Self care: it’s important. We hear it all the time. But let’s be honest, who among us really has the opportunity to take a day off and go to the spa? Sure, it would be incredibly rejuvenating to devote both time and money to get a luxurious, professional massage. Maybe you want to run away for a week and hike that trail that’s always called your name. I fantasize about reading in a bubble bath for two hours, or just getting lost in a video game as long as I want to.
Unfortunately, not many of us are able to schedule in long periods of self care, or pay for those big-ticket relaxation items. The simple pressures of modern existence make it difficult, and then once you add in any additional pressures like an intense job, raising children, medical issues, or really any kind of stress, it can become a seemingly unassailable task.
When you’re spending so much energy taking care of everyone and everything else, where do you find the resources to take care of you?
I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. I’m not going to say my methods are perfect. Still, they definitely help me scrape by without completely losing my mind. If you’ve got any suggestions of your own, I’d love to hear them!
Figure Out What Self Care Means for You
Think about your most favorite activities, and then try to break them down and figure out what they all have in common. For me, it’s mostly escapism. I like to read. I write novels. I’ll play video games that have absorbing stories. I love to get lost in web projects or learning new skills. I do things that absorb my attention and stop me from focusing on my stress.
Discover which attributes of your favorite hobbies fan that spark inside of you. Then you’ll start to understand how to nourish yourself best. I know people fueled by social interaction. Others ride high on exercise endorphins.
Almost everyone I know meditates in one form or another, whether they know it or not. That can take on a myriad of different forms. I’m not good at sitting still, so I tend to more frequently practice moving meditations (such as yoga). I also benefit from of small acts of mindfulness (including mindful walking and eating).
Understand Your Barriers
What is it that prevents you from doing the things that help you to recharge? Is it the time, or the money? It might even be the stress of it, or lack of confidence. For example, If creativity makes you feel more alive, you may tell yourself that you’re not “good enough” with your chosen medium to make the practice worthwhile. That doesn’t really matter, honestly. Remember that self care is for you and no one else. You don’t have to sell your work. No one has to like it. Your art doesn’t have to have value for anyone but you. Allow yourself to get lost in the process of making, rather than worrying about the quality of the results. It should be about the quality of time you spend during creation.
Our modern society keeps us constantly on the go. There is a prevalent mentality that we need to put every waking moment toward our productivity. My life is neither easy, nor relaxing. My daughter’s autism means she requires extra care and attention. I have to support both her and myself. I need to take care of household chores, and my cats. On top of that, I maintain my social media presence and website, in order to keep driving traffic, and therefore clients, toward me.
In the “free” time that I have, I put in a lot of effort to improve myself and make progress toward my dreams and long-term goals. This can be stressful, because those big goals can be really intimidating. However, moving toward them can be a form of self care in and of itself.
Knock Those Barriers Down
I would not be able do any of what I do – let alone all of it – without forcing some self care into my schedule, however I’m able to. A couple months ago, I was able to squeeze in an unbelievably rejuvenating couple’s massage for my six-month anniversary with my wonderful partner. Taking that time for yourself can often make you feel guilty. You shouldn’t. You can’t. At least, you can’t if you want to do everything you do at the best of your ability.
Personally, that was something that I struggled with quite a bit at first. I had to somehow make the things I wanted to do productive in some way. I had to use that as an excuse to make time for myself. Twitch provided me the ability to potentially earn money if I broadcast the video games I wanted to play. My YouTube channel is continually growing. Soon, I will be able to reactivate monetization on my channel. When doing my nails or makeup in an especially artistic way, then I will livestream it while explaining the process. I am a professional cosmetologist, after all.
If I want to read more, OnlineBookClub.org not only gives me free books, but also pays me for writing up a review for each book I read. Additionally, I downloaded an app for my phone called Readercoin. There, I can get audio books that are in the public domain, and earn very small amounts for listening. (If the idea of Readercoin interests you and you want to get a head start on points when joining, you can use my referral code “Halliusy”).
