Why self-care is actually friendship-care

It's brain science

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Last weekend, I saw a few friends outside at a park on a truly perfect early summer day (we had masks and stayed socially distant!).

I laughed so much and had beautiful, meandering conversations with people whose meals, laundry and toothbrushing technique remain deliciously mysterious and separate from mine.

I talked to other people! People who don’t live with me! What a day.

When I got home, I had a message. A friend wanted to clarify a joke in case I took it the wrong way. 

The next morning, a different friend, referencing a different conversation, wanted to clarify something, too. “I’m afraid my tone might’ve been off.”

Girl. We are all *off* right now, it’s okay.

I laughed with affection as I gazed into my phone, my preferred pandemic pose of the last 15 months, and messaged back: Don’t worry, I get it!

We are all socially awkward now.

Visions of the Post-Pandemic Future (Revised) by Emily Flake, The New Yorker

Crawling toward summer

While social re-entry is happening at different times depending on where you live , I doubt any of us are doing pas-de-bourrées with our best face forward. If you are looking at yourself in a full-length mirror, wondering, Did I really wear this all year? as you overthink everything you said in your last Zoom call, I am doing the same.

So this is what re-entry feels like.

Personally, I am crawling toward summer wondering how to feel “normal” or at least, not like I pickled myself with chips and beer all winter in a fleece sausage-casing.

I’m overworked, exhausted, and I am still languishing.1

This week, I’m half-laughing at myself, half-genuinely irritated as I use janky dictation software due to a new case of tendinitis in my wrist and thumb (perhaps a hazard of that pandemic phone pose).

When we feel crummy like this, our friends — should we be so lucky to have amazing, caring friends —would say, “You need to take care of yourself!”

Well, I say the best self-care right now is to actually care for our friends.

Self-care is friend care

Here are a few reasons why I think self-care, right now, is really group care:

🧠 It’s actual brain science: Do you have brain fog? Simply noticing it isn’t enough to snap out of it. All this sameness and lack of socializing has really done a number on us. The good news is this foggy feeling isn’t permanent. Brain plasticity is how humans adapt.2 And novelty is key for the human brain. Here’s an excerpt from a story from The Atlantic quoting a neuroscientist: “Being outside of your home, bumping into people, commuting, all of these changes that we are collectively being deprived of—is very associated with synaptic plasticity,” the brain’s inherent ability to generate new connections and learn new things.3

👯. BFFs are good for your longevity: A few years back, a BFF sent me a news story on moais, an Okinawan tradition of grouping children from birth into a small group.4 These small groups experience life together and learn to support each other emotionally, socially —even financially — for life. “Research shows that your social connections can have long-term impact on your health and happiness. You mimic the habits of your three closest friends.” And while the pandemic has deprived us socially for way too long, research shows that the real-life contact we crave is actually good for us. “The face-to-face interactions you have on a daily basis are one of the strongest predictors of how long you’ll live.”5

May we all experience a friends’ night out like this one day. (Photo credit: Blue Zones)

💆‍♀️ Real self-care has never been solo: Self-care is often marketed as a solo activity (think sheet masks or spa visits) but it’s Week 59,304 of the pandemic — can you imagine anything you want less than an activity by yourself? Listen, I love nice toenails as much as the next person, but they don’t last. I’ve never laughed ‘til I cried with a nail technician. Meanwhile, I still think about memorable meals, conversations and words of wisdom shared between friends. My most embarrassing moments? Only my moai really knows them. 

See a friend. Safely, of course, by staying outside.

And if social re-entry is making you feel awkward, just let it make you lol. Relationships give us joy and I can’t think of a better definition of self-care.

If reading this made you think of a dear friend, forward it to them!

As ever, you can support this newsletter by hitting the heart, sharing on social and I always love hearing from you (just reply to this email).

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Take care out there 🌟


✨✨✨ This newsletter was edited by Laura Hensley ✨✨✨

Further Reading

Wearing Masks Outside, ParentData. Emily Oster on doing the math of outdoor infection risk. TLDR; it’s very low

Montreal public health says nine outbreaks linked to outdoor gatherings at city parks, CityNews. Socialize outside but don’t share glasses, cigarettes and food!

The Power of Positive People, New York Times. More on moais and friendship

What About Your Friends by TLC. It’s Friday — dance! 🎶

Health journalist André Picard on The Conversation Piece podcast, The Walrus Talks. André has been a hero throughout the pandemic with his columns on Covid. This talk was recorded pre-pandemic but its message on the importance of social ties has been on my mind, especially during these times.

Every month, At The End Of the Day goes out to readers of Best Health magazine. This team is so great at what they do and I’m grateful for our collaboration! Here are a few recent articles from Best Health you should read:

Feeling a tad resentful? Here’s how to let it all go Yes, resentment is toxic. Let it go!

Can improving your gut health boost your mental wellbeing? Always fascinated by the microbiome.

The best acids for skincare, explained So much science