Peruse the internet long enough and you’re bound to run into another article touting the importance of self-care—how taking time for yourself amidst all your other obligations is increasingly important in our stressed-out society. While we’re all for the concept, we’ve noticed that a lot of these articles seem a little…flimsy. They promote the idea of taking a long bubble bath after work but rarely go deeper than that. Plus, they can sometimes make you feel like self-care is just one more thing you should be doing at the end of another busy day. We’re here to debunk the notion that taking care of yourself has to look or feel a certain kind of way. In fact, we want to give you some tips on how to practice self-care on an ongoing basis, so you’re creating a life that feels good to you—one that doesn’t make you feel like you need to “earn” a bubble bath or a nice glass of wine, but one that helps identify what you need and how to find peace moment-to-moment. Sound appealing? Let’s explore where this popularization of self-care is coming from and how to practice self-care that feels right for you.
Why Has Self-Care Become So Trendy?
In today’s “always-on” society where we’re bombarded by constant pressures to be the perfect mom, an ambitious employee, an always-available friend and a gourmet chef, people have been craving ways to shut out this pressure and reconnect with themselves. We consume massive amounts of news and information every second and it can feel impossible to identify our own thoughts and feelings when we’re constantly scrolling through social media or in fight-or-flight mode with work emails, deadlines, and even the latest group text. Perhaps it’s this perfect storm of society’s pressure and technology overload that have made memes about cancelling plans to stay in by yourself the most popular thing on the internet—we all feel burnt out, and we all want some relief.
Enter: making self-care cool again, which we are ALL FOR! However, self-care doesn’t always look like what society is deeming trendy right now: doing nothing, eating whatever you want, or shutting people out and cancelling plans left and right. Don’t get us wrong: there are times when that’s what your self-care may look like. But on a broader scheme, taking care of yourself holistically can be about a whole lot more. If you can be honest with yourself on a daily basis about what it is you need to thrive, you can avoid fatigue and burnout so self-care isn’t something you feel you must “earn” with pizza delivery and Netflix after another harried day of trying to take on too much. Self-care can be something you practice each and every moment, so that you create a life that takes care of you back. Sound interesting?
7 Ways To Practice Meaningful Self-Care
If you want to know how to practice self-care so it feels meaningful and enriching, we’ve got you covered. After all, we’ve struggled with trying to achieve balance, perfection, and all those other buzzwords that somehow end up making you feel badly, too. So here’s what we’ve come up with: use these practices to create a life that takes care of you inherently—not one you have to escape from to find a tiny bit of respite.
- Edit Your Thoughts
There’s a Buddhist saying that goes “your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own, unguarded thoughts.” Unsupervised, our minds can drag us down some pretty nasty roads. Repetitive thoughts can make us spiral into believing we’re not good enough, don’t deserve happiness, or that people are angry with us when they actually had that look on their face because they couldn’t remember if they left the stove on. To avoid projecting your feelings and spiraling into negative thoughts, you need to edit your mental chatter. Thoughts come and go but you get to choose how you’re going to feel about them. Listen to what your brain has to say, but then choose to interpret your thoughts so they benefit your whole self. This is one of the best practices you can employ to take care of your mental health on a daily basis.
- Be Willing To Have Difficult Discussions
Are you constantly avoiding conflict or having a difficult conversation with someone because the thought of it makes you uncomfortable? We’ve been there. But sometimes being open, honest, and authentic with someone—even if it’s messy—is the only way to stay true to yourself, your boundaries, and what you want out of life. Try to tend to interpersonal problems as they arise; don’t wait for resentment to breed over weeks (or years!) with someone before exploding. If someone does something that hurts you, address how you feel in a calm manner and in the moment. It’s okay to be assertive and communicate your feelings with someone—in fact, it’s the only way to have honest, respect-based relationships.
