I am not a frequent flier. Both, my preference (the joy of watching the world passing you by slowly) and my circumstances (more of a last minute planner and therefore the implications on finances), have caused me to rely on train travel to satiate my wanderlust. In the rarest of rare instances, I take the flight.
I enjoy people-watching at airports and I have a hypothesis: Indians might just be among the most covertly anxious people on the planet.
Why anxious?
Have you seen us fidgeting, shifting, and being restless before take-off?
Have you seen us take our seat-belts off and turn our mobile phones on before the aircraft has come to a halt?
We’re constantly doing. Someday I shall have my hypothesis tested.

Read: What kind of traveller are you – the frequent flier or the rail reveller?

I love people-watching. Especially at airports.

But for now I’ll redirect your focus to another aspect while flying: the barrage of instructions delivered before take-off by a monotonous voice complemented by a troupe of mimes. And more specifically, to one particular section of those instructions… “In the event of a drop in cabin pressure, a yellow mask will fall from the overhead with oxygen for you. You’re instructed to secure your own mask first before assisting others such as a small child.”

It strikes me odd that this piece of instruction, shared as a precautionary measure is applicable some 35000+ feet above sea level, and yet, for all the times our feet are secure on the terra firma beneath them, we aren’t as mindful in our practice of wearing our own oxygen masks first!

What am I implying? The act of self-care

Self-care is one of those things I wish our school curriculum had spared a couple of lines, if not pages (let alone years) elaborating on.

I remember being stupefied when I first heard about self-care
Years later, I recall feeling stupefied about being stupefied
Self-care made logical sense to me in retrospect; from the rear-view mirror

Why?
Because we grew up on the narrative that said: “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you”

Notice how most parent-child relationships are rooted in this belief
How so many of us carry this into our friendships and also our romantic relationships
Notice how inherent in this narrative is somehow implied the idea that if I take care of myself (instead of the other), I might be committing some transgression.

That conundrum of managing self-care within our relationships

The fault isn’t always in the stars. Sometimes it is in our narratives

Similar to our anxieties while on an aircraft, I reckon even our idea of taking care of ourselves is skewed at a covert level!

We don’t even realise we’re doing this
To ourselves
And to the ones we love

I know this because not too long ago, I was here too.
Then I had to unlearn to relearn.

Today, no Be You For You workshop is without a discussion on the topic of self-care. I’m reminded of something a participant once said:
“I realised I need to listen to myself more often and care for myself more”

A quote that gets incorrectly attributed to Bill Watterson (the creator of Calvin and Hobbes) but belongs to Jim Rohn was the beginning of me rewriting my narrative. It reads: “I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.”

Inherent in this quote, I hear the instruction for the oxygen mask: You’re instructed to secure your own mask first before assisting others such as a small child.

Because “Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.”

My self-care and I

So I started making my way back to myself.
First, I added self-care to my own mental dictionary.
Second, I sought ways to bring self-care into everyday practice.
Turns out it is not as rocket-science-y as I was making it out to be.

 

Walk
Read
Say No
Journal
Do nothing
Ask for help
Take a shower
Turn my phone off
Compliment myself
Go get me some jalebis
Gaze out of the window

Sit with my furry-beings
Binge-watch my favourite TV series
Enjoy a cup of steaming hot chai quietly
Remember to take my medicines/supplements
Create healthy boundaries (build bunds, not walls)
Listen to music or a podcast or a guided meditation
Compliment somebody else (selfish altruism can count)
Breathe mindfully (and watch the invisible weight feel lighter)
Shake my tail feathers (may also be recognised as some form of dancing)
Cloud-gaze (that thing you do where you identify what a cloud formation resembles)
Wear something that feels comfortable on my skin (like a 15-year-old holed T-Shirt I still have and fit into)
Give myself credit for the efforts I make (irrespective of the outcomes – which are beyond my control anyway)

The list is NOT an exhaustive one
It isn’t meant to be either
I’ve tinkered around and refined this to meet my different needs.

Read: Dear Journal Writer…

The comfort of books
What’s life without the furries

Other voices on self-care

I took to social media to see what folks had to say about their self-care practice. I got some responses and with their permission, I’m sharing these here:

“Stare into the lights I’ve decorated my living room with. It has a nice and pleasant sepia feel to it. I just sit on the mattress humming some song.” – @addiotism

“…I make it a point to read something I love every day and fall off to sleep listening to old Bollywood songs.” – @zehrachhapiwala

“Drinking lots of water these days. Listening to soothing music before sleeping. Flossing. Skincare (regular washing and moisturizing). Appreciating all acts of kindness and reciprocating. Reading a new book a fortnight.” – @glendadsouza

“As an introvert with anxiety and self-confidence issues, self-care is something very important to me. I don’t have a routine as such; I just know I need to have regular me-time. The best way I’ve found is to spend time alone, often by walking alone – ideally in the countryside (I find forests and grassy hills to be the most replenishing) – as long as I am on my own, in my own space, I can repair myself. (being barefoot helps additionally, actually, but it’s not necessary or even that usual.)” – @barefootbackpacker

“Remembering to breathe.” – @musttravelmore

Start self-care from where you are

For those of you who’ve found self-care before the rest of us, I hope you continue your practice
For those of you who’ve only just discovered self-care, keep at it. Your future-self is proud of you
For those of you who feel challenged, I hope you find yourself a practice. Your future-self believes you will

I’d like to conclude in the words on Neil Gaiman:
“This is what they say:
Secure your own mask before helping others.
And I think of us, all the people, and the masks we wear, the masks we hide behind and the masks that reveal.
I imagine people pretending to be what they truly are, and discovering that other people are so much more and so much less than they imagined themselves to be or present themselves as. And then, I think about the need to help others, and how we mask ourselves to do it, and how unmasking makes us vulnerable…
We are all wearing masks. That is what makes us interesting.”

And YOU, what does self-care mean to you? How do you practice it?

Let’s work together

I run workshops using narratives as a medium when working with individuals, groups, and organizations to help explore and improve both, intra and interpersonal relationships. Let’s explore!

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“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” . . To anyone for whom this week hasn’t been particularly kind, I offer you #MaryOliver ‘s “Wild Geese”

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Additional resources:

Why we all need to practice emotional first aid – Guy Wince | TED Talk
This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake | Thought Catalog
Look up #BoringSelfCare on Instagram

2 thoughts on “iExpress | How Travel Reminds Me of Self-Care”

  1. What a lovely read, E. It is true. I wish we were kind(er) to ourselves. Life is too short and we have to keep ourselves happy first 🙂 My most preferred form of self-care (apart those mentioned above): getting a head massage with tons of oil. Like your said, the list is not exhaustive 🙂

    1. Oh yes, champi/tel-maalish. A good head massage with oil is such an excellent indulgence. Thank you for bringing this one up, A.

      I hear you. Being our own crusader is the least and the most we can do for ourselves 🙂

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