A guest post from Cameron Normand of This Custom Life
There are many misconceptions about what self-care is and how to practice it. These four simple steps to embrace self-care will help you to make it a priority in your daily life.
In the last few years, self-care has become a media and marketing buzzword that evokes images of bath salts and candles, meditation and yoga, or treating yourself to something special.
But in these trying times, self-care has moved beyond a retail tool and has taken on greater importance.
Self-Care is Simple.
You don’t have to buy anything to indulge in self-care or take a class. It’s much easier than that. Self-care is literally just taking care of yourself.
It’s doing things that will improve your health and wellbeing. These steps to embrace self-care will help you realize its importance and how to incorporate it into your life.
Self-care is easy. You can do it at home every single day without a huge amount of effort which is a good thing since most of us are spending a lot more time at home these days.
It Needs To Be Intentional.
I hate to admit this, but when the stay at home orders first began, my first thought wasn’t about whether anyone in my house might get sick. It was a brief daydream about all that I could get done around the house while spending time at home.
I imagined finally tackling the projects that have languished because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Things like decluttering my home office, cleaning out my closet, organizing my pantry, and so on.
Suffice to say that I haven’t made much progress on any of these projects.
I tried for a little bit. I really did. Every day I was getting up early and working hard. Whatever hours I wasn’t spending on my day job, I tried to focus on these stale projects.
What really happened
But after a week or so of this, I began to feel fatigued. I would be productive and balanced for a few days, but those days would be immediately followed with days on end where all I could really focus on was binge-watching and sleeping. Mostly sleeping.
After a few of these cycles, I began to figure out what was going on. I realized that despite being in familiar, comfortable surroundings every day, I was in very unfamiliar territory and I was way overextended and overstressed. To top it off, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all.
I hadn’t considered that being at home so much was actually far more stressful than “normal” life or that I was juggling even more now than I had been before.
When was the last time you took care of yourself? As women and moms (stepmom in my case), we often put ourselves last. And that’s one thing that hasn’t changed with quarantines and stay at home orders!
So how can we do better?
Here are 4 simple steps to embrace self-care every single day:
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Stress
Even if we can’t feel it surfacing, we’re all dealing with much more stress these days. Our brains are using more energy than usual trying to accomplish all of our regular daily tasks and process the constant information and news overload and deal with the emotional stress of masks, gloves, and social distancing.
Add to that the pressure we then put on ourselves to finish projects around the house, or organize that closet we’ve been putting off. Or transform into a master baker of sourdough loaves and gorgeous cakes.
None of this is normal. And it all makes our brains seriously tired.
It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re carrying all of this stress. Actually, it’s more than okay. Take a hot minute and check in with yourself. You need to recognize what’s happening.
Step 2: Give Yourself Permission
At some point, we will come out the other end of this. And we need to do our best to come out of it healthy. Taking care of yourself is not, and should not be, optional. Ever!
So take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you deserve to do something just for you and that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
These days so much feels out of our control. But you can control how you take care of yourself.
Verbalize to yourself that you will be healthy and strong. Create a mantra that you repeat to yourself daily. You can even write it out and post it as a reminder.
It can be as simple as, “I will be healthy and strong daily.” Or “I give myself permission to take care of my needs.” Or “I cannot pour from an empty cup” to remind yourself that it’s essential to take care of you.
Whatever works for you, allow yourself the grace to take a time out.
Step 3: Figure Out What Self-Care Means To You
There isn’t one specific activity that can be considered self-care. Self-care can be anything that improves your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Think about what that means to you. What are you willing and able to take on to improve your health? What kind of activities excite and motivate you?
To get you started, here are fifteen ideas for different activities and routines that you can do every single day to put you on a path to embrace self-care in your life.
Keep in mind that this is about charting your own course and these are just ideas. For a new habit to stick, it needs to be something that is important and meaningful to you.
1. Quiet your mind.
For five minutes, calm your mind. Visualize a place that helps you relax. Is it the beach or the mountains? Can you hear the leaves rustle or the ocean whish.
2. Take a break.
Whether you’re working or doing things around the house, take a five-minute break to recharge and reset. Stretch, walk around the house, daydream. If you need reminders to do this, set a timer to remind you to stop every 60 or 90 minutes.
3. Spend time outside.
Take a walk or hike. Garden. Lay in the grass and watch the clouds for a bit. Fresh air will center you.
4. Take care of your appearance.
Do a face mask every week. Paint your nails. Put on a hair treatment. At the very least, get dressed in something other than pajamas and yoga pants.
5. Do something nice for someone else.
Few things make you feel better than knowing you have helped someone else. And it will help you feel connected to people during and beyond this isolating time.
6. Put down the smartphone.
Put the phone up when you’re going to bed. And if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t look at it. Give your brain a break from being always “on.”
7. Stop watching the news.
I don’t mean never watch. But with all that’s going on these days, it can be an added stressor. Trade it in for a good podcast or cheerful book.
I don’t mean sleep all the time. Or to escape. I mean, stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and when your alarm goes off in the morning, don’t hit the snooze button.
Open the shades as soon as you get up. Even just a little bit of sunlight in the morning will help you relax and de-stress.
9. Find ways to be social.
Whether it’s Facetime or a Zoom call, or getting together in person when it’s allowed. Being around friends and loved ones lifts spirits.
Easier said than done sometimes. But even just 20 minutes a day will improve your mood and make you feel better. It will clear your head.
11. Do one thing for yourself each day.
For 30 minutes a day, do what makes you happy. Read a book or magazine, take a bath, watch the Housewives. Take time for you.
12. Spend 10 minutes a day decluttering.
Even just ten minutes a day will make you feel like you’re progressing towards more intentional living.
13. Develop relaxation techniques.
Use essential oils/aromatherapy. Meditate. Stretch. There are lots of self-care books and resources out there.
14. Do something creative.
Cross stitch, knitting, coloring, painting, crafting. Whatever it is, your mind and body relax when you’re engaged in a focused, soothing, creative activity.
15. Start a gratitude journal.
Writing a few lines a day about what you’re thankful for will help shift your perspective. People who practice gratitude are happier and have more positive outlooks.
Step 4: Make Time Every Day
To really take care of yourself, you need to build some form of self-care into your daily routine. This is how to truly embrace self-care in your life.
Hopefully, you have some sort of daily routine, whatever your work or family situation looks like. If so, build in daily self-care.
It doesn’t have to look the same every day, but you do need to do something for yourself every day. Set aside time on your schedule. And make it happen.
You can call it your self-care time, or even your shutdown time.
You may be super busy with work and family obligations. I can sympathize. There are days I feel like no one could possibly understand how much I do.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter how slammed you are. You can always set aside time and choose to embrace self-care. It may take a little work, and you may have more time on some days than on others. But you can do it.
And you must. You’ll thank yourself later.
Cameron Normand owns This Custom Life, where she provides stepmoms with coaching, tools, and advice to help them embrace their blended family lives. She is married to a wonderful man and is “bonus mom” to four stepchildren who give her all the feels. You can find her on Facebook Pinterest, and Instagram.
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You hit the nail on the head! Great advice!