Baylee Ritter is the Youth Advisor for The Ocean Project, a former member of the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council and delegate for Sea Youth Rise Up, and a 2020 National Geographic Young Explorer.
The future of our ocean is the future of humanity – which is why my work today centers on getting kids from rural, landlocked communities like mine involved in the leadership of this collective fight for a healthy blue planet!
As my environmental work has evolved, self-care has gone through seasons of what it means to me, but at this point in my life, self-care means pausing. As a young person in the constantly moving wheel of change-making, there’s never going to be a point where you can say, “The earth is all good! Sit back and watch a movie, your work is done.” But just because you need to take a break doesn’t mean you won’t get opportunities to further your work or the world will crumble. I think of Atlas holding up the sky — self-care means understanding and knowing there are a lot of other cool young people who are going to continue to hold up the sky while you sit down and take a break. The world is still going to be there when you come back.
So I wanted to share some tips of how I prioritize taking time for self-care and encourage you all to do the same!
- Turn off WiFi. It can be scary, but try to work while disconnected from the Internet and social media. While it can be a really beautiful and connective tool, it can also be a breeding ground for negativity and comparisons to others. It can be scary for me to think, “What if I don’t check Instagram today and miss this cool opportunity?” But there are always going to be opportunities. They will still be there when you come back. When discussing self-care, we often think of bubble baths and binging TV shows, but it’s removing the things that are bringing so much noise into our lives that is truly a hard but necessary thing in self-care.
- Do activities that are truly filling. Every morning as I’m getting dressed, I put on a song and I have to dance to that one song while I get ready. It’s the first song that comes to mind and I don’t judge it — lately, it’s been Miley Cyrus, the Bee Gees, or Mariah Carey. I’ve never done this before in my life; I don’t know why I thought dancing would be the fix during the pandemic, but it has brought me more joy starting my mornings.
- Get outside. The first weeks of the pandemic were really uncertain and scary. I remember the first time my partner suggested going on a hike after the local trails opened back up. We got out of our car and started on the trail and I had this moment I hadn’t felt since I was a kid: I reflected on how much I love this planet and my gratitude toward the physical earth for being there for me when I was scared. Nature was there in a way I hadn’t given gratitude for in a long time. It is fortunate to be able to go into these pristine, protected, safe spaces in nature, and that hike gave me the answer I had forgotten. It gave me that why again. Why I wake up every day and ask myself if I am doing what I can, with the energy, means, and time that I have to ensure this planet is abundant and safe for all. Even though it’s cold where I live, I’m still getting outside — I’m now trying to embrace the briskness and the changing of the seasons, and it gives me so much joy.
- Don’t get caught up in what society tells you is self-care. We are constantly being sold these different self-care and wellness opportunities. A spa. A fancy bath. But with what time, money, and access? For me, self-care looks like turning on a 2.5-minute song and dancing my butt off. Self-care literally looks like what makes sense to you. Taking the time to figure that out isn’t easy, but if it’s authentic to you, you’ll make time for it.
- You’re not going to be 100% every day. Something I’ve had to reconcile is the misconception that the moment in which you are taking care of yourself is the moment you feel 100%. But that’s an unachievable, lofty thing that puts pressure on you. Sometimes you might feel 85% but that doesn’t mean your self-care is failing. Given the realities of today, sometimes you can do all these self-care things and still feel 85%. That’s what you can give today and that’s okay.
- Self-care is a spectrum — there is no right way to do it. It is what it is for you and it ebbs and flows. At the beginning of 2020, I wrote a manifesto of the things I wanted to implement in my life. One of those things was to read 25 books this year, and guess what? I didn’t do it. Looking at my list at the end of 2020, I immediately felt this twinge of disappointment. But guess what wasn’t on that list? Dancing every morning.