For me, these activities counted as self-care, and I was able to reduce or even eliminate both the guilt barrier and the money barrier. These things did not cost me extra, and they even offered the opportunity to feel productive. For some of these activities, time isn’t an issue either because it’s so easy to multitask. I spend a lot of time driving, and audio books can be listened to in the car. Getting lost in a good story while in traffic also helps to reduce any road rage I might feel, as well. That reduces my daily stress in its own way.
The Little Things Count as Self Care
That’s another thing. Making my commute more enjoyable makes a large chunk of my day easier to cope with. Learning how to make parts of your day better here and there is going to lessen the impact of every cause of stress. Maybe that means investing in a top-of-the line showerhead and allowing yourself to linger a bit longer to condition your skin and hair. It could be taking a few minutes to massage lotion into your feet at night and loosen the muscles there before slipping into extremely comfortable sheets.
I like to decorate myself. I wear clothes that make me feel good, and spend extra time applying cosmetics when I can because I view it as an art form. The jewelry I wear isn’t fancy by any measure. It certainly isn’t expensive. I just find it pleasant to look at, and so I keep it on me so I can see it all day. I wear my favorite perfume (One Love by Auric Blends) daily, and burn incense, because I find that my environment is improved by the scent. It makes me just that tiny bit happier.
Give Yourself Credit
At the very end of the day, it becomes extremely difficult not to fixate on those items you weren’t able to cross off your To Do list. The best self care that you can practice is being kind to yourself, but it’s so easy to beat yourself up for not doing enough. The trick that I like to use is also keeping a “Have Done” list.
Let’s face it, for a lot of us, there’s a lot of chaos and unpredictability in our average day. Situations or tasks will arise that were entirely unexpected. Did your kid manage to open a jar of apple sauce and spread it all over the floor? You probably didn’t think to put cleaning that up on your To Do list that morning. Put it down on the Have Done list. Did a client at work call up needing a sudden and immediate change to the project? Well, you probably won’t be able to even start working on the next step for said project that you’d had on your To Do list.
Take credit for the little things too! Okay, maybe you didn’t get in half an hour of exercise like you planned to, but maybe you dropped into a couple push ups while you were waiting for the water to boil as you made dinner. (Don’t forget to take credit for making dinner.) I would love to be able to fit in an hour of yoga every day, but I can’t. Instead, I go through 3-5 poses at a time while playing on the floor with my daughter. Sometimes I get her to do some yoga with me, but that usually doesn’t last very long.
Self Care Means Knowing Yourself
Many people have difficulty disengaging with the constant stimuli we are exposed to in the modern world. We are constantly inundated with so many sounds, and screens. It’s no wonder that more and more people are dealing with sensory overload. There is constant input of so many types from so many directions, it’s no wonder that the human brain has difficulty to processing everything at once.
I believe that it is essential to take the time to just shut it off when we can. No, it’s really not feasible for everyone to go camping in the middle of nowhere and completely disconnect. I have a kid. If something were to happen, I need to be in contact. Instead, I take the little moments to connect with my own mind.
At night, I put my phone on “Do Not Disturb.” This prevents the calls and notifications on my phone from coming through. If I open the screen, I can see if anything has come up. If someone calls twice within a minute, the second call will come through. I can set certain numbers to always come through.
I turn it on a little while before I go to bed, and I use that time to journal. Another few moments arise here and there throughout the day every time I shut myself into the restroom. So many people play on their phones while they’re doing their business. It’s not a long period of time, so you don’t really need to “pass the time,” do you? Sit in your own head and just see what your mind and thoughts want to do.
The more time you’re able to spend exploring yourself, the better you will understand what you need. I don’t only mean that in the sense of immediate self care. When you know who you are and what drives you, when you know what your passions are and why, then it can help you to shape your future and live the life that you crave.