by Tammy A. Barnes, YNPNdc Volunteer -
Ah, February. The month of fluffy feelings and all things heart-shaped. When one half of twenty-eight days (occasionally twenty-nine) is plastered pink and red and chocolate-filled, the month in its entirety represents several core life values: love (Valentine's Day), resiliency (Black History Month), and well-being (Heart Health Awareness Month). Our tiny month of February is a powerful teacher in how we might achieved a balanced life, 365 days a year.
Google search "self-care" and you find the million (and one) articles written on this subject. Among them, a 2015 report showed 94% of millennials reported making commitments toward personal improvement. We know how savvy you are and we bet you already have a lifestyle that is 'self-care aware,' so no need for us to throw yet another general list of tips and tricks to the stack. As your peer network in DC, we want to give you access to the tools you need to thrive.
There are many pieces of advice out there on how to achieve self-care by spending money (get a massage, buy a new work suit, or do a juice cleanse), but not all self-care investments have originate from your wallet. In fact, DC offers a lot of free to low cost opportunities to TREAT YO'SELF both year round and seasonally. Inspired by a recent article from Forbes on self-care for the young professional, here are some ways to build out an all-encompassing self-care regimen in the great District of Columbia:
- Art can be therapeutic, and DC has an amazing art scene. Yes, we all know the Smithsonian's are free. However, every quadrant of this city is immersed in some form of art. Check out these suggestions to connect your self-care to DC-grown visual art shows, exhibits, or classes: East City Art, Anacostia Arts Center or Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Dupont Underground, and ARTECHOUSE. Let's not neglect performance art! Curbed DC has a stellar list of DC's spoken word. And you can dance, sing, or lip sync your way to self-care with this short list of DC's live music venues. Or did you know DC is a Sofar city? In cities around the world, Sofar transforms everyday spaces - like a living room or retail shop - into exclusive venues for secret, live shows. The immersive experience is food for the soul!
Why sign a 12-month contract to a gym when you can achieve that #selfcareswole for free? Here are a few of DC's free fitness tribes that would love to sweat with you in every quadrant: For a dose of year-round fitness, there's NovemberProject (#justshowup). Or, ever heard of Hashing? It's a thing...with a schedule... to connect you to fellow hashers any day of the week. You can also use a tool like The Fit Crasher or Active Life DC to find free community classes of all types of fitness in DC. Seasonally speaking, after Memorial Day outdoor fitness abounds in public parks like Yards Park or TriFit at Golden Triangle. And don't forget about DC Parks and Recreation for more fitness options or health events in your neighborhood.
We might be preaching to the choir here when we say, "serving others is a form of self-care." DC is robust with non-profit organizations that provide direct services to our city's most vulnerable populations. And there are ad-hoc ways of engaging with these organizations if a weekly volunteer commitment won't fit your self-care schedule. For example, DC Central Kitchen has an emergency waitlist and will send out emails when they need to mobilize more helping hands for upcoming volunteer shifts. Another one of DC's larger hunger fighting non-profits is Capital Area Food Bank, and like DC Central Kitchen, has an online calendar where you can register volunteer up to 3 months in advance. Smaller nonprofits like Food For All DC operate solely on volunteers and are always looking for help on Saturday mornings. While these opportunities are focused on eradicating hunger, volunteering in DC covers a wide spectrum of service options, from beatification to advocacy to education. Don't be shy about finding ways to link your altruistic passions to your self-care. VolunteerMatch is your friend!
- Self-care should be about your entire self. You can take small steps each day to find your internal equilibrium. Try a guided meditation app like Headspace or Calm, and practice mindfulness on your commute or during a lunch break. Did you know that there are organizations in DC that offer mental health services on a sliding scale based on income, or debt to income ratio? You could speak with a graduate level mental health professional, receiving a high quality of service while helping them on their career path. You might consider American University's James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic; or, Virginia Tech's Center for Family Services on their Northern Virginia Campus. Or you can explore the wide service offerings of The Women's Center, which provides support to men, women, children, and families across the DMV. There may even be a mental health professional located at your primary care physician's office. You may consider asking about this at your next check-up.
All in all, DC is a great city to be a young professional. It's a work hard, play hard town. We know being CEO of your life has many layers and you face many different demands each day. Even the smallest acts you do to calm, heal, and grow matter. Shamelessly binge watching Netflix for an afternoon (or, ok...the whole weekend), going to bed at 8:00pm, or reigning in how much you commit to at work - these acts of self-care are just as important as those that are scheduled or planned.
Looking for more on how to improve yourself? Check out January’s blog post on goal-setting.