Methods of Self-Care: An Interview with Jodie Layne and Kara Haupt

by Fariha and Sara

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One of the reasons we really wanted to do this column was because, very often, you’re either told — by society, family, etc. — that you don’t matter, or you’re made to feel as though you don’t. For us, self-care has been about reconnecting with ourselves, but also discussing with others how they’ve lost a connection to who they are, and how they’re trying to rebuild that relationship. We really want to know — what are the first steps towards self-care, as well as the first steps to self-love?

Methods of Self Care is a zine created by Jodie Layne and Kara Haupt, and it’s about reinforcing and reminding ourselves not to feel guilty about the way we live our lives. We talked to Jodie and Kara about common misconceptions of self-care and how women can take care of themselves in a world where there is so much injustice; it sometimes feels impossible to be good to yourself. Self-care is practice, it’s methodical, and it’s a journey.

In light of recent events, we struggle to understand how to move forward. But we believe that if you can begin to comprehend your worth, you will more readily see it in others, too. If you can love yourself, then maybe hate towards others — those who are different than you — will begin to disintegrate.

Look after yourself. Here’s to a better us, and a better world.

Fariha and Sara

What does self-care mean to you?
Kara: Self-care is the attitude that I deserve to take time to feel good.

Jodie: Self-care means treating and talking to yourself the way you treat other people (assuming you’re, like, a good person).

Why is self-care so difficult in practice? Or is it just as difficult in theory?
Kara: Because it’s work! It’s an active process and it isn’t easy. I think there is a perception that self-care is a spa day after a month of running yourself into the ground, when self-care should be the habits we actively form to care for ourselves every day. I certainly think there is something to say for working really hard and then taking a day off, but for students or self-employed people particularly, exhausting yourself every day isn’t sustainable, and it’s probably keeping you from creating your best work.

Jodie: Living in a world that’s racist, sexist, classist, trans-antagonist, fat-antagonist, homo-antagonist, and ableist makes it pretty easy to feel like you’re not deserving of care and tenderness. The world is pretty good at making us feel like garbage. At the end of the day, survival feels like work enough and doesn’t necessarily leave us much time or space, unless we make it a habit. I think the ideas about what self-care is can make it seem either bougie or daunting or frivolous, and leave us with no clue how to actually practice it. I think there’s this belief that self-care always needs to feel like you’re throwing yourself a fucking parade.

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What does your self-care routine look like?
Kara: I go to bed early almost every night because that’s what feels best for me. I try to eat good meals and I actively try to limit my exposure to toxic people. Lately, I’ve been trying meditation (using the Headspace app) and drinking a lot of Apple Cider Vinegar and honey hot water. I also consistently get early morning coffee with one of my best friends, and she is an excellent sounding board for talking about what’s on our minds.

Jodie: My day-to-day self-care routine is trying to make sure that I’ve done the following at some point in the day: been outside, moved my body, talked to my best friend, read something nice, prepared a nourishing meal or snack, kissed my partner, snuggled my dog, documented something nice on Instagram, sang one song super loud, moisturized my neck (really), and had a few moments of quiet time alone. That sounds like a lot, but if I’m fitting in little things over the whole day it amounts to some pretty easy holistic care — one minute here, ten minutes there.

How do you maintain a self-care routine when travelling?
Kara: I’m the worst at this! I don’t know.

Jodie: Those little things come in so handy while away from home, especially during busy times. I also try and change my expectations about what’s possible for me to do: some bed yoga from the Yoga Journal podcast, a mini self-massage with an essential oil, a walk for a green smoothie, a bath, and some contact with a loved one — even if it’s just a quick text or FB message. Also, try and get yourself as many places as you are physically able and don’t discount the importance of sleep.

What are some of your favorite cosmetics? And if you do have favorites, why are cosmetics important to you?
Kara: Lipstick always makes me feel powerful. I have a lip pencil from NARS — ”Never Say Never” — and it’s the best lipstick in the world.

Jodie: Agreed! Lipstick and mascara are all I’m wearing on a regular basis right now (I’m high maintenance about my hair and skin). It makes me feel like a babe ASAP and I hope it simultaneously sends the message to strangers that I find value in myself and also not to mess with me. OCC’s “January Rising” Lip Tar is my jam.

