Writing and art by Georgia Ketels
Sometimes I find that my body and personal care can take a backseat, in periods of stress or when I struggle with mental health.
Care is reduced to basic necessities — showering, brushing my teeth. It’s joyless. It reminds me of how unending life can be.
When this happens, I need to spend one day returning myself to at least square one — to repair what I’ve forgotten about — myself. I need to spend time showing my body care.
This is something I do alone. I do it looking at this list, so I don’t have to stress about the next thing. I go into a trance of repetitive motions and sensations.
It isn’t for beauty. It is for me.
This guide is not gender specific. It is for people of all ages, mobilities, financial situations and degrees of mental health. If there is a step you cannot complete, or do not want to, please move onto the next.
Some of it is real ‘healing’, and some of it is more like a placebo. I see both as important.
A few of these steps ask for lotions/scrubs/gels/creams — really, any will do. If you don’t have some or any of these items, that’s ok. I think the essential things are time, your hands, and warm water.
One last thing. I’m sorry if this list seems prescriptive; if it does, it may not be for you. Sometimes it just helps me to have a voice of direction when I’m lost, that will let my logical brain take a break, and my emotional one take over.
I hope you find this process both thorough and forgiving.
- Wake up rested.
- Go outside. Look at the sun. Breathe for a while. If you feel up to it, go for a walk.
- Open a window, if it’s not too cold where you are.
- Fill up a large vessel with water to drink.
- Run some warm water on a face towel. Press it on your face, until it cools.
- Have a shower, or bath.
- Wet your hair.
- Rub your face.
- Wash your hair with shampoo. Massage your scalp, and feel all the dirt and oils lifting off your hair. Think of how much it will shine and lift.
- Shampoo your hair a second time if you like.
- Condition your hair. Comb it in, and let it sit for a while. Pay attention to the ends of your hair. Massage them.
- Scrub your body, rubbing hard enough that the blood flows through you. Notice how the water might feel even closer to you now. Scrub even the toughest parts of your feet.
- Use a soap or shower gel.
- Shave or trim if you choose.
- Pat yourself dry with your favourite towel. Be kind to your hair, take time.
- Take a lotion for your body, apply it everywhere. Your skin will suck it up gratefully.
- Apply a special lotion to your hands and feet, if you have one.
- Brush your teeth. Do it for ages — the the gums and the tongue and under it — places you have never really cleaned before.
- Floss your teeth.
- Wash your face. Take as many steps as you can, or have the resources to — exfoliate, cleanse, mask, tone, moisturise.
- Dry your hair — with a dryer, your towel, or with the air.
- Brush your hair slowly and thoroughly. Feel the bristles on your scalp with your eyes closed.
- Put on clean clothes that fit your body well. Clothes that make you happy, and feel right. If a garment comes to mind, wear that.
- Apply a lip balm.
- File and clean your fingernails and toenails.
- Put a healing cream on every cut or graze you have on your body.
- If makeup makes you feel good, wear some.
- Apply a perfume or cologne if you like. Think about how it smells when you first apply it, how that smell changes as it marries with your skin.
- If you like jewellery, wear a piece or a few that feel essential to you.
- Breathe again.
If you have completed some or all of these steps, you have taken care of yourself, and accomplished something good today.
- Exercise — however you best do it. A brisk walk, swimming, the gym.
- Have something good to eat. Imagine yourself as a friend of yours, feeding you a wholesome and nutritious meal. Whatever that meal looks like — try to eat something like that.
- Wash your bed sheets. I cannot tell you how much this helps.
- Play some music. Play anything you want to. Even if it’s sad.
- Catch up on emails and messages. Return to a place where things do not feel ‘on top of you’. I realise how impossible this can sometimes be.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have the time to take care of yourself soon.