“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” said Audre Lorde in the 1980s, though her statement still rings true today. Self-sacrifice and martyrdom, to better nurture and care for others is a behavior that society conditions many women to perform. When I first learned about self-caring, it seemed so straight forward, and I assumed I had been doing it all along. It seemed so simple. But when my therapist asked me to write a list of things or activities that made me feel better when I was stressed the paper in front of me stayed blank. I had never really thought of stress as something that you could do something about, or that doing something for yourself was even “allowed.” I always felt an overhanging guilt whenever I would spend an evening watching Netflix or prioritizing how I felt over a deadline or external pressure. When I began to work on bettering my self-care, it was a challenge to place value on myself above others. Audre Lorde was right, self-care is revolutionary: to deconstruct the way you view yourself and learn to love it is to undo what society has conditioned women to act as– the nurturer. As I began to fill my paper with colourful ideas about how to feel better it was serene moment, but simultaneously an act of defiance.
Another phenomenon I’ve struggled to wrap my brain around over the years is society’s response to menstruation. Periods are a human norm that society tends to be overly uncomfortable with. Society deems menstruation as taboo, but there’s nothing that can be done about it, save waiting a week or so? Not every woman menstruates, and people who do not identify as women menstruate, yet I have found through my journey of learning to self-care from the ground up, periods have some parallels with self-care.
Tune into Your Body
When I am on my period, I listen closely to my body. The day-to-day crush of life slows down and everything: my emotions, how I feel physically, my cravings, are all pushed to the forefront. This is one of the most important parts of self-care. Listening to what your body needs, when you need it. Taking time for yourself or going out. Eating a lot or not so much. Sleeping or staying up late. When I’m on my period I don’t let my obligations get in the way, I just do what my body needs. Making yourself a priority becomes instrumental while self-caring.
If I were to eat an entire large pizza on an average day, part of me may regret it. But when I’m menstruating, I never judge choices related to my wellbeing. The decisions I make are what are best for me in the moment. A lack of judgment about the things that make you feel good is so necessary when self-caring. Want a piece of cake? Go for it! Two? Do it friend! If your body is asking you for something, and you’re not hurting anyone else, the world is your oyster. This idea also extends past the physical, into the emotional realm. If you are emotional due to menstruation you are likely less apt to question those feelings. You know it’s because of your hormones and the things that are happening around you, and they’re natural and okay. When working on self-care, emotions should fall into the non-judgmental realm, along with all the physical stuff. If anger or sadness arise, they can be addressed. Keep in mind that these feelings are not inherently bad. Treat them like you’re menstruating! All feelings, though some unpleasant to experience, are okay and natural.
Set Time Aside for Yourself
Self-care is impossible if you don’t have time to do it! Menstruating, unfortunately, often causes many people to cancel plans, or not do things they would have otherwise done. This, though an unpleasant symptom, can help with self-care. Your body is telling you to take a breather. For every person who menstruates, there is 3-7-ish days a month that are about them (for themselves at least). It’s easy to see how this fits into self-care, but harder to actually practice it. Setting aside even an hour to do something for yourself is instrumental in feeling better both emotionally and physically.
For many people who menstruate, it can be an extremely painful, even debilitating, experience. But taken in the context of self-care, menstruation can help frame some of its main ideas. Listening to your body’s needs, without judging yourself, and taking the time to put it into practice are revolutionary acts. So go make Audre proud and have a bubble bath! Or whatever you feel like… no judgment.
Featured llustration by Marta Herrera.
Amanda Proctor is a Creative Writing student/lipstick enthusiast from Vancouver. She’s currently attempting to rock Yolandi bangs, pretending that she doesn’t get most of her water from coffee, and blogging to her little heart’s content here.