Is self-care about self-acceptance? Or more?
Kara: I think it’s founded in it, certainly — constantly accepting that you are worthy of care and love — but it’s also working on your behavior that doesn’t make you happy or healthy. I always try to ask myself if something makes me happy or healthy, it can be one or the other, ideally both, but if it’s not doing one or the other, then I try to stop. Healthy doesn’t mean physically healthy necessarily, but emotionally, etc. It’s a mantra that has really changed my life.

Jodie: Definitely more! In the zine I said that caring for myself is resisting everything I’ve been taught about not being worthy enough and that’s definitely true to my experience. Self-care is a direct act of defiance and resilience to everything that tells us we’re not supposed to be taking up space or feeling good about ourselves. It’s a middle finger to gender roles and the notion that we should naturally care for everyone else without thinking of ourselves.

What part of your self-care routine is most important to you? And is there one that is vital to you even when you’re having the worst day?
Kara: I think long showers and sleep, for me. Most of my bad days can be answered with rest and a patient, loving pep talk to myself. I also will text my best friends and tell them I need a pep talk. Also stepping back and reminding myself that some stuff is out of my control and I can’t fix it at all. Or that self-care isn’t always the answer.

Jodie: Just the mindfulness of it all — checking in with myself, building that relationship with my intuition and instincts. Just this weekend I was diagnosed with a stress/trauma migraine and the flu. On Saturday night, I was just able to tell that something was off and because of months of checking in with myself and knowing how my body feels, I decided to go to the hospital on Sunday. Turns out I had SEVERE pneumonia. Without having a baseline and making that time consistently to pay attention to what my body needs, I probably would have toughed it out for a few more days. Oh, also — no matter what, I’ll probably rub one out each morning.

So which self-care routines do you do for you? And do you find yourself taking on some habits for other people? So you can appeal to them in some way?
Kara: I feel like I do all my self-care routines for myself and can’t say I have any self-care habits that I do to appeal to others.

Jodie: I think the idea that some self-care can be performative — especially with social media is really interesting to me. I do try and document some of my self-care because people have told me it’s helpful to see different methods or a reminder, but I think I’ve avoided being performative and still do shit even if people don’t get how or why it’s self care.

Does food or cooking factor into your self-care routine or definition at all? Or how does it?
Kara: Oh, for sure. I find a lot of comfort in a hot cup of coffee. I definitely physically and emotionally feel better when I take the time to cook a meal with healthy ingredients at home.

Jodie: Absolutely. Being able to nourish myself and eat whole foods during the week is a total privilege that makes a huge difference. I’ve made it a priority though. Making the time at the beginning of the week to meal plan and grocery shop so that when things get busy, I can still have a fresh meal is a part of my ritual for sure. Getting to put on a funny podcast and cook dinner is a great decompression moment between work and the rest of my day and a girl’s gotta eat!

Plus, treats! Self-care isn’t just about being healthy, it’s also about giving yourself permission to have chips because you feel like it or realizing that you’re not going to have time to make it for a run if you don’t get takeout. It’s about deciding what you need to feel good and not feeling bad about it or apologizing for it.

What do you think you need to improve in terms of your self-care practice?
Kara: I have an impossible time taking a real day off and being able to enjoy it. I also need to workout, because it’s really great for me to clear my head, but I have the hardest time getting myself to do it.

Jodie: Same. My partner will come upstairs to me lounging on the bed reading The Pedagogy of the Oppressed on a Sunday and will just roll his eyes at me. I also need more practice at asking other people for help supporting my practice — from professionals to friends.

Where were you both (physically or emotionally) in your lives when you realized that within self care lay so many of the answers that you were seeking?
Kara: I wrote about this in Methods but I was in a heartbroken, sad weird place in early 2014. I started this project where I wrote myself a pep talk every day for 45 days, which I then turned into a little zine publication appropriately called 45 Pep Talks. That process was illuminative for me because it made me realize that speaking to myself in a loving, positive way — rather than the “tough love” I was so used to — was much more productive for me. It helped me realize that I deserved to feel good, and I could help myself if I at least tried to care for myself more tenderly.

Jodie: I was going through a time of emotional trauma when I started to observe how quickly I morphed into the caregiver for other people, yet was chiding myself for not being tough enough and just getting over it. I was also being sorely let down by people and realized that I had to have my own back.

