8 Tips for Better Self-Care (The True DIYer’s Health Care)

Has your physical or mental health been less than stellar lately? Well if you believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance, there is only one real explanation: inadequate self-care. Once you come to terms with the fact that no one else is going to care for you, enjoy these eight tips to step up your self-care game!

Relieve stress with a personal spa day!

Have you been feeling constantly on edge? Is it because you work two full-time jobs surrounded by annoying coworkers and still seem to have no money? Is it because you have a chronic disorder in which your brain keeps getting stuck in freakout mode? Or is it because you haven’t been treating yourself to enough bubble baths?

The third one is definitely worth a shot! Just fill up the tub with warm water, put in your favorite bath salts, and turn on some slow jams. If it’s not working, just keep trying! Crank up the volume. Crank up the temperature. Make bigger bubbles. No one said relaxation was gonna come easy, right?

Kale!
Turns out that the ultimate superfood is the cure for everything! Have digestive issues? Incorporate more Kale into your diet! Feeling periodic bouts of exhaustion and dizziness? Drink some Kale juice! Have a tumor? Cover it up with some Kale* leaves! Pipes leaking? Stuff some Kale in them! Distracted by harassment at work? Stuff some Kale in your ears!

You’ll feel instantly better just knowing that you’re making spinach-eaters feel inadequate!

*Only works with true Oreganic™ Kale, produced exclusively in Oregon

Practice self-massage!
Experiencing back pain? Foot pain? Kidney pain? Eye pain? Existential pain? Most pain can be relieved by working through all those little knots in the muscles! If you don’t want to hire a specialist to give you a massage, you can do it all by yourself! Just work your way down the body, moving your hands in a circular needing motion, making sure you are avoiding all joints and hitting all of the tight spots. Especially ones those right in the middle of your back.

Can’t reach those? Well clearly you have not been going to advanced enough yoga classes.

Sleep more!
Looking tired? You should really be getting some more sleep! Sleep can do wonders for your metabolism, immune system, and personality, so you really should be sleeping like there’s no tomorrow! (Except there is a tomorrow, and it’s probably the deadline for a bunch of things that you should already be done with, so you better not sleep until those are finished.)

Just turn off the lights, relax, and avoid thinking about of all the time you’re wasting. Make sure you schedule your alarm to allow for 5 complete sleep cycles, but definitely not 5.5.

And make sure you get up early enough to do some decent contouring, so you don’t end up looking tired (remember, you want people to ask “do you even sleep?” based on your completion of an excessive workload, not based on your face)!

Buy leggings!
Nothing screams “health” like brand-new booty-hugging leggings. And can you even be considered to love yourself if you don’t own a pair of GooGoo Grapefruits? Order a pair online today and enter our sponsored promo code SELF17 to get a -4% discount! (One size fits everyone who deserves leggings. Opaque might be an overstatement.)

Combat anger with deep breathing!
Anger comes from many sources. You might be angry at your cheating partner, your abusive boss, incompetent politicians, or institutional racism. In any case, deep breathing is a great way to tame your anger so that it has no real-world consequences.

Just inhale through your upper left nostril until your lungs feel so full that they could explode. Now hold that inhale for 14.3 seconds before slowly releasing it through the right side of your trachea.

Before you get too far, this is a great time to look up the air quality in your neighborhood to make sure that you really want that much air in your lungs. If you happen to live in a dense urban area, within 50 miles of a factory or power plant, or in the same building as regular smokers, it’s actually probably better that you restrict all subsequent breaths to a moderately shallow level.

Try to clear your mind as you focus only on the rhythm of your inhales and exhales.

Hydrate by drinking your own tears!
Have you found yourself breaking down in tears on a daily basis? You’re not alone–it’s more common practice than you might think! But where most people go wrong is failing to replace lost fluids. Dehydration can quickly lead to dry skin and lethargy, so stop it in its tracks during your next breakdown! Collect your tears in your favorite mug, wine glass, or mason jar to sip on right away. The extra salt is great for helping your body absorb the hydration!

Run!
Running is scientifically proven to be the most effective form of cardiovascular exercise at taking you away from life’s problems fast. Run away from your joint issues. Run away from your unpaid bills. Run away from that dude on the sidewalk who just compared you to a piece of meat, which, by the way, is also something you shouldn’t eat. Run away from the future, which slowly catching up to you. Just run and run faster. And make sure you do it in air-cushioned sneakers or your tendonitis will be all your fault.

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Above all, remember that this is America where you should be able to achieve optimal health and immortality if you work hard and put your mind to it! So stop complaining and start loving yourself more!

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Note: Yes this is satire. Not that I’m against sleep or self-massage. But I can’t reach all of the tight spots either. 

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It’s Time to Start a National Conversation on Mental Health, Change the Topic, and Not Come Back to it Until We Have To

With mental health issues entering recent headlines– from mental illness as a possible cause for mass violence to celebrities speaking publicly about their experiences– it has become clear that now is the time to begin a national conversation on mental health. Again. Not a very detailed one. Just until we get distracted with other stuff. 

