Valentines Day is coming up, and while I very much enjoy celebrating romantic love (my wife, Jess and I usually mark the occasion by eating chocolate and playing video games), I also think that the holiday is an excellent excuse to celebrate self-love too!
As I think that I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time in Eating Disorder Treatment, which is basically a nice way of saying a butt load of therapy. Like, therapy 3 times a day. And a lot of the therapeutic emphasis is on self-care and self-love and all of those other ‘self’ things. So yeah, I’ve sat through a lot of group therapy on these topics.
And it may seem like I’m a self-love zealot- I know, I have been talking about it a lot lately. But there are definitely parts of the self-care thing that I think are silly, or don’t work for me.
For example, a lot of people have a really hard time with shame, and they need to put in a lot of time and effort to let that go.
And while I totally understand how it works, I don’t really experience shame (I do experience guilt, but that’s a whole different post), and so doing exercises around shame are sort of boring for me.
Self-care though? I’m totally behind. Treating your mind and your body with care and respect? I’m all for it. I know that when I’m tuned in to what I need, I have more energy, less anxiety, and I’m more flexible and less sensory sensitive. Win-win, right?
There are lots of ways to care for and love yourself, and I’m just going to share today some things that I do in my day to days life.
Stimming is definitely the most important part of my self-care routine. This is something unique to us neurodivergent folks and doesn’t get included in most articles about self-care. For me, this sort of self-care takes two forms.
The first one is making time for stimming and sensory needs in my daily routine. I start my day with my favorite sensory friendly food (Cheerios). I take the time to knit. I wear clothes that are comfortable, tagless, with flat seams, and I buy the only socks that I find tolerable in bulk. I end my days lying in bed with my weighted blanket and my glitter lamp casting blue shadows on my ceiling, and I ease into sleep.
The second is certainly more challenging, but it’s also just as important. I call it sensory-on-the-go. And it’s a big deal because following my home routine is easy, really but dealing with the real world is hard. It’s really hard! You have to be able to sense what you need before you need it, because at least for me, by the time I realize that I need intervention, I’m not in a very good position to do it for myself. So on-the-go self-care requires pre-planning, and, if you’re lucky, a buddy. So I don’t leave the house without a sensory emergency kit, and I check in with myself regularly, so meltdowns don’t take me by surprise. They still happen, but somehow it’s (a little) better if I know they’re coming.
I’m a total introvert, so this type of self-care seems like the opposite of what would work, but I’ve learned that I need to connect with people. If given the choice, I’d go days without talking to anyone except my cats, and if you’d asked, I would say that this is the ideal situation and that I was very happy indeed. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely need quiet me-time, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I really benefit from interacting with people. So I volunteer, and I play music with people, I interact at church, and I connect to my awesome internet community. And while there are days when I don’t want to talk to anyway (not even the cats), that’s fine, because I know that my connections will be there waiting for me when I come back.
There are dozens of other things I do to take care of myself, and if I listed them all, this post would be 26 paragraphs long, and you’d probably have gotten bored 19 paragraphs ago. So here are just a few more things that I think are worth mentioning, and then I promise that I’m done.
Hot hot hot showers. I hate being wet, so I sit on the floor of the tub and let the steam come rise up around me. I also like talking to myself in the shower, which is apparently a thing?
Bookstores. There’s nothing more calming than being surrounded by books. Especially if they’re used, cheap, and smell good.
Watching movies I’ve seen over and over again. Being able to predict every line and every song makes me feel safe. Props to Moana, Into the Woods, and Sondheim! The Birthday Special.
I feel really grateful for my time in treatment because it let me think critically about how I treat myself. Learning about who I am and what I need has let me practice self-care, which in turn has led to self-love.
I hope you guys are able to send some love to yourself this week, because Valentines is about all types of love, including self-love. Happy Early Valentines Day!