When I worked in the fast-paced environment of online journalism, I worked long days at an intense pace. Whenever I found time to take a day off, or when a holiday popped up, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to relax. My mind raced all over the place thinking of the things I needed to do, how much still needed to get done, or what someone said to me in a meeting. I felt like relaxing was wasting time and that I would fall behind. The world couldn’t get by without me going at full steam. I think a lot of people feel that way. That’s why I wrote this guide to self-care when you don’t know how.
Friends didn’t understand when I got some time off that I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to go to the beach or skiing or to the movies. I wanted to vegetate on my expensive red velvet couch that I bought with my hard-earned money with a glass of wine in my hand. That was my idea of taking care of myself.
When we talk about self-care, we often think of facials and massages and spa trips. But sometimes self-care comes in the form of saying no. You don’t have to play as hard as you work. The best self-care can be as simple as allowing yourself to get enough sleep and to eat healthy nutritious meals. It’s not always about mani-pedis and bubble baths, although they can be lovely. There are more empowering ways of recharging.
It’s important to remember that self-care is taking care of yourself. While it’s nice to have polished skin and manicured nails, taking care of your inner health and contributing to your own happiness are more important.
Here are some tips for how to self-care when you don’t know how.
Sleep – It’s when you heal. It’s when you dream. You even burn calories while sleeping. Be sure to get 7-8 hours a night.
Drink Water – It helps clear your mind as well as your body. Water keeps things flowing. It helps your body’s natural processes run better.
Eat Healthy – When you eat fresh vegetables your body will feel more positive. Stay away from processed foods and too much sugar. You may think a pint of ice-cream will help, but it really won’t. And I speak from experience.
Say “No” – Don’t feel obligated to fulfill someone else’s social calendar. Say no without guilt. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.
Meditation and Breathing – If you’ve never tried it, give it a chance. It can do wonders for your blood pressure and peace of mind. Try my meditation recordings on YouTube.
Stretch and Move – Even a few minutes does wonders. Try a yoga sun salutation or 10 minutes of tai chi. Take a walk. Loosen things up.
Get crafty – Focusing on something made with your hands can be a form of meditation. Allow your creative side to shine.
Read a book – Transport your mind to another time and place. Feel the characters’ emotions. Experience new cultures without the glow of a television screen and commercial breaks.
Declutter – Cleaning off the surface of a table or a messy drawer is so powerful. Seeing a clean surface can free your mind.
Have a Good Cry – If you need to release some stress, don’t bottle it up. Allow yourself to feel it and let it go.
Of course, designing a lifestyle that you don’t need a break from is the most important thing. It is possible to be productive and not kill yourself. It is possible to earn money without spending all of your time in an office or a conference room.
But until you find the path to your ideal lifestyle, take some much-needed time for yourself and only yourself. If you want to go skiing with friends, by all means, please do. But don’t do it because you think you have to cram a personal life into the few hours you get on the weekend. And don’t do it because your best friend wants to. Take care of yourself first.
Just say no. Don’t make up an excuse to get out of something. Saying no is sufficient. You don’t need to explain yourself. I have a friend who actually thanked me for being honest enough to say I don’t want to do something, instead of coming up with a lame excuse that we would both know wasn’t true. She appreciated the honesty and realized sometimes I just want to be by myself. She learned to give me space.
People learn to treat you the way you treat yourself. Teach them how. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them or don’t ever want to spend time with them. It means you love yourself too, and want to have some time that doesn’t include them. They’ll get over it. And you’ll feel much better. That’s self-care.