Who was the first human to market the bubble-bath-by-candlelight trend as being the ultimate form of self-care? I highly doubt they also lived in a New York City apartment with a miniature tub, but if they did, I have some questions. How do you ever find the balance between scalding hot and lukewarm water? Do you choose to have your knees or nipples underwater — because you can’t have both, it’s a tiny tub. And finally, do you know this isn’t actually the ultimate form of self-care?
I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care as we begin entering the dark months of winter and what self-care actually looks like in practice. The pandemic, politics, the state of the world, and just trying to stay afloat in my own life have felt especially heavy the last few weeks. Burnout is hard and all-consuming when it hits, and my sudden deep lack of motivation, exhaustion, self-criticism, and inability to focus is signaling to me — in giant neon flashing letters — that it’s here. I am burned out — and I imagine, we all are.
While we know there won’t be an immediate change to many of our circumstances in the next few months, change is coming. It always does. So while we wait, it’s desperately important that we take care of ourselves and proactively create our own self-care game plans we can fall back on when the coming months get dicey.
To start us off, what exactly is “self-care”? Setting aside the instant associations of face masks and fancy candles and jade rollers, self-care is the ways in which you show up and take care of your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health, and includes so many more actions and factors than we often give it create for.
In today’s world, self-care is often talked about as being something one earns for enduring an especially stressful time period or experience. But what we’re seeing more and more as the effects of the pandemic carry onward (and our brains all become pancakes), is that self-care is actually proactive actions that need to take place daily. Waiting until the brink of burnout, or being in the red zone of burnout, can be highly damaging — especially when we then try to “power through it.” So not only is it important to learn about all the categories that fall under the self-care umbrella, but then taking the time to filter through and find out what self-care means for you!
While marketing would have us believe self-care is 100 percent restful activities, it’s actually more of a balance between intentional rest and thoughtful action. In the video above, one of my favorite YouTube creators Melanie Murphy speaks about the five different pillars of self-care including “practical self-care,” which is often the form of self-care that goes unnoticed.
Practical self-care is the self-care actions you do to keep your life running smoothly. Making doctors’ appointments, going on regular food shops, picking up medication, paying bills, meal prepping on Sunday night for the week ahead, waiting in line at the post office to mail back clothing returns. These are the adulting elements of self-care that aren’t glamorous but still vital. They’re self-care for your future self. So when it comes to thinking about self-care, it’s helpful to think about the little joys we can infuse in our daily lives AND the habits that will bring us peace in the long-term. Because self-care isn’t a luxury we earn, it’s necessities we need everyday.
So let’s talk about building a self-care game plan. The next couple months are being predicted to be especially dark as cases continue to rise at alarming rates in the U.S. and we’re all already fried from surviving the past year. If you’re feeling down and upset for no particular reason know you’re not alone. The hardships of this year are forever looming in the background so that your brain and body are never really decompressing — even if you’re not consciously thinking about it. This makes everything a little bit harder and your emotions a little more raw. And what’s been especially hard about self-care this year is we can’t access most of the activities, social events, or relationships we previously relied on to feel good.
Knowing this, it’s important to have a plan in place for how we’re each going to actively care for ourselves moving forward. For me, this has taken shape with habits such as doing my dishes every night before I go to bed, not looking at my phone first thing in the morning, and going on a walk every single day. I used to view walks as a “nice to have” activities but now, it’s become as important as drinking water and getting 8 hours of sleep every night. While each of our self-care game plans will look a little different, here are a few key things I’ve incorporated into mine should you need a little inspiration. When my brain feels fried and like nothing is working in the whole universe, here are some things I’ve been doing to feel like I have a little more agency in the moment:
- Taking a hot shower and putting on cozy clothes.
- Eating on time.
- Drinking an extra glass of water.
- Putting my phone on silent and turning off social media because scrolling is a recent emotional trigger.
- Reaching out to loved ones just to say hello.
- Writing out my meals for the week so I can pop into the kitchen, heat up or make lunch, and spend the rest of my lunch break reading or going for a walk.
- Turning off the news for the day.
- Taking time away from screens to journal.
- Getting outside.
- Talking to one person, outside of my coworkers, everyday.
- Taking a deep breath and stretching instead of trying to power through extra emails in between meetings.
- Chasing the cats around the house.
- Throwing away my to do list when they suddenly overwhelm me and make me upset.
- Meditating for a few minutes.
- Putting out clothes for the next day and tidying before I go to bed so I can start my morning with a clean slate.
- Planning an activity for the evening to avoid doom scrolling.
- Reading a book — ideally outside or cozied up with the rain coming down outside.
- Setting up boundaries of what I can take on each day — but allowing room for change.
- Writing up realistic to do lists that help me move forward rather than feel an unnecessary productivity guilt.
- Getting in the kitchen and trying a new recipe — bonus points if it’s with someone else!
- Playing Animal Crossing instead of tidying.
- Going to bed on time in order to hit those 8 hours of sleep. Turns out getting enough sleep is oddly game changing.
- Putting on a colorful outfit, jewelry and mascara even if there is no where to go. And conversely, letting myself enjoy yoga pants when I crave them the most.
- Taking vitamins daily.
- Getting back to people in a timely manner.
- Sitting down and writing or being creative — even if I’m not originally in the mood, it always helps me feel better.
- Putting on my favorite songs and artists and singing passionately around the house.
- Curling up and watching Clue or a show I already know the ending to (no anxiety there!).
- Cleaning out a space or organizing a corner of my house to be more efficient.
So what is part of your self-care game plan? If you’re looking for even more wellness inspiration, here are a handful of my favorite accounts below. Sending you lots of love during this time, it’s a tough one so hang in there little love.