What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions about self-care?
Kara: That it’s easy or that admitting you need help makes you selfish or weak. Like I said earlier, self-care isn’t necessarily a spa day or Treat Yo Self shopping spree. I think because of that pampering perception self-care can be seen as inherently a privileged luxury, which is certainly true, but there are certainly self-care habits that are very accessible. Jodie and I put together Methods with that in mind.

Jodie: Yeah, self-care isn’t all bubble baths and platitudes. A lot of the self-care I’m involved in is really difficult work. Sure, I have my little daily checklists and rituals, but self-care is also big work like healing from past sexual assault trauma or dealing with the way anxiety affects my everyday life.

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Why do you think it’s so difficult to be honest with yourself — in terms of who you are, how you respond to situations, and how you take care of yourself?
Kara: I think everyone is in survival mode, some of us have to be in more dramatic ways because of how the world disadvantages certain groups. It’s really difficult to leave that mode, for good reason, and to find out how to do the work to take better care of ourselves. Self-care isn’t prescriptive, either. My “methods” aren’t yours and yours aren’t mine, though I think we should share them with each other to learn and support one another.

Jodie: We’re socialized to not really make too much trouble or put people out, so we don’t ask for help and don’t even acknowledge that we’re struggling. Being honest with ourselves about things that aren’t working, means we have to change them which means we’re probably going to have to confront some uncomfortable truths or paradigms.

What have the important women in your life taught you about self care and putting yourself first? What kind of women do you look up to and turn to?
Kara: One of my best friends, Mei, is always nonchalantly telling me to chill out and take time off. I have a great support system of women who always tell me to do the thing I want to do, but am scared to do. I really look up to women who are living on their own terms and are viciously protective of themselves — it’s inspirational.

Jodie: I’m drawn to women who are almost aggressively self-accepting — the kind who really could care less what people think about them. They’re not self-conscious to be vocal about what works and what doesn’t for them and encourage and support people around them to do the same. They’ve taught me self-care is a team sport: that it’s never stupid to text and ask for them to tell you nice things about yourself; that your friend who tells you to fuck off probably loves you the most; and that there’s no replacement for a good therapist, but Grey’s Anatomy is close.

What inspired Methods of Self Care? Why was this a necessary thing to make? Why now?
Kara: I had come out of that time making 45 Pep Talks and wanted to create some type of manual with real life self-care ideas and thoughts. Jodie had mentioned she was making a self-care zine at one point, that project hadn’t panned out, so I jumped at the chance of putting it together with her.

Jodie: It sounds so cheesy to say well it just seemed to be one of those things no one was talking about, but it was definitely something I would bring up with friends that would always spark interest. 2014 has been kind of an exhausting, garbage year for being a woman and I think we could all use a little extra tenderness and extra permission to be kind to ourselves.

Kara, in Methods of Self Care you say something that really resonated with me — you mentioned how in the face of God you were “despicable,” but that he loved you anyway. I feel like that’s so isomorphic to a lover’s love — you know the all-encompassing kind — that you get addicted to, and it can begin this really unhealthy obsession with feeling as if you need to rely on this entity’s approval of you, so you sublimate all sense of self-worth, and you become dependent on this abstract thing. How did you get yourself out of that destructive trend?
Kara: You’re right as it being an “abstract thing.” Christians (from my experience) framed this as a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” which I never really understood — or felt — and it left me to fill in the blanks because obviously Jesus wasn’t speaking straight to me. I think the major sign was that I just felt like shit. I discovered feminism in my early teens and empowerment was so at odds with what I had been taught — and it was awesome! I had to be very honest with myself and how I felt. It was a long process, but ultimately it was respecting how I felt and then acting on it — and leaving.

Jodie, I love the part where you say that self-care is taking time out for yourself in order to find what your non-negotiables are. Once, a really good (male) friend of mine told me — at the beginning of a relationship, when I pointed out that I didn’t really like the guy — “Sometimes, Fariha, he’ll only be 80% of what you want, but that’s good enough.” I don’t think that’s gendered advice, but I do think that women hear it WAY more often than men. When you tell anyone, but particularly women, who are used to being told that they’re not enough, that they should essentially settle — you are setting their standards low for them. I want to know what your non-negotiables are, and also if you think that women should have, in general, some default no-brainer-non-negotiables?
Jodie: Yes, yes, yes — we definitely have our standards lowered for us more as women. Like, truly, I have heard women say “At least he doesn’t hit me!” As if this is some wonderful gift that someone doesn’t physically abuse them. But in our society, the standards so many women have set for themselves in regards to so many things is the bare minimum — jobs, self-esteem, women’s rights, access to health care.

