'I'm terrible at self-care. Here are 5 things I've found that work.'

Listen to this story being read by Charlotte Begg, here.

I have a confession to make: I’m not good at the traditional self-care activities.

I can't meditate for the life of me. I get restless halfway through manicures and then paralysed with fear for the weeks afterwards that I'll chip a nail. I find journaling performative, in that I always end up writing the entries like I think someone is going to read it afterwards and be like, "oh what a funny, smart, well-adjusted woman." 

But at its core, self-care is defined as any behaviour that promotes health – and the key word there is "any". So I have found way to perform self-care in a way that works for me.

Watch: Little Daily Rewards For Self-Care. Story continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

Here are my top five self-care activities for people who, like me, are really bad at self-care activities:

1. Go for a walk.

Any type of self-care that involves sitting for an extended period makes me anxious. I'm a millennial who was thoroughly indoctrinated into the societal belief that time spent doing nothing is time wasted. It's proving a hard lesson to unlearn.

The other thing? When I exercise, my immediate default is to exercise to get out of breath. If I'm going for a run or to the gym, it's to work myself hard. While this is good self-care in that it helps me maintain my health – mentally, it's not exactly a walk in the park. 


Which, incidentally, is what I actually ended up discovering is a wonderful form of self-care – walking in the park. 

For me, going for a walk is low-impact enough that it doesn’t kick my competitive drive into gear but I'm still doing enough that is assuages my fears of 'time wasting'. 

And if it's a park with cute dogs? Absolute bonus.

2. Find a hobby you're bad at (hear me out).

Two of my hobbies are reading and writing and I love them. However, I like to think I'm pretty okay at both of them, and this means that I put pressure on myself to 'perform well'. I couldn't just read books; I had to set goals on reading a certain amount or read books that challenge me. I couldn't just write, I had to get published.

This is why I have hobbies that I enjoy, but that I'm bad at. There no pressure to achieve, and it allows me to engage with a 'failure' of sorts, which I feel is important in battling my perfectionism. For example; I create earrings with air dry clay as my "hobby I’m bad at" and when my friend asks me why I made "shark tooth" shaped earrings and I say, "... it's a witch's hat" this reminds me that I can fail at something and the world doesn’t end.

Hobbies that I love, but am not particularly talented at, are low stakes fun. There’s no pressing need to create anything wonderful; it's just pure enjoyment. 

3. Clean something.

Don't worry, I’m not going to say that self-care is cleaning your house – when I say 'clean something', I'm using the term 'something' in the broadest sense. That 'something' can be, say, an email inbox, but only the folders where you used to write random story ideas and "diary entries" (just me?), or bookshelves or Instagram and Facebook feeds. 


The trick to cleaning as "self-care" is that I choose something unorthodox to clean, something that might take me down memory lane, make me smile, make me cringe, but still leave me with a sense afterwards that I've achieved something and made my life a tiny bit more orderly.

4. Research a topic you're fascinated by - for the hell of it.

This might be a super niche self-care activity, but the thing is, I love to learn. I didn't, however, always love school because I didn't love to learn about quadrilaterals, or the pH levels of certain substances. That's why the idea of university always delighted me – you mean I get to choose what I can study?

Then, of course, someone told me about HECS debts and that dampened that excitement.

Nowadays, when I’m learning about something it's because I need to be informed about it or it's for work. I rarely get to look things up for the sole purpose of satisfying my own curiosity. 

Until, I started doing it for self-care. 

One day I thought – do ants have hearts? And then I googled ants. I felt silly for a bit, wondering to myself; why do I need to know about ants? And that’s the thing – I don’t need to know about ants. I also don’t need to know the story of the oldest person ever recorded, or who invented the robot dance. 

But I wanted to know. 

At its core self-care is about indulging yourself – and that includes weird little niche activities like researching ridiculous topics for no reason. Maybe your niche activity isn’t research for no reason, maybe it's watching every single Jennifer Aniston movie ever made to rank them. 

Whatever it is, do it – no shame, no time limit, just indulgence.


5. Go to the library.

After school, in my teens, I used to go to the library. Inside, it was usually quiet and there was a sense of peace. There was no time limit – no one was wondering why I was there for hours. There was no pressing rush to get in, get out. I didn't have to buy anything or even do anything.

I could just be.

I've carried this love of the library into my thirties. When I say I go to the library all the time, people usually respond, "wow libraries still exist?" Yes they do, and they’re still the little oasis that I remember them to be. 

But if you absolutely don't like the library, or don't live near one, my point is more about finding a small oasis where you can just be, with no obligation. 

It's nice to take yourself on a "date", yes, but café tables come with time limits, movies require you to buy something. An oasis as self-care should be somewhere that expects nothing from you. 

If none of these activities appealed to you or if you don’t think any of them are self-care – that’s fine. That's the wonderful point I’m making; self-care can be whatever you need it to be. It’s making things work for you. 

So, embrace your weird niche activities, be bad at hobbies, go sit in quiet libraries and walk in the park afterwards – whatever makes your soul feel at ease. 

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks

Feature Image: Supplied.

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