As you may or may not know, I am a therapist. A huge part of my training was in the field of “self-care.” I’ll be honest in that I didn’t really know how it would be helpful but boy, do I get it now. Day in and day out, late into the night and early in the morning, I hold people’s thoughts, emotions, secrets, and drama. Carrying all that “stuff” is incredibly draining, much like the lives of other people around me. Life is tough and I don’t think we talk enough about how hard it is to get out of bed, go to work, and get stuff done. During times when we are expected to always be “on,” it is becoming even more important to take care of ourselves. Here are some less obvious ways of how you aren’t taking care of yourself and how to change them:
1. You take a quick shower out of necessity
I shower when I have to most of the time. It was not until I created a nice space in my bathroom to have bubble baths. I quickly became addicted to them and looked forward at the end of a cold, long day of therapy to eat dinner then relax in the tub. I added lavender smelling candles and bought some relaxing bath salts. I intentionally turn off the lights, light the candles, and make the bath water perfect. I even play music in the background. The key is being intentional with your actions. Even if baths are not your thing, try taking an intentional shower in the evening. Buy some eucalyptus or lavender essential oils and grab a washcloth. Soak the washcloth and drop some of the oil on it and place it in the corner of your shower while you feel the hot water on your skin. Becoming intentional while showering can help you relax in a different kind of way which will help detox your body from all the drama that unfolded during your day. A lot of people feel like showers are only for the morning, but I think switching to the evening is better for your mental health. We teach kids to have bedtime routines for a reason! We want kids to slow down their brains and process their emotions and us adults should do the same thing.
2. You are doing the exact same routine you have done for the last year
You wake up at the same time, you eat the same breakfast, make your coffee the same way, rush out the door, drive to work, do the work thing, drive home. UGH. Most of the time we cannot change too much of our day when we have jobs and all so change up what you can. Take a left when you usually stay straight because you have GPS and you will get to where you need to be. Take five minutes the night before to look up some creative and easy breakfast for yourself even if it is on the go. You are not doing yourself any service by not giving yourself anything to look forward to and it doesn’t have to just be vacations. Little things like trying the salad at the lunch spot over the regular sandwich you get may be the best choice of the day. Or, it could suck and usually that’s why we don’t even try. One of the biggest favors I have done for myself is changing up the simple ways I do things and it has helped my mental health in ways that I never even imagined. All of the sudden, things are new and fresh and possibilities start flooding into your head.
3. You go to the gym when you feel inspired
I should not write this one because I am guilty of it too. I think I have justified not going to the gym every morning as a way of me mixing up my schedule (see #2). The truth is that working out really does help your mental health. The science of the brain releases chemicals that make you feel better not to mention the self-esteem boost you feel when you know you worked for the body you have. I have always been thin, but I am now at the age when drinking that milkshake makes parts of my body shake. I enjoy the feeling of going for a run and when I go to lay down to go to bed, my body feels tired in a good way. Skipping the gym or working out can also lead to some distorted thoughts. Think about it…you work out for a consistent period of time then stop going and you look in the mirror one day and you don’t like how you look. You may feel like your hard work didn’t work when really it is you aren’t being consistent. Don’t get stuck in the trap of feeling bad and not working out.
4. You order food or make it all on Sunday
Again, I am guilty of this one. You work really hard and by the time you get home the last thing you feel like doing is cooking. I used to get home really late too that sometimes I just ate because I knew I should and I went to bed. Try cooking. It is not as hard as it seems and my trick is to try a meal service. My husband and I joined one and it reminded me of the love I have for cooking and knowing what I am putting into my body. I love the process of creating and also doing something for my husband. When it comes down to it, I really just like to cook. I find it relaxing and a great way for me to push out all the stuff flying through my mind at the end of the day. Dinner has become a type of personal therapy for me that I highly recommend for others. All that being said, Dominoes has a great gluten free pizza that I can order in a heartbeat when I don’t feel like cooking.
5. You haven’t done that thing you really enjoy in a long time
I am somewhat of a girly-girl and really like to have my nails painted. I enjoy the entire experience of getting my nails done and highly recommend for anyone (even men) to at least try out a pedicure. I stopped going because it is not super cheap and takes time. I realized that I had stopped going for reasons that I could change. I needed to make time and find the money for the things that made me feel sane, the things that made me feel like me.
It took a while for me to realize the importance of valuing myself and the honoring my body. I never realized the things I blew off, pushed aside, or did haphazardly where actually not helping myself. Take the time to make you a priority, trust me, it’s worth it.