a lot of respect, love and kindness. I encourage us all to find new delicious opportunities to spoil ourselves sweetly.