Bottom line, self-care matters. A whole lot. A whole, whole lot. But if you were to Google it, you’d find more explanations of what self-care is than political opinions (mild [not] exaggeration—but still).
There has been a bit of a shift in the idea of self-care lately. It used to be all fluff—mani/pedis, massage, bubble baths, a lovely shopping spree. Then the pendulum swung to a more hard-core approach. Boundaries, fucking say no, tell people you are only taking care of yourself, exercise 7 days a week, eat clean. Basically, it’s lots of extremes from both ends of the spectrum.
But I’ve moved a lot in my life from being an extreme kinda gal to appreciating the place in the middle. The place in the middle (The Middle Way according to the Buddha) is where things come together. And they don’t just come together. They work together and support each other.
So in this spirit, I offer a list of suggestions for self-care that let you embrace the fluff and ask you to give yourself some tough love all in the same list. And all in the name of taking responsibility for the most important thing in your life… you. So, here you go. I offer you:
Self-Care from A-Z
A: Announce that you are off the clock. Literally. If you are done, tell people you are done. There are times when we legitimately hit the end of what we can do. There is no shame in this. It’s just really human. Telling people is also a super-brave thing to do.
B: Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. And more boundaries. You are in charge of you. You are not taking care of yourself if you consistently let people tell you what to do, convince you to have to do things you don’t want to, or otherwise try to manage, change or control your emotions. No one has the right to do this. Not even your spouse. Not even your mom.
C: Crush comparison. That voice in your head that keeps telling you why you aren’t doing_______ good enough? It’s bullshit and it does not deserve your attention or time of day. And when I’m talking comparison, I’m talking about comparing to others, to how you think you should be, or even to how you used to be. Stop. It won’t help. It will not help.
D: Dump the haters. Channel TSwift if you have to and sing Shake It Off. But seriously. Be very careful with who you allow around you. Part of self-care is keeping the energy around you supportive and positive. We become like the people we spend the most time with. Make sure they are people worth being like.
E: Emotionally check-in. This is huge in self-care. Your emotions are your guide to how you are doing internally. India Arie Says, “You know the truth by the way it feels.” Your feelings will tell you if you are going in a good direction for you or if you are heading down a path of stickers and thorns and no bubble baths to make you feel good. Learn to trust your feelings as guides.
F: Freak out. Yep. Scream, yell, throw, beat on something (not someone), basically just let yourself get upset. Those feelings just bottle up inside and they will come out. The question is do you want to have some say in how, where, and when they come out? Or do you want to let the bottle fill up and explode all over your boss or 2-year-old child or your kid’s teacher or the traffic cop that just pulled you over…?
G: Get out of the situation. Literally, remove yourself. Sometimes there is nothing to be gained by sticking it out at the moment. Usually, that leads to a bunch of regret. If you feel like you are going to lose it, take care of yourself (and whoever you are with) and give yourself a very healthy, much needed break.
H: Hold on to what you believe. Use your beliefs about life, people, spirituality, spirit, universe, or whatever to buoy you up and to support you when things are difficult. You have internal strength and support that is at your disposal. It is with you, even if it doesn’t feel like it, always.
I: Ice cream. Mint chocolate chip and peanut butter and chocolate are my favorites. Potato chips. A hamburger. Pasta. Comfort food. That’s right. I’m advocating some emotional eating here. Everyone does it and it is not evil. Food can have very positive associations with it and when we need a little emotional boost, ice cream can sometimes do the trick.
J: Journal and write it out. Writing is a great way to express yourself and expressing yourself is damn good self-care. You can do it on the computer or good-ole-fashioned pen to paper.
K: Kindness, kindness, and more kindness. You need all of your love and affection and gentleness. You really are doing the best you can. Remember that our best shifts all the time and your best on one day may be different from last week (see letter C). Also remember the Buddha’s words, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
L: Look for love anywhere you can find it. Hug your child. Pet your fur baby, or read an old email that made you feel fab. Walk outside and see the beauty. Call someone you know cares for you. Allowing ourselves to feel, experience, and give love is one of the hardest, yet most valuable, forms of self-care we can engage in.
M: Move it. I mean your body, not your house. Get up, stretch, go for a walk, play with your kids, hit the gym if that’s your thing. Walk to Sonic to get a Route44 Raspberry Limeade (ahem…). It gets blood and feel-good hormones flowing. However, if you are moving your body as punishment for something you ate, to give yourself permission to eat, or because you are scared to death that if you miss one single workout you will gain weight, don’t do this one. The reasons behind movement are at the root of self-care. Punishment is not self-care. I don’t care how much chocolate cake you ate.
