Self Care for Poor Folks: I Am Moving Away From Poverty Brain

For 2015, I've decided to practice more of what I preach.
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Shannon Barber
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For 2015, I've decided to practice more of what I preach.
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Hey, holy crap, it is 2015. (And February already at that.)

Happy New Year, y'all. I'm glad we all made it through.

So much happened in 2014 that was both great and really terrible that I don't really want to do the whole recap thing.

Instead, what I'd like to talk about is how we're handling things in 2015. First I'm going to share some of my plans and how my self-care routines and things I'm doing are changing a little, and then I want to provide some ideas for getting started. Then I want to turn things over to you because, frankly, you're giving me life with all of the teamwork.

For 2015, I've decided to practice more of what I preach.

First thing I am working on: fixing my emotional relationship with money. I'm better than I used to be, but sometimes when I need new pants or some such thing, my brain goes into Poverty Overload.

Rationally I know things are not that dire for me anymore, but emotionally I'm not quite there yet. Panic and anxiety is not the way to go.

The next thing I'm working out is continuing to let myself do things that make me happy just because they make me happy. It seems fairly simple, but during the past year or so, I've noticed a tendency toward telling myself no to things that are just pleasurable for me.

Why? There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that I believe, on some level, that since I am poor, I am not allowed. Not allowed to what? Make art, crochet something because I like to crochet, lay burrito'd up in my blankets and read. You know, things that make me happy that aren't contributing to my bank account.

It is 2015 — we're living in the freaking future; let's not screw around anymore.

So how do we get there?

First thing: Remember you are worthy and deserving of good and nice things regardless of your situation. For those of us who are marginalized on varying axis, we absolutely need this in order to survive.

For me, self-care goes a long way toward healing the millions of tiny wounds things like microaggressions cause. Depending on where you live and how much you interact with the world, just easing some of that stress might turn your self-care into the most amazing survival-related thing ever.

For those of us who are in dire financial straits, working out what things to do on a regular basis can be a bigger challenge. This is because of what some commenters and myself call "Poverty Brain."

Poverty Brain, like most jerks, will pipe up with reasons you should not be doing whatever you're doing.

Painting your nails?

Poverty Brain may respond like this: Why are you painting your nails? You should be looking for a job.

Poverty Brain will question your decision to spend some time in bed reading, feeding your cat, or otherwise "wasting time" when you could be trying to earn or pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

The problem with that is fatigue. If you are unemployed or really broke, Poverty Brain seems to think you will magically grow this bottomless pit of energy and ability to scour the ends of the Earth for income.

One of the first habits I decided to break myself of was my constant obsessive side hustling. We all know I love a good side-hustle. I use side-hustle money to keep me in fancy skin care and lipstick. It became a problem for me a few years ago when I started putting a huge amount of pressure and stress on myself because I had the nerve to sometimes read lit mags on the Internet rather than dedicating all time not spent writing or working my day job to the side-hustle.

Whether it was surveys, get-paid-to-click, or writing ad copy for adult sites — I put myself into this terrible loop and it was really stressful.

Poverty Brain is wrong about the idea that if you just go full tilt all the time things will get better. Nope. What is more likely to happen is that you'll find yourself sitting in front of your computer at 4 a.m., sobbing because you can't decide if you like crunchy or smooth peanut butter and have thus ruined your chances for one more survey.

Don't follow my example.

Poverty Brain often insists that you, the poor person, should be commodifying ALL your time and energy. In theory, if that worked, none of us would ever sweat our bills being due.

In the face of the urge or pressure to try to hustle every moment, stop. Take a deep breath. Bills and rent are due but you can still have five minutes to yourself. Not as a reward. Simply because you can't be going full tilt all the time.

When people either insinuate — or say outright — that if you are not actively hustling right in the moment they are looking at you that you are being lazy, it chips away at you. I know this. Some days it is going to be really hard and hurt a lot.

Those are the days I want you to take your five minutes and do something. If you've been reading for the whole series, I'm willing to bet you've found some free or very inexpensive thing that feels like the appropriate care for you.

When things get hateful and shamey, do the thing that brings you some joy whether it's yoga, staring at your cat, painting your nails — whatever. Make it happen.

I fully believe that regardless of circumstances, life does not have to be all struggle all the time. Yes, even if you are living on crumbs and pennies picked out of a parking lot, you don't have to grind yourself into the ground.

I know I keep saying it. I do that because I know there are some of you sitting there reading this and nodding, and then I hear your Poverty Brain telling you something like, "DUH, she's talking about other people, not you."

No, I am talking about you.

The biggest reason I'm getting repeaty here is that stress is a killer. For those of us who are living in poverty or just barely getting along, we don't hear often that we need some stress reduction. Even a slight reduction in stress has so many benefits when it comes to health and general quality of life.

Regardless of how poor you are right now, you do not have to commodify every moment of your day or everything you do. You don't need to apologize or be ashamed if you take some time off from hustling, looking for jobs, resumes, networking or whatever you're doing to get by.

Make a plan. I have a folder of links to things I find soothing on the Internet. (I'll leave some of those links at the end.) If you love to read, set aside links or books that make you happy. Watch your favorite TV show, listen to music that makes your butt wiggle. Do the thing that gives you some respite.

Don't be ashamed or embarrassed if you need encouragement or another person to tell you, "Yes, go ahead, you have permission." Every now and then, lots of us need a little nudge or some outside validation. Every now and then, it is a great service to give someone else that little nudge or validation.

Once you feel settled or a bit less stressed, then you can get your hustle on.

How are you all doing? Friends who have been undergoing/getting started getting mental health care help, how are you? Parents and other care givers of kids, did you make it through okay?

Do you have news? Do you need help? Drop it all in the comments.

And here are a few of my favorite I need to calm down/chill out/care for myself links. Everything is free, SFW, and excellent to provide some entertainment or distraction as needed.

I turn it over to you fine folks.