One of my daughter’s favorite books in middle school was an American Girl publication, The Care and Keeping of You. It was thin, light on science, but it was a good guide to dealing with the shit show that is female adolescence. It covered hygiene and grooming and upkeep but it also talked about bullying and how to be a good friend. It normalized a lot of what makes tweens and early teenagers think they are going nuts. It was a good book and it is still in print and if you have a tween or new teen girl in your life, you should get it for her.
At the time I thought the title was excellent and I wondered why no one had written one for grown-ups. Being a grown-up is hard. It is hard as hell. And things keep happening to our bodies that we don’t understand and have no control over. Making friends and maintaining friendships is hard. And marriages and kids and how to have a healthy relationship with your parents while still being a grown-ass person. And jobs. Ugh. And then, in the middle of taking care of all of this other stuff and all of these other people, you have to take care of your self. Shit is hard.
Self-care isn’t something we talk about very much, especially us ladies. Us ladies, we spend a lot of time taking care of everybody else. We spend a lot of time thinking about taking care of others, even when we are doing other things. If you are not a lady, chances are you have no idea how much time the ladies in your life spend thinking about how we can best take care of you. Chances are if there was a celebration of your last birthday, a lady planned that shit. Chances are all of your warm holiday memories were planned and executed by a bunch of ladies. Us ladies, we hold the world together through our emotional and physical labor. And it is exhausting. It really is. We spend so much time and effort on everyone else, we don’t have much left over for us.
If you are a grown-ass adult, when was the last time you thought about the care and keeping of you? How you doin’, boo? How you feeling about your day? About your life? You feeling like a failure? Or like you will never ever be done with the to do list? Or overwhelmed? Tired? Depressed? Or all those things?
Here are some things I want you to stop and ask yourself the next time you feel like you are on the edge:
- Did I sleep okay last night?
- When did I last drink a glass of water?
- When was my last meal and what was it?
Those are the big ones. If you are going to be okay, you need to make sure you are getting decent sleep, you are staying hydrated and you are eating enough and it is decently healthy. I’m not saying kale salad all the time. I’m saying food passed to you through a car window and eaten at your desk will sometimes cause an energy lag in the afternoon and maybe that is why you are super stressed about getting your shit done so you can leave work on time. So, notice that kind of thing, is what I’m telling you.
I have a Post-It on my refrigerator. It says “doughnuts in the morning = can’t concentrate” because it’s true. I eat doughnuts (and it is always plural, I don’t know who these people are who eat a doughnut) and an hour later, my brain doesn’t work. Doughnuts went from a viable breakfast option to an occasional treat when I figured that out.
I started taking an oral chemotherapy drug in the summer of 2012. Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a horrible, horrible, fucker of a drug but it is also the drug that keeps breast cancer at bay and so everybody takes it. I went on Tamoxifen in June of 2012 and I didn’t experience a normal sleep pattern for a year. I did not sleep for a year. It was hideous. It was then I truly understood the role sleep played in good mental and physical health. I knew it was important but Jesus, you have no idea. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a tool of torture. Be a jealous guard of your sleep. Without decent sleep, your brain goes off the rails. Your body won’t work right. Get your sleep.
Drink water. You don’t have to drink 64oz a day. It’s kind of a made-up number anyway. But drink some water. If you don’t like water, drink something else. Don’t drink Mountain Dew. No one should be drinking Mountain Dew. But drink something. Your body needs to stay hydrated. Not being hydrated will make you very cranky and very tired and can land you in the hospital with an IV in your arm, which happened to me once.
That is the bare bones basics of self-care. Get enough sleep, but not too much. Eat decent food. Drink some water. Take care of yourself. You are an important part of the universe.