15 Acts of Self Care
I was turning over this topic in my mind for a while now, and recently a few friends have come forward and asked me to write more on it so I decided it was meant to be, today's the day.
Not too long ago I feel like I hit my version of rock bottom. You know when you're there because you don't seem to think it'll get any better at that point. Maybe you lose hope in someone else, or even yourself. Everyone is struggling with something, and I've realized that since my own self care has improved tremendously over the years, I want to help others that might be on the same road to recovery.
In all the crap you might be going through, I think its important to spend time with yourself and look at yourself in new ways that you may not have thought of before. I hear a lot of people lately saying to me "I think its great you can eat out alone" or "Wow you've travelled solo? I could never do it." It's these kind of thoughts I want to shut down, because ultimately if we can't be happy enough with ourselves, all alone, then how can we ever expect others to like us? You are worth more than that. Worthy of your own time and I truly believe everyone can do what I do.
So with that, here are some practices that have really worked for me that I fully recommend.
1. Self Care is: Breathing
Sounds simple enough. But for those of you with anxiety issues, not always easy to do. You can feel pains in your chest, or foggy from whatever is going on in your life and that can leave you feeling out of breath. Completely overwhelmed. To combat all of this, I think its important to fit breathing into your schedule. Might sound ridiculous but, it's worked for lots of people. In fact its legit a thing that can be traced throughout time, whether it be from yoga, mindfulness teachings, meditations, tai chi, the list goes on and on.
Start every morning with one minute of breathing. Just one minute. Give yourself time to take in everything but understand that through whatever is going on, you are breathing. Pay attention to your body and understand that you are doing incredible. Despite what your thoughts might be saying, despite whatever you're going through, you're killing it. Just breathe.
*sidenote: if you're not a morning person and really don't want to do it early in the AM, I feel ya so just try to do it at a time that you can be comfortable with. Understand that these tips are not to stress you out and add more to your list. It's for you to pay attention to yourself and recognize that more time in your day should go toward your own self care.
2. Self Care is: Smiling at Yourself
Every day I wake up, I'm definitely not always in a good mood. I'm human. The positive attitude I bring out every day though isn't fake, I promise. It just takes some time for me to come around. One of my techniques that I've adapted is to smile. Every day. As much as possible.
I start off doing my morning routine and putting on my makeup for the day, but if I'm sad or upset about something I literally force a smile. Maybe it doesn't help in that moment, but I can tell it already improves the situation. Your day can't get worse from faking a smile for yourself in the mirror, that's all I have to say.
From that point, take it a little further. Maybe on your morning commute choose to listen to a song that cheers you up, or listen to a podcast that will straight up make you laugh out loud on the bus so everyone can hear you. I mean why not? And the pro from all of this? Is some days might be harder than others but ultimately that's half the fun, is learning more about yourself and what you're growing through. Sometimes you may not be able to do this, it may feel like you're just not happy with where you are in life or who you're with. But if you end up smiling that day, think of how good it'll feel to know you can conquer a day like that. So think about it...what else could you conquer then?
3. Self Care is: Going for a Walk
Sometimes being in a negative state of mind with yourself can be hard to overcome, or even just a "meh" state. This is where you don't really have any issues with yourself but don't really want to work on any self growth or self awareness so all is good right? Not really. See without any effort into yourself, or want to get better, there does come negativity. It just may not be something you're aware of, or perhaps this is something deeply rooted in your actions toward others or how you communicate. Either way its an issue.
My advice? Take some time to separate yourself from the situation. Go for a run, a walk, a hike, a walkabout, etc. But plot twist: do it without your earphones in. I had a therapist that told me to do this once and I thought she was insane. Like what Susan (changed her name for privacy reasons obvi) I can't listen to my happy music on my walk now? Seriously? Well dammit Susan, she was right. Theres something about being in our own little worlds that seems so comforting, we tend to forget that its usually the things that make us realize we're not alone that help us. Listening to nature, and breathing in the fresh air is a great way to do this. Notice the world around you. Notice what you feel when you look out on the ocean or look up at the tree tops as the light shines through (fun fact: the Japanese call that Komorebi). It doesn't have to be this big thing either, it could just mean taking a walk in your neighborhood to clear your mind. Whatever is going on, acknowledge your feelings and understand everything you feel is valid, but rather then acting on anything, you just keep walking. You keep moving forward.
4. Self Care is: Turning Off Social Media
Still something I'm learning to do, but I've noticed that when I do give myself even an hour of off time a day, I feel forced to recognize everything going on with myself. Some days this is a lot harder but I'm happy to be learning more about myself in the process. That's not some bullshit line for you either, its the truth. I think back to before I even had a phone, how much I didn't want to be alone all the time, and now I can fully travel solo and love every aspect of that time with myself.
For some reason, however, the phone and social media have become a clutch of sorts for me, as I'm sure many of you have realized is true for yourself as well. We've grown so used to being connected on every level, that if we're left in the dark, we freak out. Challenge yourself here: Start with an hour a day and see how it feels to be alone without any technology. Take that time to just breathe and do something you love doing. Take yourself out of everyone else's lives and what they have going on and place yourself back in your own mind to focus on what you're feeling.
