This post is part of the series Lessons from My First Tattoo
Other posts in this series:
- What My First Tattoo Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 0: A Self-Care Primer (Current)
- What My First Tattoo Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 1: Have A Plan
- What My First Tattoo Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 2: Take It Slow
A few weeks ago, I got my first tattoo. I’ve been wanting to get one for a while, but the fear of pain kept me from going forward. Now that I’ve been through the experience, I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned from the process of getting the tattoo and caring for it afterwards.
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. I can hear you blinking. It’s okay. As obvious as it seems, a lot of people ignore even the basics of self-care, especially during periods of high stress. When you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to get sick, make mistakes, and cause even more, often worse, stress to fall on your shoulders. Stress can snowball quickly, so doing a few little things every day or every week can make a world of difference.
After I got my tattoo, there was a whole list of little things I had to do every day to make sure it healed properly. People forget that the process of getting a tattoo literally involves stabbing yourself repeatedly with tiny needles, leaving ink in the layer of skin below what’s visible to us. You’re wounding yourself, and you need to care for that wound.
That care involves washing the wound several times a day. But you can’t just use any random soap. You need fragrance free soap so that the alcohol and other ingredients don’t irritate the area and cause more pain. You’re cleaning the tattoo because until it fully heals, you’re at risk of infection. My childhood babysitter ended up in the hospital with a flesh-eating bacterial infection because she didn’t clean her first tattoo properly. Self-care matters.
For your mental health, self-care can take many forms. Sometimes it’s making sure you go to the gym. While you may hit the treadmill because cardio’s good for you, exercise also increases your dopamine and serotonin levels. I suffer from bipolar disorder, caused in part by low serotonin levels. I’m medicated, but running a mile every day acts as an additional booster to my meds and keeps me feeling better as a result.
You don’t need to get your sweat on to take care of yourself. And you don’t need evening defining regular events either. Self-care is and should be simple. Taking the time to read a good book for half an hour before bed is just as effective as wandering around Hyrule in Breath of the Wild for some people. Take a relaxing bath with some aromatherapy candles once a week to destress. Have coffee with a colleague, without talking about work. Whatever it is that gives you a mental break. You don’t just deserve it. You need it.
Continue reading this series:
What My First Tattoo Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 1: Have A Plan