The Smallest Self-Care

This is the tale of an act of self-care so small, it’s practically nothing at all. In fact, it’s probably something you’re already doing (and probably laughing at me for just starting it).

The initial wave of the self-care revolution confused me, and I didn’t hop on that train whatsoever. Was I supposed to be treating myself regularly? Was I supposed to be lavishing myself with the gifts of coffee, desserts, wine, manicures, massages? Was I supposed to be bodily caring more for myself through exercise, meditation, dedicated reading time, yoga? Was I supposed to be setting aside an hour for myself in the morning or evening to be alone?

I was surprised to see the myriad of arguments raging about what does or does not qualify as actual self-care. (Okay, I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s the internet. Everything is an argument.) Was binge-watching The Office for the eight hundredth time while collapsed on my sofa, eating a pint of ice cream, considered self-care because it was alone time doing exactly what my tired mind and body wanted? Or was it not, because I wasn’t actually treating my body well in doing so?

My (Original) Self-Care Plan

Self-care seemed downright confusing, but by its nature, I feel like it shouldn’t be. At the onset of 2020, I made a couple of New Year’s resolutions that I decided were self-care style. First, I would start meal planning again– something I used to do well but struggled to keep up with after the birth of my second son. Second, I would do a big, thorough clean of the house once a month to keep things from piling up too badly. And finally, I would make all of the doctors’ appointments I had been putting off. GP, dentist, dermatologist, gynecologist, everything– I’d be seen by anyone who was already supposed to be seeing me regularly but whose appointments had fallen to the wayside.

But come March and the quarantine, I stumbled. Meal planning paused for a couple of weeks while our groceries emptied out and we muddled through pantry staples, but I eventually got back on track with it. Keeping up with cleaning was banished without a second thought, and honestly, I haven’t looked back. And my doctor’s appointments… well, they’ll have to wait for next year or whenever I feel more comfortable going back to non-essential appointments.

Survival Mode Self-Care

I certainly wasn’t doing any of the other things on my usual list that may have been considered self-care-esque. I wasn’t leaving the house for coffee or finding alone time or indulging in anything. I was dragging myself across the finish line every day and spiraling through survival mode.

But I did start one teeny tiny little thing that somehow became my self-care routine. I had a small jar of nighttime face moisturizer that had been sitting in my vanity for a week or two that I had yet to crack open. I know exactly nothing about skincare except that my face was feeling dry and taut after my nightly showers, and I wanted something to alleviate that. I found the expensive, elaborate, multi-step, multi-product skin care routines overwhelming and impractical for my patience level. But I figured I could do one step, one inexpensive drugstore cream to soothe my skin.

I don’t know what exactly it was about quarantine that made me start, but I needed something. I was desperate for one tiny thing that was all mine at the end of the incredibly long, uncertain days. I would take a minute to peer at myself in the mirror, reconciling the day’s ups and downs in my mind, then deliberately and thoroughly apply the moisturizer to my face. For whatever reason, I didn’t want it to become a thoughtless habit the way brushing my teeth or putting on earrings has become. I wanted to be very aware that this action was on purpose and for my own sake. It wasn’t about skincare… it was about closing out the day in a finite way, taking a breath, and letting everything be.

It’s Laughable, But It’s Mine

Since that day in March, I’ve only missed one day so far of using my nighttime moisturizer, and it remains an action as purposeful as the first time. It barely qualifies as self-care if you’re asking the internet– it’s downright laughable, honestly, but it’s mine. It’s the last thing I do before getting in bed; it signals the end of the day, the time to (try to) turn my brain off and put everything behind me to try again tomorrow.

Has your self-care changed during quarantine? What do you do that’s yours and yours alone to bring you peace of mind and any level of comfort?

Erica Tran
Erica was born and raised in Metairie and now lives in Kenner with her husband Michael, her two sons, Benjamin (3 years; truck enthusiast) and Joshua (6 months; drooler extraordinaire), and the bane of her existence, Cuddy the Fish. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost trucks and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. In the rare moments she's not working, reading and writing, or chasing her kids, she's probably sprawled on the sofa with a Coke Icee and pretending her house is cleaner than it is.

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