5. Self Care is: Giving the "I Love You's"
In order to be happier with yourself I think its important to recognize those that are important in your life. The people who have been beside you through the tough times and the best times. Maybe they're beside you right now in one of those hard times.
These are the people that have always been there to lift you up, support you and nurture you. Recognizing these people in my life during some of my darkest moments made me realize just how blessed I am. To this day, (even if I'm not really going through something) I let these people know when I think about them at any given time, maybe I just send them an I love you without any context. Randomly call, snapchat, tweet, text, whatever it is, why not let them know more?
I truly believe that sending that love into the universe does come back to you too.
It's humbling to note that hey, I wouldn't be here without these people in my life. Having the understanding that these relationships are a part of your self care is a large part of the big picture here. Self care doesn't always mean being alone, but it doesn't always mean hanging out with just anyone. It's recognizing those relationships that are deep and beautiful, putting in the effort and love those relationships require can only aid your own awareness of self.
6. Self Care is: Nourishing Yourself
A HUGE part of self care is self love, it's being aware of whats going into your body and not beating yourself up when you do stray from what "is right" or what "you should eat. "
I look at everything that I eat as something that can nourish my body or hurt it. In this moment, will this make me happy or leave me feeling crappy? Your body is a temple, and whatnot. All those self love quotes were definitely trying to tell us to look at our bodies differently. Respect yourself to know what you want, do you like the way you look now? If not, why? And what are the steps that need to happen to change it? This can mean changing the way you view yourself, not as something that needs to change but instead seeing you for all you have to offer the world and what can be done to make sure that you know that. Ultimately, you can ask your friend 1,000 times whether you've gained weight or "look good today" but what matters at the end of the day is whether you're happy with who you are. If not, lets look at that instead of putting so much pressure on what you eat everyday or what your best friend says about your weight. Let's be real, we're usually seeking out reassurance anyways. So step away from seeking that from those around you and give yourself the attention you desperately need.
Steps to nourishing? Stop looking at weight loss. Throw out the scale and look at your body as you would a small child. You want to give the child the right foods to nourish the body and make sure you grow and are happy with how you feel. You are not just a number on the scale. You're an incredible human with so much more going on, delve deeper and focus on nourishing your mind and body as a whole.
7. Self Care is: Changing Your Thoughts
This has a lot to do with some of those issues you might be struggling with. But also, even in our everyday lives, there are some things to take note of right now. Our own negativity. Sometimes we get so caught up in everything that's going wrong that we don't recognize how much we have going right. We are all victim to this, I mean hey, we as humans are known to bond over negatives rather then positives. It's a fact. And this isn't to invalidate all of what you're going through, I'm sure for a lot of us, we tend to feel we have the right to be unhappy and yell and scream. We totally do, some of you have dealt or are dealing with some things I probably couldn't even begin to understand. But ultimately, if you're not pushing through it, you're letting those negative events or circumstances characterize who you are as a person. Which is not you. I don't have to know you to know that.
A few years ago, I was dealing with some stuff of my own and someone close to me told me wow you're really taking all of this in such a great way." I can't believe you're not more upset or angry, but you seem to be taking everything on just fine." It's not that at all. I did get upset and angry and really contemplated a lot from this situation, but at some point I had to realize I couldn't change the situation, and the person involved wouldn't change either. Also, who am I to expect him/her to change? That person is also going through his/her own journey. One thing I could change however? How I react to this, and what happens next. That is in my control.
The most powerful act in your life I think is when you realize that you can't control life, events will continue to happen to us whether we like it or not. But its up to us on how we react to everything that comes at us. That is our power.
Pro tip: in recognizing that my thoughts needed to change I start and end with a gratefulness journal session which works for me but this can look differently for everyone again so find what is right for you.
11. Self Care is: Living Passionately
Living passionately is kind of my motto, in a way. Its living life to be happy every day and not thinking that once you get to ____ or, reaching a certain level of your lifestyle somehow means that you'll become happy. That's not living life to the fullest, that's expecting that your outlook on life will somehow change one day if you work hard enough and play by the rules. Living Passionately means going through the tough things in life but not letting it change who you are, not letting the worlds issues make you any less of a person. You are living this one life (sidenote: I'm sorry if you don't believe you have only one life, but for purposes of this point, just go along with it) and I don't think you're supposed to waste any time of it trying to be someone you're not. If you're not happy with something, acknowledge it right here and now and change it.
While I may not always know what I'm doing or how I'm doing it (I can admit that, yes), I am always always living to be happy every day. If I'm not doing something that makes me happy or around others that are bringing happiness to me, then why am I there? Why am I doing it?
It's not selfish to say that.
It's self care.
Recognizing what in your life is helping you grow and be the best person that you can be is crucial. What is letting you live passionately and what might be blocking that?
If others in your life aren't doing that, it doesn't mean you have to shove them out or be rude in any way. It means you wish them the best in life, but you don't hold them as close as you thought you would. And that's perfectly okay.
