Read This If You Can't Relax

fourth year myah paden

About twice a week, I put my mat in the center of the living room and blast conscious hip-hop while doing all the poses I remember from the three classes I’ve taken. My form is far from perfect, my mind is rarely focused, and most of the time I’m just making it up as I go. My uniform is a very unceremonious set of pajamas accessorized by my least glamorous headscarf, and when I’m finished, I roll up my mat, walk to the kitchen, grab a bottle of wine and a bag of popcorn, and return to my room to watch Netflix until I fall asleep content. My idea of self-care.

As much has been written about self-care as on fad diets and the latest household items to cause terminal illness, but nothing has been written with me in mind—a borderline neurotic, constantly busy, functional control freak. I’ve spent countless hours of my life poring over Buzzfeed articles in search of enlightenment, yet I come away unimpressed. At their best, the advice they offer comes off as stale as the popcorn particles lost in my bed sheets, and at their worst, they can do more harm than good as I agonize to follow all of their suggestions.

Therefore, I’ve concluded that internet listicles cannot cure my anxiety or bring me inner peace, but that’s OK. Despite the limitations of the internet to bring me microwave-ready happiness, I know I can create that for myself with a glass of wine and a sandwich, and my dedication to food has saved me from burning out more than any namaste ever has.

I’m not insinuating that popular mindfulness exercises are useless. I love my yoga practice, and endless studies have been conducted on the health benefits of meditation by those far more intelligent than the girl behind this text. If I can, I would just like to offer you a different kind of self-care article.

In this one, I’m not telling you to relax, breathe, or do anything that isn’t true to who you are. I am, however, requesting that you take a second to consciously consider what in your life brings you happiness. What or who makes you smile on a dreary day? Where, or with whom, do you feel the safest? The most at ease? This person, place, object, or idea can be anything and is yours to define, as long as it is an item you can always call on, externally or introspectively, when you need it.

You owe it to yourself to not only identify that thing in your life that brings you joy but to seek it out as often as you can. With that somewhat personally sacred ritual or practice always available, at life’s most overwhelming, you will never be helpless. That item will serve as your anchor so that you might stay afloat and maybe even have a bit of extra strength to ask for help if you need it.