It’s tough to practice real self-care when the internet’s obsessed with #self-care. Let Mashable help with our new series Me, My Self-Care & I.
Taking time to restore our mental, emotional, and physical health often feels like it gets in the way of our own main quest, but really, self-care helps us get through it all in one piece.
Link taught me that. And Geralt of Rivia. And Commander Shepard.
Video games — hold your melodramatic eye-roll — taught me more about self-care than I expected for an oft escapist medium. Charging through main narrative, getting wildly distracted by side missions, and attempting to upgrade yourself into oblivion is a stressful journey, and one that’s wildly relatable.
Open-world and role-playing games surprisingly allow you to really understand the true value of self-care, and how to take stock of your own development and recentre yourself through the onslaught of daily tasks, whether you’re battling monsters, stealthing past the undead, or just trying to survive in a brutal world.
Take control and practice self-care the way Peter Parker, Arthur Morgan, or Ellie would.
1. The Witcher series taught me the value of meditation
Ever tried meditating? It’s not as inaccessible as you might think. In fact, in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Geralt of Rivia does it everywhere — in taverns, in town squares, in sunflower fields, as long as he’s not engaged in combat. Geralt’s perpetual engagement with violence, threat, and evading enemies would logically take a toll on the mind, so it makes sense that meditation is a regular part of his day. In the game, the practice passes the time and replenishes your health, but for me, the value placed on meditation also enforced its normality as a tool of wellbeing, as easily accessible as food and water.
2. Spider-Man taught me to enjoy one’s own company
Peter Parker spends a lot of time with people, but Spider-Man tends to sit solo in his lofty heights. I’ve moved to new cities three times in my life, to Sydney, New York, and London, and every time I’ve needed to relearn what it means to fly solo, cultivating a renewed sense of self. One of the very best elements of Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man is this blissful solitude, simply swinging through the streets of Manhattan on your own, finding your way to the highest possible point just for a cheeky photo of a perfect sunset behind the Statue of Liberty. Taking personal missions to private perches is a true act of self-care, and one Parker does all the time — I strongly caution against replicating his though.
3. The Breath of the Wild taught me that cooking gives you a sense of control
Feeling like everything’s gotten a little out of hand? Try winning a small victory in your kitchen; it’s what Link would do. Gathering ingredients to create something new is something The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild joyfully champions. After holding those precious ingredients close, you toss them into the pan where they jovially bounce around. Then, Link does a little victory dance every time an edible dish is produced. In fact, the radishes in the Creamy Heart Soup are literally heart-shaped. Cooking for yourself can boost your self-esteem (and, in turn, Link’s health, stamina, and defense). Win-win.
4. Life Is Strange taught me to write it all out (yes, in a journal)
Overthinking is a strange term. I know many people who analyse most of life’s little decisions, and if you’re like me, it can become overwhelming when you’re absorbed in your own mind palace. So, much like Max Caulfield in Life Is Strange, it can help to write it all down in a journal of sorts (unfortunately, we can’t wield our diaries as a time-traveling tool like Max). Granted, keeping track of your emotions and thoughts can feel a little angsty teen at times, but it’s wildly cathartic and can help you monitor personal trends, even if you just need to do it once (and really dig into it).
5. Fallout taught me there’s nothing more restorative than a good nap
Resting, as in really taking a good nap or getting a full night’s sleep, is something we take for granted when we’re charging through a fully booked mission schedule in the wasteland that is our lives (whoa, sorry). But games like those in the Fallout series preach that getting a good rest is the key to a restored, healthy, healed body (and dealing with aggressive, insistent, powerful mutants).
6. Mass Effect taught me to chat through your stuff
Something on your mind? About to take on a genocidal alien race and you’re a tad worried about it? Unpack those feelings with your crew in the cargo bay. Unless it compulsorily propels the game’s main narrative, or you’re keen for one of those incredibly unsexy sex scenes, it’s not completely necessary to talk to every single member of your team in Mass Effect. However, it does help you develop your character, learn about others’ backstories, dreams, and concerns, and physically gives you a break from all the fighting. Goes for real life, too.
7. God of War taught me to be present, especially while canoeing
Taking time to really be present, while spending time with the people you love, is a less tangible form of self-care, but the benefits are all yours. In fact, God of War rewards that very act, by enabling more of the story to unfold the more time you, as Kratos, spend in canoes with your son, Atreus. There’s plenty of action up ahead once you disembark, but don’t rush the passage that gets you there. It’s one of the best ways to fully enjoy the story. That goes for life, too. Alright, feel free to capsize my canoe now.
8. The Elder Scrolls taught me that reading books is a vital time-out
Reading can increase your knowledge, skills, or just tell a damn good story, but overall, it’s incredibly good for your mind. Books in Skyrim, for example, are scattered throughout Tamriel. They can enable quests to start, add locations to your map, or increase your skills, but often they’re just full of the history, tales, and information about the world and its people — always good for mindful perspective. Plus, reading in Skyrim causes you to take a quiet moment between dungeon-raiding and dragon-fighting. Grab a sweetroll and settle in.
9. The Last of Us taught me the value of discovering comics in a fucked-up world
If you’re consumed by the everyday slog of surviving in the post-apocalyptic United States, you’re going to want to give that mind a rest every now and again. Luckily, there are comics! One of the collectible items Naughty Dog’s survival horror game, comics can be picked up through the game, much to Ellie’s delight — and yours. Seriously, when things in life get more stressful than stealthing past a horde of Clickers, you’ll be thankful for a moment of self-care with your nose in a Savage Starlight comic.
10. Red Dead Redemption 2 taught me to enjoy a good bath
While self-care needs to go deeper than candles and bubble baths, having a good long soak in times of strife can be pretty therapeutic. Having rampaged your way through life, rollicking through, say, bank robberies, horse theft, and cheeky games of Five Finger Fillet, you’re gonna end up tired and covered in various mystery substances. So, like Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2, treat yourself to a cheeky bath — it’s relatively cheap and you’ll notice the benefits immediately.
But as Arthur’s larger journey of self-reflection and assessment taught me, it takes more than a hot tub to truly practice self-care — no matter what new fandangled products and temporary vices are thrown at you.
The ultimate goal in your real-life quest should be increasing your overall wellness and stocking up on self-awareness, not just your bath bomb stash.