*Sidenote: with some of the more serious cases (toxic family, past relationships, etc.), I think it can be best sometimes to kind of block them out a bit as you find your footing. It doesn't have to be out of malice or hate, but rather that your own self care plan requires it. So keep that in mind. It's not selfish to do what is best for yourself sometimes, if you do it with the best intentions and send positivity their way.
12. Self Care is: More Than a Bubble Bath
I'm sorry I had to say it, but it's true. Often enough, I start talking about self care and instantly people are like "YASS girl treat yo self to that ice cream, take a bath and light some candles! You deserve it." While I will say, I do all of those things... Self Care is more than just running a bath and calling it good. While it's awesome that you're making that time for yourself to take a bath, nothing is really changing that mindset of yours from that. You take a bath, consider that your self love for the week and then everything is fine and dandy. But its not.
This is completely false, just so I'm clear here. Self love is a daily thing, its an every minute thing in fact. It's recognizing how your thoughts are, how you're feeling constantly and what you do about all of it. Some, with little self love or respect might just seek out constant affection or sex and think that it'll fill the void. Others might run from their problems and completely be unable to open up at all. Either way, these people might find themselves at the end of the day unable to be alone. I know what that can feel like, believe or not I was like that at one point.
So I'm going to say here and now... start with a bubble bath, meditate, do your thing. But then when you're out of that bath, listen to your thoughts and understand that with that time you just took for yourself comes way more. Look at yourself like you would a relationship with someone you care about deeply. You want the best for that person, for them to be happy with who they are because you love everything about them. You want the same for yourself. To be able to look at others around you, and truly feel confident in yourself that you are doing your best. And that is enough. To shut down comparison and be comfortable in your own skin.
Consistently hearing how you talk about yourself both when you're alone and around others is a start. Recognize how you feel about yourself and what steps you need to take to get better.
If you have to, consider writing reminders on post its around your room, in your journal, planner, etc. Anything to help you remember that the negative mindset is not welcome in your life.
13. Self Care is: Learning More About Yourself
Treat this like you would if you were trying to get to know someone you care about. You make time for that person, you listen intently, you ask questions and communicate. Transfer that to yourself and do the same thing. Talk with yourself if you need to, journal it out or even record yourself on your phone. Say anything and everything. This is your safe space to say anything without any judgement or guilt and sometimes, saying it makes it real for yourself (which is why so many don't do this) but in the end, it can help you figure out a lot.
Learning ways to communicate, and listening to what your emotions are telling you is crucial. Shutting out emotions never works, and I hate that the culture of that ridiculous idea is still around. It's only going to hurt in the end if you shut it out. In doing this you basically say to yourself: "I know what you're going through but it doesn't matter, I don't matter." Which is a lie. You're here for a purpose and that means you matter. So start acting like it.
Also emotions are cool. They make life worth living.
*Also make a list of things you love doing, so when you have "date nights" with yourself, you can really go all out. Sounds ridiculous, but you deserve the best so putting in the effort can feel incredible especially when you've been going through something tough.
14. Self Care is: Trying New Things
Believe you can do more. Because you can. You're capable of doing anything you put your mind to, we all are, and the sooner you realize it the more you can continue to build on that concept. They say when you realize you can do anything, it makes the person unstoppable. Become unstoppable.
Make a list of things that you want to try, could be from anything crazy or insane to just everyday routine things that are new to you. Try to do one every week, or every month, start off small and let it go where it needs to go.
For me? I started big, I wanted to travel so I chose a program that put me on a ship around the world with 600 other students I didn't know. Trying something new doesn't have to be that large though, maybe you've been wanting to do a certain sport but haven't found the time to. Make the time to, it's for your own self care and that should be a priority for you.
Funny thing is the more you get out of your comfort zone, I think the more you learn just how big your comfort zone can be. From that sort of self awareness comes confidence. It's believing that you have what it takes because you did _____. And the more effort you put into it, the more you start believing it.
15. Self Care is: Strengths & Weaknesses
Two years ago my therapist had me write out all of my strengths and weaknesses and I realized that while I had them written down, I didn't necessarily believe them to be true. My strengths and weaknesses are me and I have since come to terms with my faults and what I have to work on, but my strengths are things I still struggle with. Probably because at this age, its so easy to feel like you're lost, not doing what you're meant to be doing, etc. But writing it out can be incredibly therapeutic for you, to start working on where you want to go.
Write it out.
What are your strengths? What are you good at? Who do you think you are as a whole? Describe yourself and then do the same for your weaknesses. The purpose of this exercise is to see that you are more than just one side of things. With the bad, comes the good and vice versa.
Sometimes this exercise can also give you ideas on what you want to work on, you might write down a weakness and say wow that really bothers me. So you continue to try and work on that part of yourself.
From this, try out making a vision board for yourself. The idea when I did it at the time was I became inspired by what I wrote down for myself so I started to see myself differently. That I was more capable then I thought, and from that realized that I had the potential to do the things I've always wanted to do. So I made a board of how I saw my life going.
While it's true we can't change what happens to us in life, we can however move forward and strive to be who we want to be: the best versions of ourselves.