As we roll ever closer to the U.S. presidential election, along with waking up to more news of police violence against people of color, self-care is likely going to be high on all of our to-do lists. For many, like me, self-care also becomes a necessity as the days start to get darker. I’m a big believer that the ways we care for ourselves are as varied and individual as we are. In this spirit, I’m going to talk about some generalized ways to get to the self-care you need.
1: Don’t deny yourself your guilty pleasures!
For many years, I chastised myself for doing things that didn’t lead to something else. If I read a book, it had to be a book that taught me something, uplifted me somehow, or challenged me. If I watched a TV show or movie that was considered “fluffy,” I saw it as a waste of time. If I did indulge in something of a lighter nature, I tried to counter it with a boat load of criticism.
But when I finished my graduate degrees, I started to read paranormal romances again. As in a lot of them. At first, I really struggled but then one day I realized I’d done nothing but read theory for years and I deserved a little fun reading. Now it’s become one of my guilty pleasures that gives my mind a much needed rest from all the heavy stuff I read. If you’re spending your self-care time beating yourself up it’s not going to do you much good!
2: Have things in your life that you do just for you.
Many of us, especially women, spend much of our time doing things for other people. I am not only an activist but I have five children and a partner. Since I’m the one who is not working outside the home, I do a lot of the running around and much of the house work (don’t worry my partner always chips in). Some days, I don’t feel like I even have five minutes that are just mine.
But when Thursday evening comes, I put that all aside because at eight o’clock I have trapeze and that’s my time. It’s something that I do away from my family that is solely my thing. There are of course Thursdays when I think “I’m too tired and the little girls needs a bath maybe I should skip.” But I always make myself go because I need and deserve that space to do something that gives me pleasure. By having a space that lets me be me I have an anchor because it’s all too easy to lose myself in others’ needs.
Remember you deserve to have space in time and place that is solely yours. Do things that make you feel good and special. Don’t do them for any other reason!
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3: Give yourself credit for the small things.
It’s not uncommon for me to post a status update along the lines of “Hey ya’ll I made a phone call! Yay me!” While maybe it’s not a big deal for people making a phone call is really hard for me! When I manage to do it I want to celebrate! I do this for a lot of things including going out in public, talking to strangers, sending query letters, etc. Things that might come easy to a lot of people do not always come easy for me. Things that come easy to me might not come easy to you! Celebrate those moments because those celebrations are totally about self-care! Heck, give yourself a gold star sticker if that’s what it takes! I’m a big fan of these adulting stickers. Often we forget that we deserve self-care not just in the aftermath of the really big things but also in the small things that feel really big.
4: Surround yourself with as much joy as you can.
It’s easy to see self-care as something that involves lots of money, planning, or time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Surround yourself with things that make you happy and calm be that a favorite song, or album, pets, books, or art. If you work outside of your home, pictures, plants, even stress relief toys can all give you that space to breathe. Sometimes my Pinterest page is where I go for a few minutes of stress relief when I’m writing. Self-care doesn’t have to be an elaborate protection, and I think that it’s important to be able to take these small moments throughout the day. If you feel like you need a breather even something as simple as stretches can serve as a reward. Self-care can be big of course but don’t disregard those small moments of pleasure. They can go a long way in making sure you’re ready for the next battle life throws your way.
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5: Don’t let anyone tell you what your self-care should look like.
Every time, I mention feeling stressed out, someone will inevitably tell me I should get a massage. Just the thought of a massage makes me shudder! As someone who is pretty skittish about physical touch having a stranger touch my body is the opposite of self-care. It’s not just a massage of course, it’s yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, art, tea, pedicures, etc. Some of these things do work for me and others don’t. Some of these things work for me and I can’t afford them. This is why I am not going to suggest that my ideas will work for you. Some might and some wouldn’t (I love trying to get people into trapeze but totally get why that is not something that would work for everyone).
What it comes down to is this: you get to do the things that make you feel good.
While I’d never discourage anyone from expanding their self-care repertoire, it’s easy to see how self-care could turn into a stressful nightmare as you listen to others more than yourself. Trying a yoga class is one thing but forcing yourself through a series of classes when you have no interest is not going to help you feel better. Plus for some of us trying new things is more stressful than the benefits we’re supposed to be reaping.
Some things never work for me (meditation and massage), and I’ve learned that it’s okay. In addition, self designing your own list allows you to customize your list in terms of what limits you as well. While I just love being able to take a creative journaling class with my favorite local artist, that is not always in my budget. But taking a few seconds to stretch, going for a walk in the woods, petting my cat, taking a long shower, reflecting on my day, etc. are things I can do for free.
Keeping a list over the years has helped remind me of the things that I can turn to to make myself refreshed. But my list isn’t going to look like your list! Your list is going to reflect the wonderful you!
***[Feature Image: Fair skin individual with long brown hair stands indoors in front of an open window, turning to look back at the camera with a smile on their face. Source: Pexels]