- Be Selective On Social Media
You don’t need to turn off your phone and go radio silent for a week to take care of your mental health amidst the crazy world of social media. There are more practical ways to approach the world of Instagram perfection. First, remember that everyone is presenting their highlight reel on social media—not the unedited, uncensored version of their life, which we guarantee includes just as many sleepless nights, dirty dishes, and moments of confusion as yours does. Next, stop following people that make you feel bad! If your feed is full of supermodels who claim that dark chocolate is a vice (ha!) or people from your past you barely speak to, of course logging on is going to feel like a psychological minefield. Follow people that make you feel good; select accounts that are body positive and closer to what real life looks like. It will help you remember that the pressure to be the perfect woman is holding you back from being something better: the amazing real woman you are.
- Be Honest With Yourself
So often, we simply go through the motions of our day-to-day life—even those purported moments of “self-care”—instead of actually experiencing them. We’re on auto-pilot at our jobs, and when we get home, trying to relax can feel robotic or forced, too. It pays to get very still sometimes and listen to that authentic, honest voice within. Where are you experiencing tension in your body today? What has been on your mind that you’ve tried to push away? Process your emotions, release your body through yoga, meditation, or stretching, and save enough space in your day to be truly honest with yourself about what you’re experiencing and what you need.
Through this exercise you might realize you need to shut your phone off and not talk to anyone for a day; or you might realize you really need to call a friend and connect with someone. Maybe you get an “aha” moment to finally sign up for that marathon you’ve been thinking about because you want to do something that pushes you to feel strong and confident. You might remember how much you liked to paint when you were younger and how soothing it felt. Whip out that paint brush and get back in touch with that feeling. We can only truly identify how best to take care of ourselves if we are honest with ourselves.
- Do Things Your Future Self Will Thank You For
We all have immediate wants and needs. Sometimes we really want a chocolate chip cookie or to curl up with a good book. Certainly, occasional indulgences and quiet time qualify as self-care. But other times we have to assess not just our immediate needs (what our present self wants) but what our future self wants. Your present self may not want to wake up at 5:30 to go to spin class, but your future self (even 2pm you!) will have more energy, and be better able to take care of yourself if you’ve sweat out some stress before heading into a full day of meetings. Take care of present you, but remember there’s a future you, too—and listen to what she’s asking of you—even if it’s something hard.
- Hold Yourself Accountable
Yes, we all want to cancel plans sometimes when we’d rather stay home in our sweats than get dolled up to go out, but following through with plans and being a dependable person can actually contribute to your self-esteem. The trick is to identify which plans you tend to dread. Is there one friend who you hang out with who always dominates the conversation and complains, never asking how you are? Is there someone who makes you feel badly about yourself, or an ex-boyfriend who tries to take up a lot of your time? Evaluate which relationships have been the most equal in the long-run (knowing that of course things will ebb and flow) and which relationships consistently drain you. Show up for those who show up for you and hold yourself accountable for the people you love.
- Accept Being Beautifully Un-Balanced
We throw around the word “balance” just as often as we do “self-care.” But guess what: sometimes life has to be unbalanced. There are some chapters of your life where balance will not be attainable, and instead of beating yourself up for it, you can surrender to the messiness of the moment. Motherhood? Not a chapter of your life that’s always going to allow for balance. Ha! Caring for an ailing family member? Pushing through a difficult moment in your career? Juggling a divorce and the demands of raising kids by yourself? Sometimes in life we can’t live a perfectly balanced life filled with morning yoga and an enlightened attitude. Sometimes life gets hard and we have to hustle; we have to put in late nights and early mornings and cry in our car. That is life: and just because your life isn’t in complete harmony at a given moment doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
In the end, getting into your PJs and snuggling up to a movie marathon may absolutely be the self-care you need sometimes. But other times, it’s making hard decisions, setting boundaries, and taking time to really listen to what your heart and soul need to stay happy and whole in the long run. The road to taking care of yourself might include some hard work, sweat and tears. But that’s okay. Because while buzzwords and catchphrases come and go, prioritizing your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being should never go out of style.