I’ve noticed that there’s an increasingly common misconception around the concept of self-care. Frequently, social media promotes the idea that mani pedis, alcohol, beach time, shopping, etc. are synonymous with self-care. Who cares about that stuff if you don’t feel good enough to enjoy it? While these things can be incorporated into one’s self-care routine, they definitely don’t even graze the surface of what self-care actually should entail. You can practice all the self-care you want, but if you are continuing to utilize maladaptive coping strategies, you will not reap the benefits of self-care.
Let’s take a look at some of the basics of self-care:
• Get enough sleep. Way easier said than done, right?! There will always be life circumstances and stressors that interfere with a good night’s rest, BUT are you consistently implementing best practices and behaviors to promote a good night’s sleep? Hmmm…
• Set boundaries for yourself and for the love of getting a good night’s sleep, STICK TO THEM! So what does this look like? Most commonly I discuss simple changes such as not answering work emails at night, leaving your phone in another room during meals, making fewer commitments on your days off, and NEWS FLASH…if you don’t want to go to an outing with people you don’t like, DON’T GO! I can say a lot about setting boundaries, especially when it comes to this incessant phone checking. I want to reassure you that the email that you want to respond to at midnight, will definitely still be there at 7:00am. Promise!
• EAT. No excuses on this one. Too busy to eat you say? I’d rather take 5 minutes and eat in a bathroom stall if I had to than end up sick and taking a week off of work. Can you imagine the stress of having to take a week off for being sick?! The emails, the phone calls, the paperwork, the co-workers, the clients, the bosses…eat. Of course any one of us can get hit with the flu, but if we’re not eating properly, we are opening the door of opportunity for any illness to creep in.
• Please go to the doctor when needed, and follow-up on the important stuff. Come on.
• Find ways to unwind. If you feel like you can’t, chances are that you haven’t found something that works for you. You don’t have to unwind with a glass of wine in front of a fireplace like we’ve all seen way too many times on TV (unless that works for you). Unwinding should be something relaxing, such as walking, driving, music, silence, reading, deep breathing, etc. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, just try! Those nights when you get home from work and replay the day’s annoyances for your significant other will get you all fired up again. That’s not self-care.
• Do something that you enjoy. This is the one we’re all familiar with! Maybe you’re reading this and rolling your eyes thinking, “yeah like I have time to do things I enjoy.” Hey, I totally get it. Many of you are out there busting your asses every day, and I know what it’s like to have to hustle, too. I’m not going to suggest that you do something you enjoy every day, because I don’t believe it’s realistic. I’ll never guide a client or you as a reader toward something that isn’t realistic. But, here’s the thing, there should be a moment of joy in each day. If it’s the first sip of coffee, leaving work for the day, your fifth pull-up at the gym, or kissing your kids goodnight, I want you to begin recognizing that as YOUR moment. My realistic challenge for you though, is to plan something that you enjoy at least once a month. I want it to be something that you can really look forward to. Let’s be honest, as we age, we gain more responsibilities, and we lose the ability to be as spontaneous as we might like. Take out the calendar, and BOOK IT!
• Be grateful. This one is by far my personal favorite. I may be a mental health professional, but that will never trump the fact that I’m a human. I get stressed and have crappy days too. I’m not able to incorporate doing something I enjoy into every day, because as you know, it’s not realistic. In turn, I’ve become very comfortable with controlling my thoughts for a few moments each day, and I focus on a few things for which I am grateful. Stay with me here. Sometimes I think about people who are terminally ill and can’t do one thing that I’ve already accomplished today. I think about how lucky I am to use my five senses. I think about how grateful I am whenever I meet a new client or reach a new reader. People want to talk to me! When I process that, I almost immediately feel a shift in my body. The tension starts to release, and I’m able to focus again on the task at hand. This is a really great practice when you’re really short on time when it comes to planning things you enjoy.
This is what self-care is all about. It’s not about avoiding things that make us uncomfortable and finding the nearest coffee shop, nail salon, bar, casino, etc. While those may be things that you enjoy, if you’re doing those things to avoid something else, you are definitely not practicing self-care. The truth is, the fear or discomfort that comes from the things we avoid, only gets worse over time if we don’t learn productive coping strategies. I’d love to help you build a life around self-care rather than experiencing moments of it. Let’s get to know each other.