My tips for how to practice self care
SELF CARE ROUTINE | PRACTICE SELF CARE
We all have busy and challenging phases of life. We feel like we’re trying to find our way through a never ending forest. Those are the moments its most important to practice self care. You may want to keep your head down and keep hustling, but I learned so much last year about how much a self care routine can help you keep centered and clear headed.
I discovered in therapy that I have anxiety and negative cognitive behavior, but I learned how to manage it. The biggest part of it is practicing self care. Now when I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or angry, I can tell what self care bucket I need to take care of (sleep, recreation, social, food… things that I just like to do).
Without any “down time” or “me time,” we don’t have any time to process our emotions or thoughts. With that in mind, here a few self care tips I learned that really help me, and I hope will help you:
Say no to the non-essentials
You might have heard the saying before: Saying “no” to something now means you’re leaving room to say “yes” to what you really want to do later.
My husband and I essentially had opposing schedules when we worked in news. When we started jobs with more traditional “9 to 5” work schedules, we had more time together. And that’s when I noticed just how many extracurricular activities I signed myself up for; I rarely said “no.” I cut it all back to one or two groups that I work and volunteer with, which gave me more time to do the things I wanted to do for myself like have dinner with my husband or go to yoga classes in the evening.
There’s a book by Greg McKeown called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” and it embraces this idea of whittling down your activities to make room for what’s meaningful and essential to you. McKeown mentions that if you don’t take control of your schedule, someone else will; that’s why you need to say no to the “non-essentials” so you can make room for the “essentials.”
Keep your buckets filled
Part of those essential activities should be your self care buckets. These are buckets of activities that are basic necessities and things that make you feel good. You need to sleep, eat, and shower (oh my gosh, I love some dry shampoo but by day four… I am aching to wash my hair). You need to incorporate recreational activities to give yourself some of that much needed downtime like reading, playing video games, or exercising.
Alone time and social time are also self care buckets. Weeks when I feel like it’s been non-stop work, I grab my husband or some friends and organize an outing, even if it’s as simple as going to a brewery or an art show. How often have you had a week with seemingly non-stop socializing and thought to yourself, “I need a day where I don’t talk to anyone”? I’ve definitely had those days. My husband is great with days when I tell him “I just need some alone time:” He might have wanted me to go with him and friends to a movie but he tells me, “That’s totally fine. Do what you need to do.” I give myself that alone time to read a book, take a walk around the park, or journal.
Write down your wins
One of the things I started during therapy to tame my negative cognitive behavior was to start a gratitude practice. At the end of the day I wrote down three things that I was grateful for, no matter how big or how small. Some days were harder than others and I would write down seemingly basic things like “woke up and got dressed” (but some days those do feel like huge wins, am I right?!). But it still helped flip the script on my self perception. Plus, on days when I was feeling down, I looked back at the past few days or weeks at my accomplishments and thought, “Wow, I’ve been doing better than I thought!”
There are so many ways you can practice gratitude: Write down your three wins for the day in your planner so you can constantly look back at all your accomplishments. Incorporate it into your daily journaling practice. I incorporated writing down my three wins or gratitudes into my daily devotional: I use the “on my heart today” section of Lara Casey’s Write the Word journals as a place to write my wins.
Either way you go about it, it doesn’t take more than a minute or two. You can give yourself a minute or two to express gratitude.
In therapy I learned about Wise Mind. As I read more about it, the idea of mindfulness and mindful meditation kept coming up. So I gave meditation a try, and the more I made it into a daily routine the more I noticed my self confidence and interactions in difficult situations improve.
Just taking ten minutes a day to be still and mindful is a tremendous refresh for me. Some days when I feel overwhelmed - like I can’t fit meditation in but know I need to - I just do a quick one minute meditation or body scan. Some people can meditate without assistance, but others - like myself - need a guided meditation. There are so many meditation apps to help with that, too! I have thoroughly enjoyed Headspace and the variety of meditation practices they have from daily meditations to quick courses and even bedtime wind downs.
Don’t make yourself feel like you have to meditate at certain times either. Sometimes I get to do it first thing in the morning (which I love), but other days I have to do it after work or when I’m going to bed. Meditate daily, but don’t stress about how long you do it for or what time of day you do it.
Plan ahead, but give yourself grace!
I use the beginning of the week to plan ahead for the rest of the week. I have a May Designs planner I use to write down the basics like doctors appointments and fitness classes, then use the Inkwell Press Weekly Kickstarter to write down the details from appointments to my to-dos (and it doesn’t include a ton of space on the daily lists, which is great for people like me who tend to be overambitious with what they can get done in a day :) ). It’s something that’s helped me keep my thoughts from racing and making to-do lists at 2 a.m.
Planning for the week will help you eliminate non-essential activities, but also recognize your emotions and activities could change throughout the week. You might need to cancel that hot yoga class Thursday night because you really need time to socialize with friends. If you really need to have some alone time to read a book, give yourself that time and get to writing thank you notes the next day. You don’t want to procrastinate, but you definitely need to give yourself grace!
Essential oils, audio books, long runs around the lake — Everyone’s self care routine looks different. It’s what works best for you! Some self care routines are easy to implement; others can be a little more challenging to apply. But here’s the thing: You don’t have to do it all at once. Figure out what works best for you, then implement one self care method at a time. Break it down into smaller steps. You’ll notice the difference soon enough!
GRATITUDE JOURNAL | MEDITATION PRACTICE | SELF CARE BUCKETS