Recently, someone called me “The Self-Care Queen.” It’s one of my favorite compliments I’ve ever received.
Self-care is absolutely necessary if we want to have the bandwidth to fully show up for others. As a chronic migraineur, I have to be especially vigilant about my self-care because if I ignore it, I will end up in the pain cave, of no use to anyone (and, y’know, in pain).
I was inspired to create this list after reading this awesome one on the Yes and Yes blog. I hope my list A) gives you permission to make self-care a larger priority for you and B) gives you some inspiration for your own self-care.
Here are 8 self-care things I do that fill my tank, without spending lots of money or spiking my blood sugar.
1. Light tea candles before I hop in the shower. Sometimes I do this because I’m sensitive to light (#migraines), but sometimes I do it just because it feels indulgent and luxurious. Shower time? More like spa time.
2. Make dates for walks + talks. I’m an extrovert who spends several days a week working from home. That isolation sucks for my mood. So I schedule dates with friends for us to chat on the phone or Skype while I walk around Central Park. That connection + exercise is dynamite for nurturing my joy.
3. Tell your doctor what you need to be comfortable. Every two weeks, I get nerve block injections in my face, head, and shoulders. I have a strong preference for getting the face ones first because they hurt the most and I want to get them over with. Sometimes my doctor forgets my preference for this order, so I gently remind her what I like.
Now she’s started asking other patients in what order they prefer their injections. Sometimes advocating for your own self-care paves the way for others.
4. Set your phone to Do Not Disturb from 8pm to 8am. You know that little moon symbol on your iPhone? That’s a self-care feature built right in.
I enjoy taking responsibility for how much communication I receive at a time. I’ve got friends and clients in many time zones, and I love that they can text or call me whenever, without worrying about whether it will wake me up.
5. Know where the migraine-friendly coffee shops and restaurants are. If I have a work meeting or a friend date, it becomes much more likely that I’ll be able to follow through if the café isn’t loud or fluorescently lit. I have my favorite places starred in my Google Maps app for later reference.
This map notation has helped others too. I once had a work meeting with some researchers I hadn’t previously met. It turned out that one of them was hearing impaired, and she was enthusiastically grateful that I’d chosen a place that was quiet enough for her assistive listening device to work. Again, sometimes your own self-care strategies enable others’.
6. Keep a “noticing” journal. When I’m feeling stressed, I take 5-10 minutes to just jot down everything I’m noticing about my emotional state. It’s a kind of active mindfulness meditation, and I find it super helpful for managing my feelings as well as anchoring my gratitude.
7. Say “no” to a lot of things. For work-related requests, I’ll sometimes say, “Thank you for the kind offer, but my plate’s a little too full right now.” Or sometimes, I’ll ask someone to circle back in a few weeks. I love when people ask me to circle back because I can trust I’m contacting them in a way that makes their life easier.
For social invitations, I have to keep in mind that my migraines tend to be worse in the evening. I will rarely accept invitations for events that go past 7pm at night because it’s more likely that I’ll have to cancel. My friends know I’m a brunch-and-tea date kind of gal.
8. Maintain empathetic relationships. One of the best self-care strategies I know is reaching out to someone who will just empathically listen, without offering any unsolicited advice. I nurture relationships with folks who can do this for me.
For some of my relationships (particularly family), I’ve taught them how to be more empathetic. When I support them, I model what that kind of listening looks like, which makes it easier for them to add it to their communicative toolbox. I teach a workshop on this kind of communication, too.