Self Care for Dummies, aka for the Old Me.
The New Me is Learning How!
What is this Self Care thing, you ask? Is it massages and pedicures, spa dates and shopping trips? Did I hear you say it sounds like something for rich folks? Well, you’re only half right. Because there’s so much more to it.
You see, Self Care is basically any act we intentionally perform whose aim is to provide self-directed care on some basic or not-so-basic physical, emotional, or psychological level. Some Self Care is habit by now, or at least I hope it is, like brushing your teeth everyday.
We’re all taught on some level to care for others first. Women as nurturers, men as bread-winners (I’m generalizing, of course – hats off to the nurturing bread-winners of any gender). But that usually means that we put others’ needs before our own. Even our animal friends seem to eat better than we do, and on a regular schedule to boot!
The physical realm is the easiest for me personally to navigate. We all know how to tend wounds, shower, and exercise (even if we don’t do it). But I want to talk about the other stuff, too, because my ignorance of and disregard for a self-focused nurturing practice left me completely and wildly burned out with adrenal fatigue two and a half years ago. What I see now, but couldn’t fathom then, was how important Self Care is to our health; physical, emotional, and psychological.
Since my burnout, I’ve gotten pretty darn good at listening to my body, maybe even too good. Well beyond recognizing when I’m hungry, tired, and thirsty, I’ve learned how to supplement for energy, better sleep, and balanced hormones and mood. I prepare meals that not only satisfy, but also nourish and heal my adrenals. I’ve even gotten out of my comfort zone and started using really nice skincare. Every now and again, I buy myself something that’s just for me. These are all physical means of nurturing the self.
However, I’m still not so great at the other aspects of Self Care. Examples of emotional Self Care would be listening to your inner voice that tells you when a situation feels good, or doesn’t, and taking appropriate action to feel emotionally safe or confident. Another example is fulfilling our need for shared connection. A third would be living with integrity and standing in your power, even when it feels risky or just plain hard to do. (How do we get there, I hear you asking? Read on!)
When it comes to psychological Self Care, I may have a slightly better handle on it. In fact, instead of sitting down to write this earlier today, I decided I’d rather tackle a few very dusty piles of paperwork in my office that had been nagging at me for many months. With a clear head, I was easily able to recycle nearly all of it, and file away most of the rest. I wasn’t sure if I was merely procrastinating, or if I was getting something off my to-do list that was seriously cramping my “head space.” That act of double Self Care (crossing something off the list and creating a more visually appealing surround) most definitely created a bit of mental fresh air.
Self Care can be different for everyone. Sure, as humans, we all share the same basic needs, but how we meet those needs will be up to you. The important part is to Nike that sh*t. Just do it. Start small. Build up. Make new habits.
And love yourself, like you’re all you’ve got.
This was fun: You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide
And for even more fun, join our MeetUp group. We picnic, hike, color, blow bubbles, meditate at the beach, and discuss Self Care strategies while engaging in Self Care activities. It’s free!
Easy tips for physical Self Care:
Breathe! Check in with your body each morning. Sit quietly for 5 minutes and focus on your breath. Let your thoughts come and go. Don’t micromanage them.
Check in throughout the day. Ask yourself, am I thirsty? Good chance you are. Drink some water. It’s not rocket science.
On the flip side, check in as you are eating. Stop eating the moment you start to feel full. Worried about Catholic, Jewish, or starving-kids-in-Ethiopia guilt? Save unfinished bites for later, when you are hungry again.
News cycle got you down? Turn it off! All of it. Don’t worry, it will still be there when you come back.
Feeling super stressed out in traffic? Did some A-hole just cut you off? Why is that person driving so ever loving SLOWLY? See first option above.
Check in with your body. Are you feeling stiff, achy, or sore? Move that old bod of yours. We were designed for movement, gosh darn it. So get your groove on, go for a walk, fly a kite, have sex. Stretch, bend, fold, roll, whatever it takes. Nike it.
“It rubs the lotion on it’s back.” Do something nice for yourself. Bubble bath, massage, lotion up. Paint your toenails. Even if you’re a dude. Or…especially if you’re a dude.
Easy tips for emotional Self Care:
Gratitude journal. Keep a small notebook of everything you are grateful for. This sounds super corny, I know. But trust me, this works. Or, each night as you drift off to sleep, recount three things you are grateful for that day. Start each day with three grateful events you anticipate coming true. The fact that you are alive counts as one!
Keep a running list of everything you like about yourself in a small notebook. The entries don’t even need to be true. They can be things you would simply like to think about yourself!
Check in with yourself. How do you feel after spending time with someone? Are you energized, brimming with love, or feeling drained? Spend your time and energy in ways and with people who fill you up.
Allow your feelings. When negatives emotions come up, don’t push them away. (What we resist, persists.) Get curious. Ask yourself where and when you felt this way before. Go deeper. Thank those emotions for keeping you safe and alive until now and tell them you don’t need them anymore. Decide how you’d rather feel and imagine yourself feeling that way! Yes, I know what you are thinking, but neuroscience says this works!
Smile and say hello to strangers! If they smile back, major bonus!
Practice holding both ends of the giving stick. If you are always giving, start receiving for a change (I know that can feel really uncomfortable). If you are always receiving, do some giving. If we all gave, there’d be no one to receive, you see? We need to practice both to be whole.
Easy tips for psychological Self Care:
Change things up. Take a new route to work, or to the grocery store. Making new neural networks keeps your experience on this planet fresh and alive.
Self talk. Clean it up. If someone talked to me the way I have often talked to myself, I’d probably have punched ‘em right in the kisser. If you can’t clean it up using the Get Curious method above, get some help. A simple diet change, or tryptophan, or counseling can make a big difference here. Ask me how!
Failure. Everyone does it. Keep going. Keep the self-criticism in check. See above.
Friends. Cherish them. Make new ones. Cultivate relationships like you would a garden upon whose bounty your life depended. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll find people actually want to help you! Offer it when you think they do.
Say no. You don’t have to do everything all the time. Give yourself a break already. Spreading yourself thin shortchanges you and everyone else. Listen to the subtle cues your body is telling you before you over-commit. *Note to self: You don’t need to save the entire world.
Clutter. Clean it up. It weighs on your mind, nagging at you. Set aside a short amount of time every week to tackle a small area. Little by little, organizing will become a habit, and you won’t feel overwhelmed trying to do it all at once. Hire help if you need to.
To-Do Lists. Be real. Is everything on your list really a priority? Chunk it down into two lists; one for today (or this week) and one for the future. Put the future list away and after prioritizing the today list, decide what you can do immediately. And then do it. Don’t let the list be a noose around your neck.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything all at once. Pick one thing and start today. Add more once that intention becomes habit.
And by golly, love yourself! Because you’re awesome when you let your light shine.
What are your strategies for Self Care? Please let us know in the box below!