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A Love Letter to My ‘Boring’ Self-Care Days

I love a good bubble bath as much as the next person. I love my rituals: hot cups of tea in my favorite mugs, curled up under a soft blanket with a good book and a cat in my lap, soft music playing in the background. As a treat, I love getting massages. (Remember massages?!) Don’t get me wrong, all of these things feel really good.

But I think there’s something missing from most conversations about self-care. Sometimes, the self-care acts that make the biggest impact on our well-being and joy can be pretty dull. Because it’s not about making our lives look a certain way. It’s really about creating the right feelings, even if it doesn’t look cool from the outside.

When it comes to caring for my depression, anxiety and chronic pain (I have scoliosis), my self-care is honestly kind of boring. For me, the self-care that’s most effective is not about buying a bunch of stuff or “treating myself.” It’s more about the everyday tasks — what I call “life maintenance” — that have the biggest impact on my wellbeing.

To be clear: going to the post office is not sexy. Paying my bills, calling for doctor’s appointments and putting my laundry away (instead of letting it sit, clean, in the laundry bin for days on end) are not what most people consider feel-good activities. But about once a month, I take what I call a “self-care” day, and this is how I spend it: running errands, decluttering my house, repairing what needs to be repaired, and tackling all of those tasks that it’s so easy to put off or ignore for far too long.

Sometimes, these days exhaust me. But getting things checked off my to-do list is deeply satisfying. It feels good to show up for myself — and my life — in this way. Lifting the burden of procrastination off my own shoulders is profoundly meaningful. Knowing that I don’t have to think about that pile of things in the corner (that I’ve needed to take to Goodwill for three months) anymore offers more bang for my buck, self-care-wise, than even the best massage.

When I respect my rhythms, I can often find those little pockets of time when my energy is good, my pain is low, and I can stretch myself into clearing away some of those things I always say I’ll get to “someday.” Instead of feeling guilty for those times that I can’t seem to motivate myself to take action, I choose to celebrate the moments that I can do those things.

To me, self-care isn’t about pampering myself. It’s not about doing (or having) things that are splashy or fancy. It’s about the real, day-to-day care of myself. As a woman in her 30s with a small child, I’m not looking for luxury vacations. I want self-care that has a real, tangible impact on my lived experience — not Instagram self-care, but self-care for my actual, imperfect life. My self-care might look a little bit boring, but that’s OK.

This is an act, ultimately, of knowing myself so deeply that I know what will make an impact. Candles are great, but have you ever taken three grocery bags full of sensitive documents to be shredded? That’s where my thrill lies. Pedicures seem lovely, but nothing beats picking up my dry cleaning after three months of it being on my to-do list.

One of the effects of depression, anxiety and chronic pain, for me, is avoidance. When I can break out of that, I feel incredibly proud of myself. It’s not a vigorous spin class, but the endorphin rush is the same. It’s not always easy to know when I’ll have the energy or motivation — with depression and chronic pain, things can feel unpredictable. But knowing that when I do have that energy, I’ll be able to show up for myself in this way is a beautiful feeling.

Image via contributor