There was a time when the metaphor for self-care was, “Put your oxygen mask on first, before you help others,” like the flight attendant instructs on the airplane during take-off. But self-care isn’t something you should wait to do until it’s already emergency-level. It’s what you should do regularly so that you don’t reach that escalated state. Don’t be burned out or suffering from deteriorating physical or mental health before implementing self-care. In her TEDx Talk, kayaking champion Susannah Winters defines self-care as, “deliberately taking care of your well-being through restorative activities.” We should all be on board with that! Here are some realistic, easy ideas on how to make self-care a priority this year.
People seem to think “self-care” means indulging in a 3-day spa getaway. Sure, it could mean that. Or it could mean simply taking 30 minutes out of your busy day to have a cup of tea in a quiet space while perusing a magazine or reading a book. It’s not about how much you spend or the length of time it takes. It’s about carving out a regular spot of time for yourself to decompress, to wind down, to be alone, to get physical, to take a nap—basically, to do whatever you need to do in order to feel better.
Define Your Self-Care
Make a list of five things you find to be self-caring. Everyone has different tastes so of course, everyone has different self-care needs. Make it even more specific by making different lists defined by time. Some examples:
- Take a walk (possibly with an audio book or some favorite music)
- Have a glass of wine and watch an episode of “Friends” or “Fleabag“
- Read a book or magazine for pleasure
- Call, text, or FaceTime with a special person you don’t see often
- Draw the curtains and take an afternoon nap
- Take an exercise class
- Stroll, shop, and taste leisurely at a farmer’s market
- Go to a cafe and enjoy a hot beverage
- Hit up YouTube and catch up on video clips from the Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden shows (anything fun and light)
- Start a sketchbook or journal and do regular entries
90 minutes or more:
- Meet a fun friend or relative for lunch or dinner at a grown-up place
- Visit a local museum (take a guided tour or use an audio guide)
- Go for a hike, paddle board, kayak — anything in nature
- Relax with a mani-pedi or a massage
- Go to the theatre, the movies, or any kind of performance
Again, these are just examples. You know what you enjoy and what makes you feel good, what lifts your spirits, what heals your body and mind—make your own lists! Once you have these jotted down, it will be a treat each time you do one of them.
Just Say No
This one will take some getting used to if you are everyone’s go-to person. No, I cannot take on another carpool. No, I don’t need to attend that meeting. No, I don’t think you need a third after-school activity this season. No, I would prefer not to lead that committee. You don’t need to say no to everything, but learning to prioritize your time and your energy so your days aren’t so crammed is important. This is a big step, because it requires you to have possibly difficult conversations with your partner, your kids, your co-workers, your boss. But to carve out that time for yourself, you’ll need to set some boundaries for those around you. They care about you and they need you; help them understand that to be there for them, you’ve got to fill your cup first.
Go Into the Light
Make this the year you minimize toxicity in your life—this is a legitimate piece to practicing self-care. Try not to hang out with that friend who always makes you feel bad about yourself, that relative that can’t help but comment on your appearance, or the co-worker always ranting about everyone. Do this on social media as well: Unfollow (not necessarily Unfriend) people who add too much negativity to your newsfeed; Unlike Groups or Pages that do the same.
If you think, “I’ll do some self-care when I get a chance to today…” it won’t happen as often as you need it to. Enter these 30-90 minute self-care sessions into your calendar like you would any other appointment. Prioritize yourself and your needs, and with regular self-care, you will eventually find yourself in a better frame of mind.
Remember, self-care is not selfish—to take the best care of everyone in your life, you need to take care of yourself first. Again, don’t wait until you’re in an emergency state to “put the oxygen mask on first”. By starting it now, and practicing self-care as a daily part of your routine, you’ll avoid that escalated level. You matter!