The Art Of Self Care


Sierra Severt

Illustration by Elliot Burr

I think we can all attest that this past year has been rough. From the global pandemic, to major social justice movements, to a presidential election season and murder hornets, there has been no shortage of stress. On top of all of the pressures of the world, as college students, we needed to learn while relearning how to learn. Yeah, it didn’t make much sense at the time either. We’re still figuring it out. 

When our daily lives continue to defy any notion of sense or normalcy, how is anyone supposed to stay sane? Two words: self care. 

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It seems like we hear the words self care thrown around often nowadays, so it might seem cliche, but I urge you to take it seriously. It needs to be said, and it needs to be reinforced, because we too often forget how important it is to take care of ourselves. Self care is not selfish, it is simply a necessity. We must first take care of our minds and bodies in order to be there for others and be a force for change in the world.

Sometimes when there are so many thoughts swirling in your brain, it is hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, art provides many different ways to let go, express yourself and relax. Art is a creative outlet for our emotions. This article from the Harvard Medical School discusses how having a creative outlet reduces stress and helps manage various mental illnesses. Accordingly, art plays a huge role in self care.

Experiencing Art

For the days when you want to get away, art is a great way to go. Some ideas for a day out include visiting an art museum (which are open again with some restrictions), seeing a socially distanced concert or attending a dance performance. You can also do all of these things virtually. Most museums offer free virtual tours, many musicians offer virtual concerts and almost every dance company offers virtual performances. Take a day or an evening to experience art, and let it inspire and refresh your mind. 

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Engaging with Art

There is always art for the days when you might not have a lot of time. Consistently finding even just a little bit of time to care for yourself every day is immensely helpful in avoiding burnout in the long run. After a busy day at work or school, a little self care goes a long way. A few suggestions for easy ways to incorporate art into your self care routine include listening to music, journaling, reading, drawing, painting or dancing. 

Personally, music is one of my go-to ways to relax. Nothing beats a vibe session with all of your favorite songs. Listen to your best playlists, and maybe even go back and listen to some of your old playlists just for old time’s sake. Another of my favorite things to do is to just sit down and spend time finding new music. I usually sift through Spotify’s recommended playlists and songs to find new tracks that I love and compile them into a playlist to listen to throughout the week. Honestly, it keeps me going. 

I am also a big fan of journaling. I especially like doing brain dumps – where I simply sit down and write about everything I am feeling and why in order to get everything out of my head and down on paper. It helps me find clarity and calms me down when I start feeling overwhelmed. Reading (for pleasure, not textbooks, mind you) is a great way to divert your mind for a bit. Drawing or painting while listening to music is also super relaxing.

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Enact Your Self Care Plan 

These are just a few of my suggestions, but the key is to find what works for you. Find something that speaks to you, something that you like doing and can consistently find the time and energy to do. Self care is an ongoing process. If you find that you struggle to remember to wind down and decompress, maybe set reminders on your phone or negotiate an accountability system with a friend. Anything that helps you is fair game. 

Maybe I should have titled this post, “How to Maintain What Little Sanity You Have Left 101,” but you get the gist. From visiting an art museum or singing at the top of your lungs with friends to simply painting, journaling or listening to music, art can help us relax and express some of the crazy emotions circling in our heads. As the semester gets more and more stressful, I’m sure we could all use a bit more self care. 

Consider this a reminder: your mental health is important. You are important. You deserve to be happy and healthy. Take care of yourself.  

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