Self-care is crucial to our well being, and it’s important to make time for it in our busy schedules. To truly take care of yourself, every day you should:
- Sip tea near a window, allowing the morning sunlight to hit your face
- Do at least 30 minutes of yoga
- Meditate for 20 minutes
- Write in a journal
- Drink an organic green smoothie with flax seed, turmeric and chia seeds
- Read a book
- Volunteer for an hour
- Spend two hours outside
- Work on a side-hustle project for an hour
- Sleep for nine hours
- Throw your phone in the river so you aren’t tempted to answer emails or text messages
- Buy a tiny elephant to bring you joy
Just kidding. That’s all bullshit.
I feel like every day I come across a list about tips for self-care or things to do be happy. Most of these are written by “entrepreneurs” or “life coaches” trying to sell you some crap with listicles of things YOU MUST DO EVERY DAY IN ORDER TO EXPERIENCE THE MOST AMOUNT OF JOY. But if you don’t sip warm lemon warm and write down your top five goals for the day each morning before dawn, well, then you will probably fail at life.
Self-care – along with the likes of vulnerability and, for heaven sakes, authenticity – is a buzzword walking around pretending to be inspirational. Honestly, though, I’m a sucker for these lists and I carefully read them (well, just the bolded parts, I don’t have time for the entire paragraph) and silently commit to following each one because I, like anyone, want to have a better life. But what happens is that self-care, when presented with bullet points, tends to look more like a to-do list and less like suggestions on things that have worked for other people when caring for themselves. It becomes a formula and if you don’t follow it carefully it’s your own fault when things blow up.
When I was in the Peace Corps, options for self-care were limited. I couldn’t get a massage or watch a movie at the end of a long day. So, I ran, wrote and drank a lot, almost to unhealthy amounts (well, except for the writing, I don’t think one can write too much). In the vast comforts of America, I can take a bath, buy an expensive organic smoothie or listen to live music in the park. I have all the tools to be well rested, well feed, well cared for.
Sometimes, though, I am so overwhelmed by what self-care should look like and what must be involved that it becomes more of a chore than an actual means of relaxation. One Sunday morning during my first year in Chicago, I nearly had a panic attack trying to fit in all the things I “needed” to do for a relaxing day – read the paper, go to church, hang out at the beach, go for a run, write. Going to the beach should NEVER feel like work and, yet it did for me because I was more obsessed with ticking it off as part of the self-care routine than enjoying it.
But like everything in life, there is no one set of things for each of us to follow in order to achieve happiness, success or enlightenment. You have to do what is right for you and that can change at any point.
For example: As some have noted, the blog has been a bit of dreary place as I work through some emotional turmoil. I cleared my schedule last Saturday so for a self-care day and assumed I would do yoga, take a bath, read a book, all those things on the master self-care list. But, with my yoga mat rolled out, a scented candle burning and my body posed to fall into down dog, I got the sudden urge to clean. I followed it and used the next three hours scrubbing grime off the tiles in my shower, wiping away any unsightly dust bunnies and giving every loose pen, shoe and old bill a home. It was not all what I had planned for the day, but it was quite successful in spending my anxious energy.
The next day, I read, wrote and did yoga.
The list of things that make me happy, that help me hit the reset button, change often but they are also unique to me. I can’t be happy if I am following guidelines someone else set, and I know that’s elementary to say but I have always had a hard time living in that truth. It’s good to get suggestions and ideas from others, but we are the only ones responsible for our happiness.
There are a lot of areas in my life where I need to stop listening to chatter from the outside world, but I think self-care is a good place to start. Instead of thinking, “Well, it’s a nice day to go to the beach and I should go because that will make me happy,” I can instead ask, “What do I want right now?” And if that’s staying indoors and watching movies, then who cares. This is my life and I get to decide how I want to take care of myself.
Hardest part of being sober this week: I had to excuse myself from planning a wine event for an organization that I am part of. I hate feeling like I am or could be letting people down, but I just couldn’t be involved in this event anymore. Thankfully, I work with some really amazing people who were very understanding, but I still weak in admitting that I couldn’t do it.
Best part of being sober this week: Instead of green beer for St. Patrick’s Day, I made us Shamrock Shakes and they were amazing. Ice cream > beer.