Do you suck at taking care of yourself?
Don’t beat yourself up; you’re in good company. See, we’ve created a society where we are constantly on the go. It is drilled into us that we aren’t “good enough” if we aren’t being productive and doing something every day, all day long. Taking a break to unwind is considered lazy, while being stressed and overwhelmed is simply the status quo.
The thing is that, by living this way, you are quite literally digging yourself an early grave. The American Psychological Association reports that “chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death.” If you keep pushing your limits, you’re going to find yourself in a place where no amount of sleep, caffeine, or bubble baths are going to refresh you.
But there’s good news! Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a major lifestyle overhaul—you can do things every day to be good to yourself. They may seem difficult to do at first, especially if you’re new to the world of self-care, but we promise they are actually pretty simple.
1. Cancel your plans.
We tend to overschedule ourselves, and that leaves us feeling tired and worn out. The world will not end because you take a break and look after your own needs. The project will not explode if you divert your attention. Leave it. It will still be there when you are refreshed and ready to tackle it. Not everything needs to be done right away, nor do you have to be the one to do it. Put if off for another time, or outsource it if you can.
2. Do something that feeds your soul.
This doesn’t mean you need to meditate for 45 minutes and achieve enlightenment (though kudos to you if you can pull that off!). Just put on some music and dance or sing along. Color or draw. Read. Garden. Watch a funny movie. Take a walk or a nap. Whatever helps you to feel calmer, more centered, clear-headed, and recharged.
3. Disconnect to reconnect.
Stop checking your email. Step away from your work. Don’t eat at your desk and, instead, go to the lunch room and interact with the human beings that you work with. Get off of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Social media is great but it isn’t enough; we need human contact in our physical presence. so go have tea with a mentor or good friend in person. Schedule an outing with friends where you try out that new restaurant or go for a hike. Bonus points for hugs and laughter, which are highly encouraged.
4. Declutter your space.
This doesn’t mean you have to go into full-on deep cleaning mode. Pick something that makes you feel accomplished once it is done, and will also stay that way for a while so that you can savor that accomplishment. Pressed for time? Making your bed is perfect because it is usually the focal point of the bedroom and, once it’s made, it still looks like you did something major even if the rest of your room is a mess. Feeling slightly more ambitious? Reorganize your closet! Pull out the clothes and shoes that you no longer wear, want, or fit into… and get rid of them. Want to focus on your work space? Organize your files and/or desk so it’s easier for you to access what you need. Whatever floats your boat.
5. Say “No.”
Wait—did you just say “No” to this tip? We get it: “No” is hard. You don’t want to be rude. You want to help, do your part, or just plain be nice. But saying “Yes” to everyone else quite often means saying “No” to yourself. It’s saying that you aren’t important enough to be taken care of, too. So try it out. “No, I’ve got a lot on my plate and I can’t do that right now.” “No, I can’t go out because it will bust my budget and I enjoy having a home to live in and food to eat.” “No, I’m not going out because I need to catch up on my rest.” See? It isn’t all that hard.
6. Remember that you are in control.
Yes, sometimes stuff just happens and it’s out of our hands. But that doesn’t mean you are some being just floating around with no control over what happens to you. So do something that reminds you that you are the person in charge of your life! Remind yourself that you can influence and direct most aspects of it. Do you stuff yourself with donuts for breakfast, eat just one, or maybe have some oatmeal? That’s up to you. Do you wear your jeans, shorts, or yoga pants when running errands? Again—it’s whatever you decide. And then there’s the biggest choice: how do you respond to that “stuff” that just happens? Do you get frustrated and let it keep you down, or do you find the silver lining and use it to propel yourself forward?
Above all, find what works best for you in order to take care of yourself. When you prioritize yourself and your care, you reinforce the belief that you are good enough, and worth taking care of. And if? Don’t add to your stress by getting upset over it. Just acknowledge where you are, start fresh with a few of these tips, and keep going. You’ve got this!