Self-Care is Not Always Bon Bons and Bubble Baths
Okay, but to be fair, sometimes it is. It’s nice after a long or difficult day to come home take a bubble bath, have a glass of wine, or buy that special something you’ve had your eye on. But it’s also important to acknowledge that self-care is not always about treating yourself and utilizing more indulgent coping skills, such as having a drink, spending, and eating sweets, which are best used in moderation. Other common ways that people manage stress (for which I have no warning about moderation) include exercising, meditating, listening to music, spending time with friends and family, and taking time to enjoy nature. Although these are highly effective ways to feel better temporarily and manage stress when you’re in the midst of it, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to take more preventative measures?? The good news is, you can. And here’s your guide:
Sometimes self-care can be ugly. It can be acknowledging your failures and disappointments, and re-strategizing. It can be doing the things that you’ve put off (hello procrastination!), even if that means taking some time off work to do so. If you take a closer look at many of the things you put off for “later,” you may find that you do so because they’re unpleasant. Going to the doctor for your check-up? Ugh. Making a spreadsheet of your finances… and debt? No thank you. But these are often the types of tasks that, once they’re complete, you’ll feel less stressed.
Self-care is also sometimes about disappointing people. It’s about holding on to your boundaries, weeding out toxic relationships, and saying “no” when necessary. I read an article recently that said people tend to exaggerate others’ reactions to being told “no,” and that the requester actually assumes rejection is pretty likely. Think about it like this, if you are considering asking a friend to watch your dog for a week, you likely have some expectation that their response could be no, right? The same goes for others asking things of you, so it’s all right to say “no,” really.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Tell me one person that you know who is perfect, who never makes a mistake or never feels sad, anxious, or tired. I’ve heard the saying, “I don’t know any perfect people. I only know really flawed people who are still worth loving.” Learning to accept your imperfections, mistakes, and setbacks as something that happens to ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE is huge, and life can be so much less stressful when you acknowledge that you are human, sometimes crap happens, and that’s okay.
Practicing gratitude. The brain is wired to look for what it wrong- it’s a survival mechanism. Practicing gratitude (and it does take practice) literally re-wires your brain to search for the positive, even in the worst of situations. Specific strategies to practice gratitude include keeping a gratitude journal, donating and volunteering, finding “positives” within the “negatives,” and nurturing and enjoying good relationships.
Lastly, invest in yourself. Do enjoyable hobbies and activities daily, not just on special occasions. Find things that feel good to you, whether it be beginning yoga classes, getting sucked into a new novel, or taking walks and make them into habits. Also, (shameless plug) participating therapy can help you learn more about yourself (i.e., wants, needs) and provide you with a safe space to express, explore, problem-solve, find balance, and ultimately- relieve stress.
To sum it all up, my point is that self-care is not always about finding small ways to escape. It shouldn’t be something that we resort to because we’re so exhausted from life that we need the smallest amount of relief to keep moving forward. Self-care is really about building a life from which you don’t feel the need to escape. Take care of yourself!