My life involves much silliness and playfulness, but I’m not the kind of person who eats ice cream for dinner or builds a blanket fort for self-care. I practice many rituals and routines for self-care, but they all fall under a pretty serious umbrella. For example, I floss my teeth each night, and I make my bed every morning. I take my medication twice a day, I eat five servings or more of fruit and vegetables every day, I stretch most mornings, and at least five to six days a week I carve out a half an hour to do some cardio exercise to strengthen my heart and burn extra calories.
My self-care routines are the fabric of my well-being and mental health. Still, no matter what I try, I can’t eliminate the symptoms of schizophrenia or an anxiety disorder. As a part of my routine, I write in several guided journals each day – a gratitude journal, a prayer journal, a mindfulness journal, and a few others. A couple of weeks ago, one of the exercises in my mindfulness journal was to touch something and concentrate on how that made the skin on my hand feel. I grabbed a piece of the shirt I was wearing and rubbed it between my index finger and my thumb. I concentrated on how the thick cotton felt on my hand. The motion of rubbing the cloth soothed me.
When I finished with the exercise, I decided to cut one of my favorite pieces of clothing, a t-shirt, or dress, or blouse and carry a patch of the material around with me. That way, I could use it to keep my fingers busy and, when necessary, concentrate on the feeling of the cloth to ground me in my body.
When I was searching through my drawers for the perfect fabric, I found a rose-colored scarf that is sheer material with crushed velvet flowers on it. I rubbed the scarf between my index finger and thumb and thought, “This is perfect. The sheer fabric feels light and a little rough, and the crushed velvet is soft and raised and creates little bumps that I can circle with my fingers.”
Since I found the scarf, I have been carrying it around the house with me. I keep it in my recliner when I am writing in my journals or playing on my phone. I take it into the bedroom to participate in Zoom meetings when my husband is on conference calls for work. I wrap the length of it around my left arm at night and hold the end of it in my hand so I can rub it while I am falling asleep. In the middle of the night, if I wake up (which I almost always do), I search for it with my hand because it has unwound itself from my arm. I feel for the flowers of raised material on the lace-like fabric.
I plan to take the scarf with me to my doctor’s appointments because I always have a high level of anxiety when visiting the doctor. Although I call the scarf my second blankie, the first one being the one I had as a baby and carried with me my first year in school and held it while I sucked my thumb. This new security blanket is the perfect camouflage because I can throw it around my neck, and no one suspects that it is a tool to combat anxiety and ground my thoughts in my body. The only sign something is amiss is that it is summer, and a scarf seems like an out of season fashion choice similar to the way this new self-care practice of “carrying a blankie” is out of character for me. I’ll go with it though, because it works but don’t expect to see me having chocolate cake or ice cream for dinner.