Given that that mental illness is an deeply personal issue for many Americans, yet remains highly stigmatized in our culture, it can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation for all of us. Like seriously, really uncomfortable.

Still, we have no choice now but to begin this dialogue–at least for a couple days until we find something more pleasant to talk about. I’m sure a politician will tweet something inflammatory or some famous people will get divorced before it gets too awkward.

Mental health as a social issue encompasses a range of factors to address, including the role of mental diagnoses in our legal system, the assumed and actual relationships between violence and mental illness, the system of public funding for mental health care, the effects of socioeconomic conditions and workplace environment on mental health, the accessibility of psychological treatment for underserved communities, the moral implications of forced institutionalization, the misuse of medications in psychological treatment, the threat of social and professional discrimination based on mental health history, and the portrayal of mental illness in popular culture and media.

This may seem like a daunting set of tasks, but it’s time that we tackle the first two or three of them, call it a day, and push the rest to an indefinite “To Do” list. After all, we need to leave something to talk about after the next relevant crisis. (And don’t worry–as long as we don’t get very far down the list, we can still keep using “bipolar” and “anorexic” as insults for people we don’t like in the mean time.)

One thing is clear: starting this conversation is of immediate importance. And finishing it is something we’ll probably get around to doing one of these days, maybe when there’s not other stuff going on.

This is also precisely the type of conversation we need to have about race, sexual violence, homelessness, immigration, and a bunch of other things I don’t really care to list. 

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This is satire. I label my satire because satire and actual news are starting to look pretty similar. 

How Allergy Warnings Are Actually Hurting Immune Health On Campus: The Coddling of the American Digestive System

Note: Yes this is satire! If you haven’t seen this article yet, you might want to: How Trigger Warnings Are Actually Hurting Mental Health On Campus. Here’s what it might look like if we treated physical health the same way:

Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub dining halls clear of any foods and beverages which might cause physical discomfort or illness (or at least accurately label them, which is basically the same thing).

The whole “allergy warning” thing started off as a well-intentioned way to help people with legitimate medical conditions like peanut allergies. I believe that those are a real thing because once in middle school, I saw a kid go into shock after eating brownies with peanuts. Also, no one likes the brownies with nuts.

But these days, oversensitive label activists have taken it way too far and started putting allergy warnings on every little thing like eggs, and dairy, and wheat. I mean come on, who could be allergic to bread? Everyone likes bread!

Even culinary classics are not exempt from this form of overprotective nitpicking censorship: now spaghetti sauce is labeled as “may contain tree nuts” and french fries “contain trace amounts of soy.

But what about the detrimental effects that these labels can have on today’s weak-stomached youth. I read in a Wikipedia article that immune tolerance is developed by repeated exposure to unfamiliar substances, so avoiding any substance must be a bad thing. (When some kid told me that his doctor was more qualified than me to help him monitor his level of lactose intake on an individual basis, I suggested that he get himself a good FroYo to get out of that whiny mood.)

The omnipresence of allergy warnings gives students the constant expectation of food danger, which can only intensify the effects of their already overreactive immune systems. I say if you’re gonna have a negative reaction to something, it’s better if it’s a surprise.

“Actually, I just need to know when I should get a soy milk replacement or take Lactaid,” protested the anti-milk kid. “Warning labels allow me to eat more things.”

Come on kid, can’t you just take a snack?

Millennials these days feel entitled to protection from any form of discomfort, be it cramps, hives, restricted breathing, or a slow erosion of the intestinal lining. But how will that serve them when they’re out in the real world of food trucks and hot dog stands with inevitably low nutritional and sanitation standards? Since perfect safety is impossible, the only way to prepare for adulthood is to bite fearlessly into whatever comes your way.

Checking the Left Column: Queerness, Normalcy, and Having “Problems”

Five years ago, I was sitting at the doctor’s office, waiting for my physical as I filled in a standard teen mental health checklist.

I’ve noticed that it’s generally not a good sign when a question requires me to check one of two boxes (seriously, I don’t even like true/false questions on tests). But this survey went a step further and ordered the “yes” and “no” options for each question so that they formed two obvious columns: the “normal” column–which included a “yes” to having friends and a “no” to drugs and suicidal thoughts–and a “problem” column with exactly the opposite.

And then I hit a kicker: a yes to “I have had sexual or romantic feelings toward a person of the same gender” would mean a big fat check in the problem column.

It was too clearly organized to believe that there were truly “no wrong answers.” It was made so that a normal person could make their marks straight down the right column, picking the right answers, barely stopping to read the questions if they so wished.

Because to stray into the left column would be a loud, clear, intentional statement that you have problems. That you need help. And as someone who could get along just fine, who could get everything done and answer “good” to “how are you? (and many times mean it), I had no reason to open up that box.

Besides, just because something was in my head, didn’t mean it had to be real.

I am fine, therefore I check the right column. And that was it.

