Self-care is the practice of developing regular habits that foster greater control over our life and art.
Self-care can refer to many different things. The principles below outline a particular take on self-care that is informed by an awareness of health inequities. These principles don’t tell you how to perform self-care. They are meant to help you discover how self-care can be a positive part of your daily life.
Self-care is simply unavoidable. Daily, you make many decisions that impact your wellbeing, directly or indirectly. Health is rarely the only thing you have to consider when making these decisions, but it’s important to recognize your health is connected to every part of your life. It also means that self-care is not a matter of success or failure; it is simply built into your daily life. It is also not something special you do, but regular habits that you develop – and sometimes change – over time.
Try to approach self-care as a practice – i.e. as actions that you take regularly to support your health. “Be positive,” for example, is not a self-care practice. However, you may take certain actions – tell yourself a mantra every morning, go for walks, etc. – that help you maintain a positive state of mind. These actions are examples of self-care.
Each artist needs to determine for themselves what being healthy means. No artist needs to fulfill the stereotype of the “tortured artist” who suffers for their art. Nor do artists need to compare themselves to an idealized form of health, which usually means the absence of any illness or unhappiness. As a result, each artist will have their own self-care practices that make sense for their unique experiences of health.
Many sources will talk about self care as if it encompasses all of health. This can obscure the role of other aspects of care, such as collective care and the healthcare system. The reality is that some aspects of our health are beyond our immediate control. This may have to do with individual experiences and health conditions (ex. chronic pain) and/or with related systemic health inequities (ex. misogyny and racism in the healthcare system makes racialized women’s pain less likely to be properly treated).
Self-care is about recognizing aspects of your health you do have control over or identifying where you need more control, and developing regular habits that foster greater control. “Control,” in this case, means self-determination (not coercion) – the capacity to make decisions that are in your best interest and to follow through on those decisions.
The questions below are meant to help you develop some self-care practices. Take a few minutes to write out your responses. You can start with any question and answer them in any order.
What is going on in my life and art right now?
Tip: you may refer to your material realities, your emotional, mental or physical state, your relationships with other people, etc. Focus on your current realities – not what was true in the past, not what you expect or aspire to in the future, etc.
How do I develop a practice?
Tip: think about what it took to develop your artistic practice
What does it look like and feel like when I am in control of my life and my artistic practice?
Tip: some people get uncomfortable with the word “control.” Remember that it doesn’t mean coercion, or controlling anyone else. It means self-determination –making decisions in your best interest and following through on those decisions.
What does it mean to me to care for myself?
Tip: think about what it looks like when you care for someone else, or when you see other people caring for each other.
What does it mean to me to be healthy? Who am I as a healthy artist?
Tip: “healthy artist” is not an oxymoron!
- A collection of Self Care resources from BIPOC Mental Health YYC, a directory of Black, Indigenous and POC-Centered Resources in the Calgary area and beyond.
- The Hairpin Self-Care Conversation Series by Fariha Roísín and Sara Black McCulloch
- Pivot: Reflections on Adapting to a Changing Landscape is a workbook containing prompts and frameworks for reflection designed to spark ideas of what you can do offline and online for your wellbeing, and the success of the work you create.
Check out our Mental Health page for a full list of resources for supportive mental health services in the GTA, and our Health Care page for health care options and low-cost access to health care and body work!