My big non-negotiable is alone time. I need about half an hour after work and about an hour to an hour and a half on weekend mornings to just hang out on Instagram, read, meditate, stretch, and just be with my thoughts. Solitude is huge for me and I need that time daily. I also need something fun to look forward to at all times — this is actually really important for my mental health. So, I need to be making plans — whether it’s a bike ride date or buying concert tickets or planning a once-a-month dinner outing with my ladies Cindy and Andrea. Having something nice to do with people I love is really crucial to myself care.

I think there’s nothing prescriptive all women should have as a non-negotiable, but we should all try and make sure we’re doing something that makes us be present in our bodies and that makes them feel good. Definitely masturbate or get a massage or take selfies or go for a swim or whatever. Also, the more guilty and selfish I feel about something, the more likely I actually probably need to do it and get over my hang-ups. So, do something that makes you feel selfish at first, and then get over it.

Kara, you mentioned how self-care is “an action, not a final place of being,” which sounds like it’s a process, not this overnight thing. In movies, etc. we’re made to feel as though we need some sort of epiphany and then a radical makeover in order to be this new, better, more together person. I was wondering how you exercise this in real life? What have been some self-care habits that you believed to be overnight transformations? How do you counteract things that break you down with things that build you up?
Kara: I exercise it by exercising it, trying to practice everyday. I think some self-care works like a bandaid, “the overnight transformation,” which I don’t think is necessarily bad, but other actions of self-care have to be performed constantly. Let’s say, for example, cutting someone out of your life. I’ve done that and expected myself to instantly feel better overnight. I felt better in ways for sure, but I realized I had to nurture and take care of myself in regard to that cutting-off and for a long time. It’s mostly a lot of patience with myself.

Sleep is a literal overnight transformation for me. And as far as counteracting…It’s being open with my friends and saying “Hey! Over here! I need some good vibes right now!”

Jodie, you talk about how self-care “is community, but it’s not about giving more than you can afford.” What were some ways you put yourself last? I struggle with trying to prioritize myself because I tell myself it’s selfish and self-serving. What finally convinced you otherwise? What are some ways that you put yourself first in order to watch out for yourself?
Jodie: Oh god, there are too many examples of this that started when I was so young. It’s mortifying the things I would do as a 17-year-old to emotionally caretake for the people around me. There was a guy who I would let talk to me about another girl for three hours a night after working the late shift at a coffee shop. Then I’d do all my homework and sleep for 3 hours before school. I got grounded for 6 months because a friend wanted to borrow my car to go on a date while I was at work and I lied to my parents about it. More recently, I’ve lied about my beliefs in certain situations so I didn’t make people uncomfortable. I skipped out on getting surgery on a cyst on my eyelid because I didn’t want to call in sick to work to my boss.

I think the thing that changed my mind about it was working with youth. I saw girls especially changing who they were to be appealing or putting up with bullshit from each other. At the same time, I was getting really run down from overcommitting and seeing the impact of trying to put everyone’s needs and desires before my own. I was flaking on people because I double-booked them or got exhausted. I was setting an embarrassing example and at the same time seeing the women who were supposed to be my examples burning themselves out for other people — with no one left to care for them.

I realized I was a better, more patient, more present friend when I had all my shit sorted out. I was a better employee when I came to work well-rested and prepared. I was a better volunteer when I picked a few things I was best at and found one or two places to apply those skills. I realized that there were so many other people around me looking for permission to say no to shit they didn’t want to do or say yes to things that made them feel good or to ask for help.

Now I put myself first by only doing things that I’m really in love with, only being with people who help me grow, being okay with saying no, defining health for myself, answering less phone calls, and not staying in situations where I’m not valued.

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Sara Black McCulloch is a writer living in Toronto. Mute her on the Internet here.

Fariha Roísín is a writer extraordinaire. Follow her rambunctious tweeting @fariharoisin.