———-

At this point in my life, I had mostly dismissed any concerns about sexuality being evil or sinful, as most of the people around me had too. But just as scary was the prospect of being troubled.

I could be queer, I guess, I had recently admitted. I could be that normal, happy, casually out queer with a girlfriend and snappy responses to people’s probing questions. I could be bi, I guess, as long as I wasn’t one of the slutty, cheating, attention-seeking ones who go through phases. But heaven forbid, I could never be questioning, confused, or struggling. I couldn’t have uncertainties or fears. I had to be queer perfectly or not at all.

The former option seemed impossible when I saw that my sexuality would automatically place me in the same column as depressed people and drug addicts–so I would have to pick the latter.

People around me, people like me didn’t have problems. They didn’t need help. At least that’s what I thought.

———

Clearly there was something wrong with this situation. What was, however, is less clear than it might seem. Was it just the fact that non-heterosexuality was placed in the “problem” column, the fact that there was a “normal” column and a “problem” column in the first place, or the fact that checking the “problem” column is made out to be such a huge, scary deal?

I’ve been thinking about this lately with the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage and the celebration surrounding it. In many ways, the marriage equality movement has showcased the epitome of queer normalcy: ads showing gay white picket fences and couples with 2.5 children; legal arguments centered around thoroughly non-pathological families, squeaky clean personal narratives, and “just like you” rhetoric.

And now the ruling has left a rainbow on every other profile picture and cell phone ad, in a display of mainstream (at least in some places) visibility and support that I could have never imagined as a kid. And that’s a beautiful, affirming thing in many ways. But what if people are only willing to see the rainbows and not the rain?

Where is this normalcy we’re aiming for, anyway? Even within the general population, more of us fall into that “problem” column than we like to assume. About half of Americans meet criteria for a psychological disorder within their lifetime. As you might expect, the numbers are higher within the queer population, particularly for bisexuals, trans people, and people of color. This stuff is harder to talk about than weddings and parades, and is fueled by numerous structural and social factors, with no one easy legal fix.

But if these numbers can remind us of anything good, it is that none of us is the lone “problem person” in a sea of normalcy, as we might believe. And if we started acknowledging that it’s okay to need help–including but certainly not limited to limited to the clinical sense–we might be better equipped for a world which is not all rainbows and sunshine.

Say it with me: I am a problem person. And that’s okay.

The End of Productivity Worship

Have you had a productive day? Congratulations. You’ve channeled through the mucous procrastination barrier, grit your teeth, and powered through another unpleasant item on your to do list, simultaneously aiming for maximum time efficiency and counting down the minutes until a snack break would be justifiable. You worked “smart,” putting no more effort than necessary into the task, though you had to strain every muscle to keep yourself from turning away. You didn’t let your curiosity get snagged on little pointed details which could keep you off course. Nobody got time for that. Keep at it.

Until you realize that you’re spending your life deriving more happiness from having done than from doing. Until you get kind of sick of being a martyr in the worship of productivity, constantly flung back and forth between guilt-ridden pleasure and self-righteous misery. Or until you just crack, no longer able to breathe within the narrow walls of serious, efficient work, falling out into a field of undirected diversions and not particularly motivated to step back in.

For me, I started realizing something was off at the end of last year when I found myself procrastinating on my “work” by doing the same types of things that the work involved. I was putting off studying about the hippocampus by reading an article about hippocampus damage cases. I was putting off writing a personal essay for class by blogging similar essays. I was putting off researching gender theory by reading about gender theory.

I noticed the contrast between the momentum and ease with which I fell into my “indulgent” procrastinatory wanderings and the strain with which I plugged through my “worthy” work. I noticed how I was praising myself for “productivity” and punishing myself for “procrastination” despite the fact that the same exact learning was going on.

At that point, the whole work/play dichotomy was starting to seem arbitrary and not very…well…productive.

Realistically, I don’t think our drive to produce and complete is going to disappear any time soon, nor should we force it to. We live in a world which puts a premium on time, space, and energy. We all have deadlines and schedules and a whole lot of stuff to do. I’m certainly not about to start ignoring that. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t relieved to finish my work this weekend or that I wasn’t pretty unhappy about doing some of it.

But what if we found a little breathing room in the vast space between work and play? With practice, could we learn to gently steer our desires, curiosities, and inclinations towards our goals, instead of forcefully manhandling them down a fixed (and unsustainable) path?

What if we woke up and asked ourselves: What am I in the mood to learn? What thoughts am I itching to write first? How does my body feel like moving? The more I pay attention to my desires, the more I find that my “to-do” list and my “want-to-do” list have some intersections–or at least some points where they come reasonably close to meeting–and this shared space can be a good starting point for directing my energy.

Like a lot of people, I’m expecting to have a busy semester, filled with a lot to do and probably a little bit of strain in making it all happen. But for when I find the time, I’m adding these items to my to-do list:

  • Invest a little more in the value of your desires.
  • Work just a little stupider.
  • Wander just a little off course.

In the end, you just might end up going a little farther.