When I first heard about self-care I figured it was something along the lines of taking a bubble bath or doing a yoga class at the rec center with friends. I figured all self-care was cut and dry. These are the things you do and these are the things you don’t do when it comes to taking care of yourself. I never realized there was an art to all of it.

I finally started talking to my therapist about self-care one day when I told her I was still feeling “off” even though I had tried some self-care. She had asked me what kind of self-care I had been doing and I just kind of looked at her. What I can only imagine is a look of bewilderment on my face because she followed up with another question. “What did you know about self-care?” I replied, “Well you take a bubble bath and light a candle isn’t that self-care?” She smiled at me and then proceeded to explain that there are different kinds of self-care. Physical, taking care of my physical needs like eating, exercise and sleep. Emotional, learning stress management tricks that I could use, journaling, and talking to a trusted safe person. Social, taking care of my social life like meeting up with friends for coffee or going out shopping with my mom. Spiritual, getting in touch with whatever spiritualism meant to me, may it be praying, doing meditation, being in nature or even building a safe space for me. Finally personally getting in touch with things that mean a lot to me like being creative, indulging in hobbies or working on goals. Up until this point, I had no idea there were different ways to do self-care, not to mention different forms of it. It truly was a shift in mentality for me and how I viewed taking care of myself. Maybe I didn’t need to have a bath to do self-care this time, maybe it was something like I needed to go and spend time with friends, or get creative and pick up my guitar or go for a walk. We started to work out a plan for how I could work out different ideas for different feelings and what kind of self-care would be the most beneficial for me.

In the following weeks, I would check the cheat sheet I had made and would try to find the best methods for me and how different situations like work stress may require different self-care than relationship or school stress. When we revisited I told her the truth, that self-care was hard for me because it still isn’t working how I thought it should. Sometimes my school stress could be fixed by being with friends and other times it could be helped if I did something creative instead. Maybe I still wasn’t understanding how self-care truly worked for me. She told me something that still sticks with me to this day. “Self-care is a lot like art, sometimes you have to try again and again to get it right”. Truthfully she was right, self care truly is a fine art skill that takes practice. It takes not only finding things to help me that are truly engaging but also listening to my body and trying to understand what my body is telling me and what it needs. We talked through some scenarios and different ways I would handle them, like if I was stressed out because school was hard that day what would be the best way for me to let myself feel better?That’s really what it boiled down to, what would help me feel better is if I truly listened to myself and tried not to focus on what I thought the “right” answer should be?

Self-care can be intimidating to some folks, especially if you don’t know what all the different ways you may need to help yourself out are. So when I say self-care is an art form don’t feel discouraged if you feel like maybe it’s not working out as smoothly as it should. It may take time, some it’ll take longer than others. It took me just under four months to finally be able to listen to what my body needed for me to take care of it. That is ok, what matters is that you trust the process, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So please be patient with yourself as you learn the fine art of self-care.

Written by: Spencer-Alexzander Wallenberg