You’ve seen and heard the all too famous phrase “self care”, probably too many times in the past couple of years. Self care is not a new phenomena, but the need for self care and for being mindful of how we treat ourselves has been on the rise because, well, it’s a hard world we live in today. Millennials and Gen Zers are working 40% harder, making 20% less and feeling 100% more anxiety than any other generation in history (don’t quote me on the percentages). As a total people pleaser, I’ve been on a personal mission to understand myself better during the past 2 years and to change my habits. Along the way, with consistent therapy and practicing mindfulness, I’ve identified several ways to truly practice self care. Self care used to look like manicures and massages to me, but in truth, I’ve had to dig deep to find more meaningful ways to help myself.
Taking the time to know myself: If you’re a people pleaser like me, you know the hardest part is not honoring your own wants, needs and opinions, and instead going for whatever everyone else wants. The need to be easy going and liked often jeopardizes your own happiness and experiences. How do you fix this? Take your time giving an answer. I know, this isn’t rocket science. But this has helped me tremendously. When asked to do something or go somewhere or to even give an opinion; I reach inwards and take a moment to decide: I’m either instantly saying yes or no because I know for a fact how I feel. But, more often than not, I’m conflicted or not entirely sure; this is when I take my time and think about this. I explain to the person I’m speaking to that I need a moment before I decide and then take my time formulating my decision. I know this might sound basic to someone who is naturally assertive; but for most of my life, I made decisions and lived experiences that I never would have done if I had just listened to myself. I now have no problem telling a person I need time to decide.
Say no: Saying no is an underestimated method of self care and goes hand in hand with point 1. You thought about it and ultimately decided that this is not for you; now a hundred thoughts are going through your mind (what will this person think of me? They might get upset! They won’t like me. I’ll be changing everyone’s plans etc…). I’ll tell you what I always tell myself: Think of yourself and honor yourself FIRST and trust that the person you’re talking to will advocate for themselves as well. Remember, that if you’re forcing yourself to do something to please others then you’re not living authentically and are more than likely creating resentment and negative feelings. Saying no might upset someone for a moment but that’s better than upsetting yourself for a lifetime.
Rest: To my American friends, this one is especially for you. As someone who has so far lived in 3 different countries, I can tell you that no-one does “busy” culture like the Americans. It’s almost a badge of honor to be constantly busy and to sign up to all the things (work things, activity things, charity things etc…) And while this is very admirable, it is ultimately mentally and physically exhausting. Self care is very much tied to quality rest and I don’t only mean Netflix and chill. Rest can look like a multitude of things for different people. For me (an introvert), rest is putting on a movie I love while I do my nails and drink hot and sweet tea at home in my very fuzzy and comfy pajamas. Rest for my husband (an extrovert) looks like car meets with good friends and lively conversation. Rest can be mani pedis, target runs for fun, knitting, watching YouTube videos, facials etc… Take time off every single day to do something that resets you. Something that gives you a break from the routine and the chores and the work. Of course, I don’t mean get a facial everyday (once a month is my recommendation ;) but a half hour here and there to read a book, listen to a podcast, meditate or do anything that is restful is what the doctor ordered (PSA: I’m not a doctor). Good rest, whether short or long, can reenergize you.
Self advocate: You are number 1. Pause right now and say: I am number 1. No-one will ever advocate for you the way you can for yourself. It is not your partner’s job (or your parent’s or your child’s) to fight for your happiness and well being everyday; though many partners do. The onus is on you to fight for your own satisfaction. For me, self advocacy looks like asking for help and speaking my truth. When I say speaking my truth I don’t mean it as a free pass to be rude to people. But if I want something or want to do something, then I will speak up and put it out there in the universe. A year ago, when I knew I wasn’t passionate about my career anymore, the only thing I thought of was “be grateful you have a business, don’t burden others.” I spoke to myself negatively and thought about the impact my feelings would make on my surroundings instead of focusing on myself and what I truly wanted. When I finally made the decision this year to sell my business and focus on my own happiness, I was surprised to find support in my friends and family. It shouldn’t have been surprising but even if I didn’t have their support, I had to advocate for myself and make a decision that ultimately honored my self care. The most I put things out into the universe and prioritize myself, the more authentic connections I make with the people around me.
Do the hard thing: Self care doesn’t always look like luxurious mani pedis and $100 facials. Sometimes self care looks like doing the hard thing that will reward you and your happiness. My hard but rewarding thing is exercise. The idea of a difficult and sweaty workout session doesn’t exactly fill me with joy, but focusing on the multitude of benefits it brings me gets me running to the gym 3 times a week. At the end of the day, self care is all about taking care of ourseleves. I love food and cooking and absolutely reject diet culture. So to keep my body healthy and my serotonin levels high, I need to get consistent exercise. By exercising, I am taking care of myself in every sense of the word. I am doing good for my body, I’m helping regulate my sleep, I’m giving myself an energy boost and I’m controlling some of my anxiety. The hard thing for you could be signing up for therapy or joining a support group. It could be scheduling time away from your family to reboot, it could be anything that you find hard to do, but know will be better for you in the long run. Doing the hard thing is giving me huge benefits so for the sake of self care, I’m doing the hard thing.
A perfect example of someone in my life who has mastered the art of self care is my husband, who is also my role model. My husband is very in tune with himself and is the most emotionally mature person I know. He is very easy going but also very good at self advocacy and self care. He speaks his mind and people respect him for it. He is well liked for being honest and respecting himself. He unapologetically pursues his passions and works hard everyday to achieve his dreams. His passion is so pure, and his sense of self so great that people around him naturally want to help him. If he had thought of himself as a burden then he wouldn’t be where he is now. I always tell him I want to be him when I grow up, now I’m on my journey to finally “grow up”.