What does taking care of yourself even look like?
If you asked me right now if I’m doing a good job of taking care of myself, then I would have to be honest: no.
In the face of upheaval, shifting schedules and environments, I have put in some pretty lousy effort to establish healthy new habits and make the transition easier.
And you know what? I feel it. I feel it in my energy levels, in my body, in my ability to be positive. I feel it in increased anxiety, in my suffering relationships, in the words I choose in conversation and in my own head.
The thing that gives me comfort, though? I have implemented self care in my life before, and I know that I can do it again. I have felt myself on the cusp of pulling through this rough patch. I can feel the release coming. It just takes some work, a good dose of planning, and a catalyst of positive thinking.
While we’re young, it’s important that we begin to establish habits, routines, practices, game plans, and a lifestyle that makes us healthier, happier people. If we start to get the hang of this in our twenties, we set ourselves up for success for the rest of our lives.
That’s a lot to put on your plate, though- especially when you’re grieving. I get that. When you are dealing with loss, you’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure you’re handling everything as best you can… and that alone can be a huge, daunting task.
My mom was a self care star as she battled cancer. She worked so hard and researched the things she had power over, the ways she could give herself a boost. I miss her advice and helpful hints in that area of my life. As new health fads come and go, I wish I could ask her what she thinks about each one. It was nice having someone to boss me around and take the decision making out of the equation. But now it’s time to make her proud, do my due diligence, and take damn good care of myself– because the ultimate lesson I learned from cancer is that when it comes to the human body, you only get one.
I get how hard it is to take really good care of yourself. The last thing I want to do when I’m exhausted from depression and the chaos of my twenties…. is DO MORE WORK. But frankly, I’ve found it’s the only way through.
Self care is such a wide concept. The World Health Organization defines Self-Care as such:
Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, prevent and deal with illness.
It is a broad concept encompassing:
- hygiene (general and personal);
- nutrition (type and quality of food eaten);
- lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc.);
- environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.);
- socioeconomic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.);
That’s a ton of stuff! I am going to be honest, I NEVER, EVER, EVER feel like I’m top of all of these things at once.
It’s so rare that I feel like I’ve truly nailed eating healthily, and drinking enough water, and showering, and keeping my apartment clean, and seeing friends, and working so that I feel financially stable, and making space for spiritual practice, and getting in a great workout, and GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP. That requires a crazy amount of hustle. I maybe manage to do all that in 24 hours once a year. Maybe. When the stars all align, and I manage to combine a few things.
Just writing that all down made me panic about what I’ve gotten done today. (Update: it’s 1 PM and all I’ve managed is to get a full 8 hours of sleep for once, walk Huckleberry, make coffee, and sit down for some quality writing time. Not bad, but think of all that stuff I still haven’t hit yet!)
So I know what you’re thinking. What is the point of this post, am I just trying to point out all the things we’re doing wrong and complain about how hard it is to get it right?
Here’s my personal definition of self-care, and you can take it or leave it. *Self-care is a mindful act with the aim to make yourself feel better, without any ramifications of self-harm.* More basically: Focus on ONE task that you believe will make you feel better, and it doesn’t count if it’s going to do more harm than good.
Having a drink with a friend? Self- care. Having 12 drinks with a friend thereby blowing your budget and your health? Not so much.
Watching a movie you love? Self-care. Watching 8 hours straight of television and compulsively eating junk food while you’re at it? Not so much.
Go back to that definition of self care and see what ideas it inspires. Think of the ways in which things you already know work for you fit that definition. I promise, everything that works for me will not be your plan of action, too.
I also want to emphasize being mindful. If you’re running around trying to do all these self care activities at once, you’re just going to feel more anxious and frantic. That, my darlings, is counterintuitive. Don’t put that pressure on yourself!! You’re too wonderful for that! Instead, start with just one thing– and do it deliberately.
Then check in with yourself.
Do you have time for one more act of self-care? Do you need it? Mayyyyyybe don’t take on gutting and re-organizing your whole life a la “The Magic Art of Tidying Up”. Maybe just, I don’t know, make your bed. Do it slowly and nicely. Give it your full attention.
Start small. Start where you’re actually at. Give yourself some grace and realize that you don’t have to do it all at once.
If you shoot for the moon, you may not ever make a single step out the front door.
What are your favorite self care activities? Do you plan them out? Or are they just spontaneous mood-boosters you turn to when in need? Let me know!!