HEALTH & FITNESS
If you’re like me, you’ve practiced so much self-care that you’re pretty much a bubble bath and tea pairing expert.
Yet still, you feel you need something deeper.
You know you’re supposed to meditate every day or do yoga or something like that. You know that you “should” take time for yourself, because you’ve heard it all before: self-care equals lower blood pressure, more energy, a better outlook on life, and the list goes on and on.
But where are the articles upon articles telling you where you’re actually supposed to start? Or how to make space for a meaningful 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), you still rush out the door the very next morning, you still get sucked down into the whirlwind of anxiety, and you still feel frazzled and beat by the time you collapse into bed at night. I know it sounds familiar. This is 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 molded us into. And we often need more than a hot bath, green tea, or a deep breathing exercise to change that.
Why are these scientifically-proven self-care strategies not “working”? Why does the morning meditation not leave us feeling centered for the rest of the day like it’s supposed to?
It’s not because we’re just bad at it or because we’re doing it wrong.
It’s because self-care shouldn’t feel like a chore.
I, too, have a terrible habit of reading articles like this one, then beating myself up when I forget all about that meditation I was supposed to do the very next morning.
It 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 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 of ways you can make small, meaningful changes, right now.
Make it Personal
Here’s another reason I won’t simply present you with a list of relaxation techniques: everything does not work for everyone, and that’s exactly how it should be.
You can define self-care for yourself, and by yourself. You don’t have to worry if you’re “doing it right”.
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 than 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 answer will come to you.
I struggled with caring for myself for a while because I failed to allow myself to change from day to day. I would find something that worked great for me one day, write it all down in my journal, create a whole step-by-step daily plan, and when I tried 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 to developing a routine, and you have already done so much for yourself if you’ve done so.
However, once again, you have to make it personal: this means not only finding what works for you, but finding what works 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 not thinking about it too much. 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, and not your mind, guide you into what feels right today.
Give Yourself a Break
Don’t beat yourself up if you skip it or if you totally forget it. You can’t stress yourself into being relaxed and centered, but for some reason, our brains still like to punish us for the little things: “Why did I skip my yoga this morning? Now I’m going to be on edge all day. This is why I’m so stressed all the time. I don’t have enough discipline to stick to a simple routine.”
See how this can end up pushing us even further away from meaningful self-care?
Again, 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 begin to adopt.
And pay attention to this, because if you’re pressuring yourself to complete a self-care routine, then you’re probably pressuring yourself too much in the other areas of your life, too.
Be aware of where your mind goes, and you can learn so much about how you unconsciously keep yourself in the cycle of anxiety.
(But don’t beat yourself up about it!)
The truth is, it’s so easy to get swept up into our usual routine. Humans are creatures of habit, and so if you can’t seem to make changes in your daily life and you’re constantly a ball of stress– guess what? You’re normal.
Change isn’t easy to stick to, and that’s okay. It also takes time to begin to feel lasting benefits. With time, patience, and practice, you will begin to carve out space for it in your day. You’ll get better and better at listening to your needs. And you’ll begin to feel that stress slowly and gently melting away.
With help from Taylor Blanchard.