Self Care is More Than a Spa Day
Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s a shifting culture. Or Maybe I’ve just hit enough walls to quit playing the game; but I’ve come to learn that constant self-neglect is an absolute and utter fail. What’s more is that this self-neglect often takes the form of care-taking of others, enabling, and codependency. Moreover, our society is at an interesting catch-22 as it tries to figure out the difference between self-care and selfishness. The former has a defiant, but positive connotation, while the latter is decidedly negative. For women, the latter is “extra negative” because many stereotypes hinge on women being happily self-sacrificing for everybody, even when it’s not necessary. I submit to you that those stereotypes are vicious myths: I’m sure you can point to several women who take care of everything and everybody (except themselves) and wear bitterness, anger, and depression like they are part of their outfit. Don’t believe the hype! You are not a bad person if you can’t or won’t handle all that.
I’d like to paint a different picture for you, of a woman who is self-aware, who has healthy boundaries, and who protects her soft under belly. Actually, I’d like you to paint that picture for yourself. Think of what your life would be like if you had enough – enough time, enough help, enough money, enough love, enough purpose, enough contentment, and enough nerve to tell people to back off! For some of you, figuring out what a personalized vision of that looks like is a journey by itself (but it’s a journey worth taking). I’ll even bet that some of you don’t know what you’re like when you’re not burdened by shoulds and labels about what you should be.
More than anything, you must first decide that you can be higher on your own list of to-dos. But there’s a catch: selfcare isn’t a spa treatment! Selfcare is figuring out what YOU need to get to minimal stress, high productivity, and healthy personhood. Then, it’s demanding the space to do it….and it might include a spa treatment or a therapist…and it might not. Below are a few tips that go beyond manicures and massages.
1. Put yourself on your daily calendar
Specifically, I’m talking about daily exercise, meal-planning, and some form of meditation or mindfulness. Often, when we talk about self care, we think spa services and days at the beach. That’s like thinking you can get a facial and it’ll override a lack of skincare maintenance for months. NOPE. What you do everyday is actually MORE important than you do on occasion, even if what you do on occasion is more than what you’d do daily. By the way, I don’t accept that you don’t have time every day. If you developed a chronic disease, you’d find time. This one commitment will force you to decide #2 because it takes time.
2. Establish personal values and priorities
Can you readily articulate what matters to you? Your ability to own and speak to what matters to you helps to keep you from jumping on every bandwagon that comes along. It also helps you make choices that will strengthen your character and set you on a path that doesn’t leave in you a perpetual state of frustration, which is where you wind up when you spend your wheels on things that don’t really matter to you.
3. Take care of your money and the tools, skills, and avenues that enable you to earn it
If you know your ability to maintain and increase your current income depends on keeping certain credentials in place, keep those credentials in place, by hook or crook! Don’t sacrifice your professional development to the whims of your employer. Likewise, if you know your work depends on you being in optimal health, protect your health. By the same token, if you know you need certain relationships to maximize your professional life, seek them out and manage them! Ultimately, you need to develop and preserve your credentials because your wallet and your confidence take a hit when you don’t. Besides, there’s no mental stress like knowing your livelihood is at stake or that you are earning less than what you’re capable of. Besides, some self-care indulgences come at a cost.
4. Be a woman of your word
Let your yes be a real yes, and your no should stand firm! There’s a certain beauty in knowing that you have a reputation for doing what you said you would. But what’s better is knowing that you model the behavior that you expect. This helps people see your standards and boundaries and respect them.
5. Set REAL goals (not that low-hanging fruit crap)
I don’t care what you say, there is no greater sense of self-satisfaction than that which is gained from setting a goal, a real goal, and achieving it. Those goals that you don’t have to work at don’t count (yeah, I said it!). I’m talking about those goals that force you to decide whether you’re in or out because the work of achievement isn’t casual. The beauty of a real goal is that it builds your confidence. There’s something about knowing you can choose something that is hard and actually do it. Finally, celebrate such wins. But the celebration is paradoxical: when you celebrate, you will have a clear sense that others don’t fully understand your win. They probably don’t. But you should invite those who love you to toast you anyway!
6. Indulge a hobby that is unrelated to your professional life
If everything about your life is connected to your work, even if you love your work, you need more dimensions. You need something that brings you contentment, doesn’t include a deliverable, and isn’t motivated by money.
7. Actively build connections and evaluate your relationships
In today’s age of social media, text messages, and way too many opportunities to over-commit, this area is probably the hardest. But it really comes down to 2 (see above). You have to decide how much you value certain relationships (it helps to make these decisions before you need people). Meanwhile, you must evaluate your relationships. You must know which people you can take in small doses, the ones you love to engage, and the ones that you need to cut off. Study which friends pull which qualities out of you, which people give you advice in a manner that actually helps you to see things clearly, and which relationships drain you. Then, engage them accordingly. It’s not cold-blooded; it’s just reality.