Self-care has become somewhat of a #buzzphrase. What comes to mind for most people upon hearing it is a montage of bubble baths, chocolate, and Netflix binge sessions. While I do not object to any of the previous three, these are not the sort of daily care activities that will help you to become an overall healthy and happy person. But, what will?
1) Say No More Often
Say no. Say it again. Say it without apologies or explanations.
So many of us are people-pleasers. We do for others without protecting our own energy and well-being. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret: you cannot make anyone (beyond yourself) happy. It simply isn’t possible. This doesn’t mean you should stop being a helpful human, but it does give you full-fledged permission to put yourself first.
Too tired to go out with your friend Friday night? Say no. Don’t have the mental energy for dinner with your in-laws? Say no. Would really rather not pick up that extra shift at work? Say no.
You do not owe anyone a certain amount of your free time. So, take care of yourself before being there for others. Let’s be real; you can’t contribute much when you’re not operating at full capacity anyway.
2) Give Yourself permission to Rest
Once you have tackled saying no to others, you can begin to say no to the demands you place on yourself as well.
I am a creature of schedule and habit. I meal-plan, make chore lists, and highly organize almost every aspect of my life. For me, this usually works out very well. But, there exceptions to every rule, and sometimes I cannot follow through.
Some days I don’t feel up to making a home-cooked meal or washing the linens, despite what my schedule says. Maybe I had a hard day at work, or my kid has been a handful, or maybe I am just emotionally spent and don’t want to do one more thing. In the past, I would bully myself into accomplishing my pre-established goals and end up even more stressed out and exhausted.
Now, I pop in a frozen meal, change into pajamas early, and acknowledge that no one in my home is going to suffer from allowing the laundry to sit another day. And you know what? The next day I feel much more capable of functioning and completing tasks. There is a sacred and healing art to not giving a fuck.
3) Build a Life You Actually Enjoy
This last one requires a bit of soul-searching, but can yield significant results.
What makes you happy? Do more of it. What makes you stressed? Do less of it. What makes you miserable? Cut that shit out.
I know that in the real world things aren’t that simple. You can’t walk in tomorrow morning and quit your miserable job. But, you can make steps towards being able to.
The truth is: no job, person, or activity is worthy of prolonged and profound suffering. If something is diminishing you more than growing you, it does not deserve a place in your life.
Stop pouring yourself into situations that drain you and instead invest yourself into what brings you fulfillment and joy. Stop making excuses and start making moves. You should, at minimum, like your life.
It is impossible to live a life which is completely void of stress, but it is possible to create one you don’t constantly need a break from. Start giving yourself what you need so you are more capable of giving your loved ones the things they want. You can still enjoy chocolate and bubble baths and Netflix, though. I promise not to tell.