There’s more to self-care than face masks and binging The Office on a Friday night.
Taking care of yourself is an inside job, one that’s going to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Sure, pedicures and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is bliss in the moment, but lasting care is a bit more complex.
Suffering from depression taught me two things: I need an arsenal of tools that can make me feel better when I feel bouts of deep sadness coming on. More importantly, though, I need to create a life that heals and maintain it.
To do the latter isn’t always enjoyable; it even sucks sometimes. I have to do things that feel uncomfortable and awkward. I’ll put them off or try to avoid them until the last minute. But these acts of self-care are necessary because even though they’re hard, they’re life-changing. In the discomfort is where I find the most growth.
The next time you think about self-care, consider these acts as non-negotiables. Hard or not, they’re necessary for life-changing growth.
1. Learning how to enjoy solitude.
When you come home from a long day at work to an empty house, do you feel loneliness or solitude?
Your answer to that question is telling. Not everyone knows how to be alone. Some people avoid it at all costs.
But being comfortable with yourself is key to maintaining happiness throughout your life. Obstacles are inevitable; people will come and go. But one thing that’s constant is you’ll always have yourself. So do yourself a favor and learn how to enjoy time alone.
2. Going to therapy.
If you’ve never been to therapy, the idea can be daunting. Opening up to a stranger is a bit weird at first, but I promise it gets better.
There are certain things that a therapist provides that your friends and family can’t. Think years of learning human psychology and thousands of hours practicing working through people’s emotions and traumas.
A therapist can help in so many ways, whether you’re going through a difficult time or just need someone to talk to.
3. Dumping that person you don’t feel a connection with.
A toxic person in your life is very consuming, especially when they’re your romantic partner. If you’re trying to take care of yourself, their behavior could be holding you back.
Breaking up with someone is never easy, but you can’t let that stop you from prioritizing your well-being. Sometimes relationships run their course. Not everything is meant to last forever; not everything that ends was a failure.
4. Cutting off toxic friendships.
It’s interesting that we put up with a lot more from our friends than we do romantic partners. Why is it that we hold our friends to lower standards?
A toxic friend is someone that makes you feel bad about yourself, drained after hanging out with them, like they’re always in competition with you or are constantly negative. You can have a talk with them, but if they refuse to try and make things better, it’s time to consider cutting them out of your life.
No matter the length of the friendship, you need to prioritize yourself. Do so without guilt or shame; some friendships aren’t meant to last forever.
5. Regularly going to the doctor.
We only have one body in this life — take care of it.
That ache in your lower back that you ignore isn’t going to go away magically. You’ll start to compensate for that pain with poor posture and muscles forming in ways that will bite you in the ass later in life.
Go to the doctor regularly. Get a physical. Check your bloodwork. And if you’re a female, please see your gynecologist.
Self-care includes making sure you’re healthy enough to enjoy the magic of life.
6. Creating boundaries with people closest to you.
When you love someone, it’s hard to draw lines on what’s healthy behavior.
If your mom insists on showing up at your apartment without notice or your friend incessantly calls you until you pick up, create a boundary. Let them know how their behaviors affect your mental health and your relationship with them. They might not take it so well at first, but if they care about you, they’ll adjust in the long-run.
Boundaries are necessary acts of self-care if you want to maintain your sense of self with those closest to you.
7. Quitting a job that is making you miserable.
One-third of your life is spent working. If you hate your job, that’s a lot of time spent at a place that makes you miserable. That kind of stress piles on, your demeanor changes, and all of a sudden, you’re the person living for the weekends and hating Mondays.
If your job doesn’t respect you, is mind-numbingly boring, or feels meaningless to you, quit. Make a plan to responsibly find a new job and leave your old one behind.
The ultimate form of self-care is creating a life you love every day, not just on the weekends.
8. Not apologizing for everything.
“Stop saying sorry all the time.”
If you’re a victim of constant apologizing, this scenario will feel all too real.
Compassion and agreeability seem to be a common trait of people who apologize even when they’ve done nothing wrong. They want to honor other people’s feelings and preferences. That’s a lovely trait, but not when it undermines your ability to assert yourself and take up space in this world.
As a form of self-care, practice saying what you want without apologizing.
9. Asking for what you need.
If you’re a people-pleaser like me, you struggle hard with this one. Standing up for yourself and stating what you need feels like a burden; you don’t want to rock the boat even if it’s clear you’re on dry land.
But taking care of yourself means honoring what you need. And since we haven’t developed a procedure for telepathy yet, no one is going to know what you need unless you ask for it.
10. Drinking more water.
Drink water; that doesn’t mean juice, soda, or coffee (though I still drink plenty of coffee). Chug down some good ol’ H2O.
Your skin will thank you. Your digestive system will thank you. Your mood will thank you. Your body will overall thank you.
I know it’s hard to remember to drink water, but whatever you have to do, do it. You don’t function as well as you could if you haven’t drunk enough water.
Dehydration is a bitch. Avoid her and drink more water.
11. Unfollowing people on social media that make you feel like crap.
Social media has become a form of masochism. People are logging on and scrolling mindlessly, and by the time they’re off, they feel like complete shit.
That’s because social media is rampant with influencers and perfectly curated feeds. It’s filled with highlight reels and good times. Never the real, day-to-day struggles everyone goes through.
Comparison is the thief of joy. The people in your feed that make you hate your life aren’t doing you any good. Unfollow them. Instead, opt for inspirational accounts.
Or be like me and follow golden retriever puppy accounts. They never let you down in making you feel better.
12. Learning to say no.
It’s funny that we don’t say “no” to avoid letting someone down or creating conflict. We take on tasks that we never wanted to do and create stress and discomfort for ourselves instead.
But not saying no puts others before yourself. It can create a state of overwhelm and anxiety. Before you realize it, you’re putting other people’s needs before yours.
Practice self-care by saying no when you want to. If that seems too hard, take a step in the right direction by instead replying, “Let me think about it.”
Then say no later.
Self-care can look like taking the day off to replenish, but it can also be so much deeper. Taking care of yourself means putting yourself in uncomfortable positions that will benefit you in the long run.
Remember, you have one life to live. Do the work now, no matter how hard, so you can enjoy an even better life in the future.