N: Never give up all the way. Honestly, it’s ok to give up, for a while, when you need to. It just is. Sometimes that gives us a chance to re-group, re-evaluate, and re-charge. And that is some mighty fine self-care. Just don’t go down for the count and not come back up. You matter too much to deprive the world of your essence and uniqueness. So go ahead and give up, but on a time-limited basis.
O: Opt-out by saying no. Practice it with me—No. Nice :o) Let’s practice some phrases. No, I can’t make 3 dozen cookies for the bake sale. No, I can’t watch your 4 kids while you have lunch and go to spin class. No, I won’t pick up your dirty dishes. No, I won’t be able to go this time. If you know the answer for yourself to feel good is no, then SAY NO.
P: Play dead. This is an excellent way to convince others that you are unavailable. You can play dead by literally lying on the floor and quietly whispering, “Shhhh. I’m dead.” You can pretend to be asleep. You can lie on the couch watching Netflix and when anyone tries to talk to you, close your eyes and pretend you don’t hear. The basic point here is to not respond in order to give yourself a break. Everyone will eventually realize you aren’t going to engage and they will leave you alone. My favorite kind of self-care.
Q: Be quiet and go within. Whether that is through prayer or meditation or journaling or being in nature. You can’t connect to your Inner Wisdom if you don’t let yourself get a little quiet and listen. Listening to yourself=loving self-care.
R: Remind yourself of your strengths, your accomplishments, your abilities, or anything that makes you feel good about yourself. Make a list of all of these things and when you are feeling like you can’t get anything right, pull it out and prepare to be amazed at your lovely self.
S: Seek support. It’s out there. I know you have friends that, every time you finally admit things are hard, say, “Why didn’t you call me???” We don’t call because we are worried what others will think or we think we shouldn’t need help. First things first, don’t pick judge-y people to call for support. That eliminates the first problem. Second. Bullshit. We all need help. Thre is no should or shouldn’t, it’s just the way things are.
T: Trust in something greater than yourself. This concept has come up in a few ways today. But I can’t stress the value of feeling connected to something that’s bigger than you and that’s got your back (in the sense that it brings you a sense of calm when you need it). It might be God, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s whatever brings you a sense of calm. Maybe Nature, Spirit, Universe, your own Inner Wisdom. Just please find something.
U: Unwind any way that works for you. Take a bath, read, dance naked, take a walk, take a nap, make cookies, Netflix binge, collect recipes, listen to music, stare out the window. Anything that gives you some time to let go for a bit and rest is a go here.
V: Visualize how you want to feel and then figure out what you need to do to feel that way. Our desire to feel certain ways drive all of human behavior. Figure out how you want to feel and then prioritize doing things (or doing things in a way) that make you feel the way you want. Creating experiences where we get to feel the way we want has a lot to do with self-care.
W: Wait and see. My husband always says to me (when I don’t want to hear it and I just want an answer, like, now), “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything yet.” Arrggg! I hate it because I want to fix it all right now. But he’s always right. Sometimes we take the best care of ourselves when we allow things to unfold at their speed rather than trying to force our energy and timing onto everything.
X: X-treme fluff—and I’m talking as extreme as you want. Here is the place for mani/pedis, trying on $6000 wedding dresses you don’t need and will never buy, new hair, a piercing, a tattoo (but remember these are permanent and should never be a name), going to see 50 Shades of Grey (or whatever the second one is), re-reading Twilight for the fourth time, literally choosing to do absolutely nothing. There is a place for all of this. Just because it might be considered fluff doesn’t mean it isn’t the fucking bomb of self-care.
Y: You-tube– as an extension of fluff. Watch as many cat videos as you want. Watch cute baby goats. Watch people that can burp the ABCs if that’s you game. Watch videos of other people playing videos (my kids do this, I don’t get it). Watch the documentary about the guys that had to let the lion they raised go back to the wild and cry your eyes out. Very therapeutic sometimes. Therapeutic=self-care.
Z: Get your ZZZZ’s. Sleep enough. Please, please, please, get enough rest. It’s how your body and mind rejuvenate. Find out what kind of sleep works best for you (how many hours, when, all in one chunk, broken up), but get your blanky, your favorite pillow, turn on the fan so you can’t hear anything, put on your sleep mask, cuddle up with your baby or the dog or your favorite stuffed animal (I don’t care how old you are, you have one) and go to sleep. Everything will still be there when you wake up. You’ll just be much more equipped to cope with it all.
Now, go take care of yourself, will you??????