Self-care isn’t just about binge watching TV when you’re feeling down, or taking a mental health day when you are literally on the verge of a break down. Self-care is daily practice that takes time and energy – it’s a practice that must be learned. Weirdly enough, we don’t always know what we need until we truly make an effort to come in tune with our bodies and minds.
When was the last time you paused in making Friday night plans to ask yourself “Do I really want go out?” Or when have you last sat down and truly thought about your daily routines and if they are adding to your happiness? We tend to slip into certain routines or patterns of thought without thinking very much about them. Generally, because we fall into these patterns so naturally, this probably means that at least to some extent, they reflect our choices and desires. But we change every day – and life changes. Just because something felt good once doesn’t mean you have to do it for the rest of your life.
When we fall into these routines and thoughts, we don’t always stop to think about what we truly need. We don’t necessarily consider changing our patterns or habits, or putting in valuable time for self-care. To enjoy life, and I mean to really enjoy life, we must recognize our needs and desires. We must listen to ourselves, and practice living in a way that reflects and fulfills these needs.
So please: take some time for self-discovery. Get to know yourself! You may think this sounds corny. That’s fair. But, if you actually commit time and energy to taking care of yourself, your life is really going to change for the better. I promise, it will be worth it. Life happens so quickly and to fully engage in everything and everyone around us, we really need to be loved and cared for. So take care of yourself and practice self-care. Remember: “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”
Reminder & Tips when it comes to self-care:
1. To care for and support others, you have to take care of yourself first. Self-care will result in stronger, more positive relationships with others. If you neglect to care for yourself, you will have less to give to others – you will have less energy to go around. Your relationships will be the best when you are at peace with yourself, and when you feel that you can be there and support both yourself and your loved ones. So please, care for yourself first.
2. Sometimes self-care isn’t always fun and glamourous. Sometimes it’s about making a schedule, or jotting down a to-do list to empty out your cluttered mind. We all need space to breathe and think. When we are constantly thinking about work or school, or any of life’s pressures, our minds have no room left to just “be.” Try finding new ways to organize your thoughts – whether it is schedules, lists, or journaling, emptying your mind can be valuable.
3. AND, on that note, try journaling! I know you’ve heard this before. And I know it sounds like a chore, but I promise, journaling can really help you to see life more clearly. It can help you to reflect, and even to self soothe. You don’t need to be a writer to journal – you don’t even need to write. If journaling for you is writing down a few feelings each day, that’s okay too. Some people journal through poetry, some people write lists. It’s whatever works for you. Journaling should be a tool that you can fit into your life – so no matter how you do it, I promise, it can truly improve your life.
4. Self-care comes in all different colors – you get to choose what self-care means for you. For some people, an oatmeal bath is relaxing and nurturing. For others, a cup of tea and a rerun (or a binge) of Grey’s Anatomy is more comforting. Maybe it’s savoring a bowl of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream while browsing through Pinterest. If you’re very extroverted, self-care can mean going to a party, or going out. If you’re more introverted, you may want to curl up with your four legged friend and some pumpkin spice candles.
5. SLEEP! Too many times we stay up late trying to finish “one last thing,” that turns into a chain of “one last things.” Then, before we know it it’s 2 am and we are wired. We sleep for a few hours, then go to work and repeat the process – it’s a constant cycle of sleep deprivation that seems never ending. Make an effort to get enough sleep – if you pay attention, you’ll realize immediate improvements in your mood and energy. Your days will be better, and you’ll end up getting more done. Start by going to bed just an hour, or even a half an hour, early. You’ll be surprised what a little more sleep can do for you.
6. Along with this, take care of your body! Your body is your own personal house – it’s where you live. No matter how old you are, start to prioritize your health. Health is so valuable, and too often we take it for granted. We only notice it when we are sick, or when something isn’t functioning right. We forget to notice how incredibly amazing good health is. Eat more healthy foods – and by this, I don’t mean that you need to follow a strict diet plan. You don’t need to cut gluten, or “go” Paleo. You don’t need to stick to juice cleanses or “clean” foods. You just need to eat a variety – incorporate fruits and veggies, and foods with high nutritional value. Eat foods that feel good to you – foods that give you energy and make you feel vibrant and alive. The best foods for you are the foods that make you feel good.
7. You don’t always have to have a clear cut reason for saying no to plans. If you don’t want to do something, listen to what your body is telling you, and respect this. You don’t need to go out on a Friday night simply because you feel like you “should.” Your only obligation is YOU, so be considerate of your needs.
8. When you are feeling down or anxious, remember that thoughts are never permanent. You will feel better soon – so relax, care for yourself, and believe that things will be brighter soon. A large part of anxiety actually comes from judging ourselves for feeling anxious. We attach judgment to the anxiety itself, and thus, the anxiety worsens. If we can be more accepting of feelings and less critical, the feelings will come and go.
9. Don’t worry about what everybody else is doing; focus on what you are doing. That’s the only thing that’s important – the rest doesn’t concern you. We are always comparing ourselves to everyone, which easily explains why we struggle with feeling like we are “enough.” If you hold yourself to everyone else’s standards, I hate to say it, but you’re never going to be “enough.” This is because we are all so different – comparison isn’t a fair game, and in all honesty, there’s no real way to “win” without either bringing yourself down, or bringing others down. Try to remember that you can admire someone else and cheer them on with all of your heart, without diminishing your own inner-beauty and worth.
10. Spend time with people who care about you, and who truly respect you for you. Taking care of your self involves knowing that you should be treated well, and knowing that you are worthy of respect and love. If spending time with someone is making you doubt yourself, or causing you discomfort, it’s probably better that you do not spend time with that person. Spend time with people who you can be yourself around, people who love you for who you are.
11. Practice body acceptance. While body love is always a goal, for some of us, this isn’t a practical goal – at least not immediately. Body acceptance is more of a neutral stance. Body acceptance involves appreciating all of the wonderful, beautiful things your body does for you, and allows you to do. It involves accepting that your curves or edges are not the enemy – they are simply part of your being. We are such harsh critics of our bodies, mainly because we compare them to what we think they “should” be. We look in the mirror and pick out the “flaws,” rather than seeing the unique beauty that reflects back at us. Self-care is about starting to realize that beauty is not size or shape dependent, and that the most important beauty comes from within.
12. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. Remember that you are full of lovely thoughts waiting to grow. Water these thoughts and tend to these thoughts, while letting the negative thoughts come and go. We can’t avoid negative thoughts or feelings, but we can choose to nurture the positive feelings. By mindfully listening to our thoughts, we can learn to focus on the good, and accept that thoughts are just thoughts. They hold value, but not always truth.