Let’s talk about some self-care y’all. I recently read an article about self-care being more than the emergency spa dates and chocolate binges; how it requires regular behavioral changes such as not overloading your schedule, financing strategically, treating your body well, and filling your life with healthy relationships. Up until recently I, too, defined self-care as something I did every once and a while as time allowed when I finally discovered an extra ten minutes in my schedule (which, doesn’t seem to happen that frequently). But that quickly turned into using the extra ten minutes for something I’d been neglecting for a while like laundry, dishes, bills, or calling my mom (sorry mom).
After completely wearing myself thin, I decided to prioritize self-care. What can I say, Instagram inspired me… I’ve since discovered several misinterpretations of this practice:
1. I deserve this Netflix break
I worked hard aaaaaall day. I’ll work hard aaaaaall day tomorrow. *Next episode.* It crossed my mind as I began my third episode of Shameless that perhaps I should put on pants for once and actually be productive. But gosh darn it I’m tired! I’ve been doing nothing but running around and I need a break! This is all my worn out brain can handle right now! This is self-care!!!
My brain was capable of so much more. I mean, for Pete’s sake it was 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I hadn’t even given myself the opportunity to try. I had succumbed to a passive activity that allowed myself to shut down and live in someone’s else’s world for the time being. I had confused self-care with clocking out completely and being a lump underneath a fuzzy blanket. Now I’m not saying you can’t take a nap or watch an episode of your favorite show to recharge – but there’s a limit. It doesn’t do you any good to binge. In fact, you’ll likely fall further behind as you become more stressed about the time you can’t get back.
Solution: If you feel you need an extended break, limit yourself to one passive activity and then participate in something active but relaxing. For example, keep yourself engaged by going for a walk, making dinner, emailing your grandma, stretching, reading, or hitting the gym. You might be surprised how an active stress recovery can re-energize you!
2. Being a workaholic is okay as long as it’s all things I love to do
I told myself that a busy schedule is only stressful if it’s work that I hate doing. Or even just don’t LOOOOOOVE doing. I was under the assumption that chasing my dreams 24/7 WAS self-care. If I’m reaching my goals, why wouldn’t it be?! So I filled my schedule with things I couldn’t wait to accomplish. Writing parts of Gui Ren, getting coffee with investors, learning about trademark law, emailing local libraries, and editing an exclusive video of my trip to Labuan Bajo, Indonesia (now available to my patrons!).
But let’s be real, as much as I enjoyed seeing a calendar full of my favorite things, it was a rapid path to burnout. GUYS. Burnout doesn’t just happen when you’re fed up with your 9-5, stuck eating takeout because ain’t no one got time to cook. You can burn yourself out even when you’re traveling through Asia full-time with almost nothing to lose (except a boatload of cash). The reality is that any hectic schedule will wear you thin.
Solution: Add more to your schedule. Wait, WHAT? Yes, add more to your schedule, but in the form of designated downtime. If you’re just too into planning and can’t refrain from writing appointments in your planner, then write in your downtime! Block out a chunk of time, write it in pen (not pencil), and whatever you do, DO NOT break that promise to yourself and your well-being. Otherwise, you may not be making it to all those other appointments on account of being f-r-i-e-d.
3. I need to put myself first
Self-care means taking care of myself, right? It means prioritizing my needs and focusing on my well-being. Well, yes, but there’s a balance.
Now let’s get real for a second. This might be news to you, but I am indeed human. I get stressed and have bad days. My post-surgery brain has been failing me regularly so I’m not only forgetting important appointments but my general ability to function normally has been chopped in half. I have to focus ten times harder on basic tasks at work and there’s just never enough caffeine to go around. And to top it all off, last week I not only received an eviction notice because no one had the decency to inform me our auto pay had expired, but I also had to drop over $800 on my car for maintenance – the same car I then spilled orange juice all over on my way to work. The pulp kind. It was a royal citrus-y mess. And despite the many good things that happened – I was cleared to start working out again, was interviewed for a blog with MyIntent, had a great family gathering at my Aunt’s – I hardly felt like myself and no matter how much self-care I incorporated into my life I just couldn’t shake it.
Now, in my normal, very average, human experience, I’ve realized that it’s kind of difficult to be nice and accommodating towards others when it feels like the world is out to make a joke of you and your favorite sweater now covered in O.J.. After all, positivity is contagious, but negativity is a much stronger virus. And I tell you what, when I got unbelievably sassy at a poor undeserving cashier at Michael’s over a rejected coupon I had so carefully strategized in using, it did not make me feel any better. I realized quickly that in particularly low moments, if I put my needs first and prioritize my own agenda, it might mean that I’m bringing someone else down. But also I learned that I really needed to reevaluate my life and my uncontrollable sass.
Solution: Caring for yourself means caring for those around you – it is scientifically proven that being kind and generous towards others will increase your own level of happiness and satisfaction with life. Therefore, an important part of self-care is actually caring for others. So if you find yourself grumpy with others, consider it a sign that you’re also being grumpy and negligent towards yourself.
4. Treating myself is loving myself
It’s just one drink from Starbucks, one bath bomb from Lush, one bottle of wine from World Market, and five scented candles from Bath & Body Works. I deserve this. I’ve earned this. I need to relax. This will make me feel better! Plus, it’ll make a great ‘gram.
Ummmm yeah until you look at your bank account and realize that this self-care routine cost you a day’s worth of work. Then the stress begins all over again and you find yourself needing another night in with your bathtub. Plus, you got far fewer likes on that post than you anticipated. GUYS. Self-care doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Self-care, in fact, shouldn’t really cost anything! We’ve settled into this habitual train of thought that spending money on yourself is taking care of yourself – and it’s far from the truth.
Now I’m not saying you don’t deserve that Starbucks, but don’t treat yourself to coffee without also rearranging your schedule to take a walk. Don’t buy those bath bombs without also pulling out your dusty yoga mat. Don’t splurge for wine unless you also plan to cook a healthy dinner that will nourish your body.
Solution: Don’t forget that self-care is no excuse to spend, in fact, it should be the opposite; budgeting and taking care of your money helps to secure a stable future and ease financial stress. So treat yourself to something small and then make a list of free things you can do to relax. Everything seems to cost money these days, but true self-care shouldn’t cost a thing (if you do it right).
So in summary…
Self-care is much more than Epsom salt baths and wine glasses, it’s about scheduling in downtime, relaxing in moderation, caring for others, and maintaining a balanced checkbook. It’s about filling your life with healthy relationships, taking care of your body, pursuing your passions, and leaving time in your daily routine to breathe. So next time you reach for your wallet or consider hitting “next episode”, first try to take a walk, phone a friend, cook a nutritious meal, or curl up with a good book. Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be a grand gesture.