A new year is upon us and that means a lot to many of us, especially this year. One thing is for sure, upping our self-care game is more important than ever. And if you’re like me, you’ve read about and practiced so much self-care, you feel like you’re pretty much a bubble bath and tea-pairing expert.
Yet still, you feel you need something more.
You know the benefits of meditating every day, doing yoga for stress-relief and the mind/body benefits. There is a lot of emphasis on taking time for yourself, because there’s no other way to cut it, self-care equals lower blood pressure, more energy, and generally a better outlook on life.
What’s hard for me, is finding articles that tell you where to start. How to make space for a meaningful, realistic, routine in your hectic life, in a way that’s beneficial for you. Even though you take time to wind down every night (or whenever you can), if you’re like me, you still rush through the next day, getting sucked into a whirlwind of anxiety, feeling frazzled and beat by the time you collapse into bed at night. It sounds all too familiar, because this is a snapshot of what most of our daily lives look like.
Humans are not built to run on constant, 24/7 anxiety– yet unfortunately, that is exactly what many of our careers and obligations have led us to. And we often need more than a hot bath, green tea, or a deep breathing exercise to change that. This goes deeper.
Have you ever asked yourself - why are these scientifically-proven, self-care strategies not “working” for me? Why does the morning meditation not leave me feeling centered for the whole day like it’s supposed to?
Let me put your mind to rest, it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong.
It’s because self-care shouldn’t feel like a chore.
I have a terrible habit of reading self-care articles and beating myself up if I forget about the meditation I was going to try the very next morning or that new nighttime breathing technique to try before bed.
The basics of it all are, self-care shouldn’t be something you scratch off your to-do list every night and then forget about every other minute of the day.
Self-care isn’t something you do once a day. It’s something you live by. It’s a mindset.
What I propose, to shift all our perspectives, is slow, mindful, loving change. Change that goes beyond breathing and stretching and hot baths.
Here are a few ways to get into the self-care mindset, along with a couple ways you can make small, meaningful changes, right now and in the days that follow.
Make it Personal
Now I don’t want to simply present you with a list of relaxation techniques, because the truth is, as we’ve discussed, everyone is completely unique. And since we’re all different, that means our self-care will look different too.
You can define self-care for yourself, and by yourself. You don’t have to worry if you’re “doing it right.” Everything you’re doing is perfect, because it’s just for you.
This is especially true if you practice yoga or meditate: it’s as much (or more) about exploring and listening to what you feel in your body as it is about nailing the pose, or entering into a state of zen and bliss. The exploration is the meditative state, and that’s what makes it so tricky and elusive. How to make a change now: Start writing it down. Get a pen and paper and ask yourself, what would caring for myself look like for me, today? Don’t think too much about what you’re writing, trust what naturally comes out, and you’ll find that the answers will come to you.
I struggled with practicing self-care regularly because I wouldn’t allow it to change day-to-day. I would find something that worked great for me one day, write it all down in my journal, create a whole daily step-by-step plan, and when I woke to follow it the very next day, I’d get discouraged when it didn’t feel right anymore.
Coming up with a plan and writing it down is, of course, a great step in developing a routine but it’s not necessary.
Remember, you want to make it personal: this means not only finding what works for you, but finding what works for you, today. Your needs will change from one day to the next. This is totally normal, and a big part of self-care is continuing to show up as things shift, and saying, what do I need today? How to make a change now: Be present by quieting your mind as best you can. Once again, trust what you feel, and don’t over-analyze what you think you “should” be doing. Your body knows what it needs, so let it, guide you into what feels right today.
Give Yourself a Break
Don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day or if you totally forget it. You can’t stress yourself into being relaxed and centered. Doing so can end up pushing us even further away from meaningful self-care.
Self-care isn’t a task that we check off the list every day. It’s a way of being. That includes the way you talk to yourself throughout your day, and allowing yourself to be imperfect, is one of the best self-care values you can adopt.
Be aware of where your mind goes, you can learn so much about how you unconsciously keep yourself in a cycle of anxiety. If you’re pressuring yourself into completing a self-care routine, then you’re probably pressuring yourself too much in the other areas of your life, too.
The truth is, it’s so easy to get swept up into our usual routine. Humans are creatures of habit, if you can’t seem to make immediate positive changes to your daily routine and you’re constantly a ball of stress, it’s all good. You’re perfectly normal. Change isn’t easy, and that’s okay. It takes time to develop new habits. With time, patience, and practice, you will begin to carve out space for it in your day. You’ll get better at listening to your needs. And you’ll begin to feel stress slowly and gently melt away.