Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 27, 2021

The self-care alphabet: an introduction (part I)

By CECILIA VORFELD | October 17, 2019

COURTESY OF CECILIA VORFELD For Vorfeld, self-care can be as simple as taking a break outside with friends.

After writing my first piece for The News-Letter about self care, I heard so much positive feedback about it that I was inspired to write on self care again. I had just come back from a large group meeting at A Place To Talk Large, and we had explored the different objects, people, memories and places that are the most important to us in our lives. It really made me reflect on the things that make my life so great. I do love my life, and I think this love is due to my many ways for taking care of myself. I believe that you are capable of loving your life when you take good care of yourself.

Last week I attended the Sexual Assault Resource Unit’s general body meeting about how to take care of yourself when doing difficult work like supporting survivors of sexual violence. The presenter really reminded me that self care is more than just things like pedicures and bubble baths. Everyone has their own coping mechanism, and the most important thing is for each person to do what’s best for them. That’s not to say that it’s easy. Learning to take care of yourself can be hard, and so I hope this helps.

After all that, I thought we could do the ABCs of self care together. Twenty six letters is a lot to write about in one go, so I will only be exploring the first half of the alphabet today: A-M. Please feel free to make your own list, use mine, Google one or do whatever works for you. I am certainly no expert. Many of these things will overlap, and so you are often taking care of yourself in multiple ways through just one act. Yay! You’re already amazing at this.

First off, for A, I thought of accepting yourself. To me, self care means that you are working on loving yourself, and part of that is loving who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I thought of B, I thought breathe. Such an important reminder. Your breath is something you have with you for your entire life. It never leaves us, and so you can always bring things back to your breathing. It is a great way to center yourself. I definitely go back to my breathing whenever things are overwhelming and stressful or whenever I just need to take a break, to reset and to start again with a fresh mind.

The letter C reminds me of check-ins with yourself. Take a second to reflect on yourself and your situation, where you are at right now in life. It’s a nice thing to do, and it might help you become more aware of both your feelings and any things that may have been bothering you deep down. I have found this really helpful to stop things from building up unexpectedly and then becoming a much larger problem down the line.

D makes me think of ditching the things that are not good for you. So many times I have held onto things that have just sucked the life out of me, whether that be people, commitments or responsibilities. Ditching those things feels really tough in the moment, but prioritizing yourself is the best thing for you in the long run. 

E for exercise. You probably saw this one coming from my first piece. You do you, whatever makes you happy. I like to run in the mornings or go to the weight room sometimes. But I always bring my phone with notes on what machine to use and how, so I don’t make a fool of myself. Others like to dance it off, go to free gym classes or even just go for long walks. It’s a great way to take a break from life and get those endorphins pumping.

Another thing that makes you endorphins get going? Food for the letter F. You are going to have your body for the rest of your life. Treat it like a temple. Feed it the good stuff. Of course we all strive to find balance in our diets, but there is no harm in occasionally treating yourself with those guilty pleasures.

For G, one of my pro tips for self care would be to go outside. I talked a lot about this last time, but it certainly is a wonderful way to take care of yourself before it just gets too cold to chill out on the quad as often.

H is for hydrate. Hydrate or diedrate, am I right? I really like this as a simple self-care tip because water is abundant for us, luckily enough, and it helps us reset and think clearly. I know friends who drink water as a way to stay focused in class, but I also know that drinking water is the best way for me to feel better when I am tired.

For I, I thought of identifying triggers. This is a big one for me because it takes some deep self-reflection. What things upset me, and how can I avoid them? When these things do upset me unexpectedly, how can I take care of myself best? When you care for yourself, it’s important to protect yourself from harm in whatever way you can. 

With J, journaling is something I love to do. I’ve always got my notebook and pen with me in case I get a flood of thoughts or feelings I need to put to paper to just let it all out. 

I really struggled with K, and so I came up with knitting. I am not saying it’s the perfect form of self care. I know it stresses me out. I hate when I get it wrong. So my form of self care is avoiding knitting at all costs, but some people really like it.

When I think of L and self care, it reminds me to listen. This could be music, a personal favorite of mine. It could be good podcast, or something on YouTube that makes you laugh. It could be anything. Listening to others who love and support you can be another great way to learn to love yourself and care for yourself.

For M, I thought of making your bed. This might just be me, but when I am stressed and all my self care goes out the window, I can clearly see it. My room is an absolute mess. By just tidying up, especially by making my bed, I feel better, and I actually feel more comfortable and relaxed in my room. I sometimes forget that I tidied up. So it’s a nice surprise when I walk into my room and it’s all clean.

That’s it for this week, but be sure to keep readings the Voices section for the next half of the self-care alphabet!

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