Hello! I’ve returned from my break.
Yes, I know I harp on self-care. But what advice blog doesn’t? Today though, we’re going to look at why you should add self-care practices into your routine and how you can go about it in a healthy, sustainable way.
And we’re going to start with this: junk food and sitting on the couch isn’t self-care.
It’s the complete opposite.
Self-care is a little bit more intensive than that. And self-care isn’t easy either. When I first started implementing acts of self-care into my routine and life, it didn’t feel good. It actually agitated me a lot.
Well, it was easier to sit on the couch. It was easier to skip dinner. It was easier to lay in a dark room and wallow. It wasn’t easy to meditate. It wasn’t easy to start breathing exercises. It wasn’t easy to draw myself a bath and relax. It wasn’t easy to go exercise. And these were all things that I loved to do, but doing them for my health, as a part of a routine…well it wasn’t fun. At first.
Now? Now I love it. And now when I’m stressed, I have a strong routine of self-care to reduce the stress and the symptoms of it. Without it, I’d be unhappy. I’d have a lot more stress. I’d be miserable.
It’s great, we get it. But why should we add self-care practices to our routine?
The way I first started thinking about this is in this way. My body and mind need taking care of. That’s just part of being alive. Just like a car, my body and mind need to be looked after, maintained, etc. That’s fact one. From there, it was an easy jump to think:
“Someone needs to take care of me, might as well be me.“
From there, I started taking care of myself.
I say that as if it were an overnight fix. I say it like one day I neglected myself and the next I had myself up on a pedestal. Uh-uh. Not the case.
It was a long path several years in the making. But now, after having a particularly rough week, I feel equipped to manage it, to handle it, and to recover from it.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be times that suck or hurt or anger you or depress you. Self-care doesn’t even mean you won’t be depressed. It just means you’ll be ready to deal with what comes your way in the quickest, safest, and best way possible.
I break down why I think we should practice self-care into three categories:
Life. Love. Leisure.
First, and most important, is life. My version of self-care is not “Yeah, I deserve a cookie. A cheat meal. An overly expensive trip to the spa that I cannot afford.” My version is, “I need to take care of myself. I need to be gentle. How can I help myself today?”
That’s where the “life” part comes in.
My self-care is aimed at giving me the healthiest life possible. It means taking a shower even if I’m really depressed. It means going for a run and if I can’t manage that, going for a walk. It means doing a workout and if I can’t manage that, some gentle yoga. It means making a healthy meal and if I really want fast food, finding a homemade recipe for a burger, tacos, Chinese, etc.
It’s certainly harder than sitting on the couch, not showering, eating junk. But boy, does it always make me feel better in the short and long term. It gives me a better life, a longer life, a higher quality of life.
Love! This isn’t just loving yourself, loving life, blah, blah. This is about your emotional health and wellness. My last class in college was about wellness and boy, do we all need to check ourselves. Because we’re all walking nightmares.
Our emotional health and our connections to others suffer when we don’t take the time to practice self-care and implement it into our daily routine. What we’re working on is our emotions, our love. We’re striving to have a peaceful, loving self where little disrupts the emotions within us.
Self-care is more than buying things for ourselves, especially if we can’t afford it. It’s about feeding ourselves what we need. Sometimes that means taking time to journal, to reflect on our days/lives, to process things that have happened. Self-care might mean letting yourself feel sad for a day.
And finally, leisure.
This category, to me, is all about your brain. We need to relax and anxiety, depression (surprisingly), overworking, and everything else in our life encourages us to abandon our search for relaxation. Which means we don’t take time to work on our mental wellness. The brain does not like going full tilt all day every day.
So we incorporate moments of relaxation. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there. A bath today. Reading outside tomorrow. It’s so important to take the time to let your brain relax and do different things. It’s not always about doing nothing. Sometimes it’s about doing something like a puzzle or going for a quiet hike.
And it’s important that we do this with our significant other and by ourselves. We have to establish our baseline alone. We need to take care of ourselves and it’s great to have someone we love with us, but we need to find comfort in being alone as well
All right, so that’s a little bit of the “why”. Now onto the how and what.
There’s a million and two things you can do. I’m going to say, for convenience sake, try these four things. I’ll even give you a time to do them so you won’t have to think about how to fit them into your schedule. Easy peasy.
Wake up and…do some morning in stretches!
This has been one of my recent additions that I love. I do yoga almost first thing every morning. And I meditate. And I have a whole routine. But, I’ve found that waking up and doing some light stretching for three to five minutes in bed is really nice. It gives me the chance to wake up slowly without having to snooze.
Snoozing is bad for you, but waking up and stretching? Good for you. It’s taking a moment to care for your body. It’s taking a moment to start your day off right. It’s taking a moment to appreciate the quiet, the softness of the bed, and the last little tendrils of sleep.
That’s the next thing. Now, I meditate at various points in the day, sometimes even more than once! But, if you’re new to meditating, I would squeeze it in on a lunch break. It’s a great opportunity to reset your mind and let your emotions settle.
Halfway through the day is where we often need the most help. We’re tired. We’re cranky. We have been working a lot and motivation might be down. Taking the time to sit down and focus on your breath will help give your brain and emotions a break.
And make it fun. Unseasoned chicken next to brown rice and soggy green beans is not fun. It’s healthy, sure. But it isn’t sustainable either in my opinion.
Find healthy, whole food options for things you enjoy eating already. Then, turn on some music, and start cooking! Enjoy the process. Do it with your significant other. This is good for your body. It’s good for your mind. You’re doing something that you get to immediately reap the benefits of.
Take a bath!
So, I like doing this before dinner but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll say do it after dinner. You’ve eaten your home-cooked meal. Now time to relax. This will help your sleep too.
Taking even twenty minutes to sit in a warm Epsom salt bath with maybe a candle, a book, some music will do wonders for your mood, sleep, and muscles. Besides, this one feels like pampering.
Long story short, take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be with hours and hours of exercise and bland dinners. It doesn’t have to be with half hour sessions of meditation. It doesn’t have to be seeing a therapist. It can be an easy going morning stretch, a homemade meal, some light pampering without breaking the bank.
From there, you can develop your practice. It’s silly to try and jump into doing all of it all the time. We wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without training and so we shouldn’t expect to be perfect in our self-care routines or even see immediate progress.
Enjoy your self-care and stick with it! It might seem like some nice extra fluff that you might think you don’t deserve, but when you hit a bump in the road all that self-care will come to your rescue.