Say you’ve got a stressful job (if you have a job at all, this is probably the case). Say you have young kids at home. Say you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder, depression, or anxiety. Say you are the primary breadwinner for the family, but also the sous chef and housemaid. Say none of these things are true for you, but you’re just tired. In this frenetic day and age, when technology demands immediate responses and information is flying at you from all directions, it can seem difficult if not impossible to center yourself and get to a calm place. Enter self-care — and we don’t just mean a pedicure kit (although those are great, too). Self-care can certainly be physical, but it can extend to the mental, emotional, and even spiritual realms.
Whether you’re burnt out on the road or at home, making time for self-care is an essential part of functioning in today’s world.
Ever heard the phrase, ‘You can’t love/help anyone until you love/help yourself’? What about ‘You can’t fill up someone else’s well if yours is dry’? You get the point. Whether it’s better productivity at work, being more present and organized at home, or both, self-care will give you a much better chance at achieving these things. So listen up, because we’re about to give you pearls.
Step One: Carve out Time for Yourself
This is often the toughest thing to do, but it’s the most important, and the bedrock of self-care. Give your husband or partner or a babysitter kid duty for an hour (or more) and find a quiet space to do your thing. If you’re on the road, it’ll be that much easier to get some alone time (even if it’s in a crappy hotel room — trust us, it’ll seem like paradise if you’ve just come from a chaotic household scenario).
Here’s the thing: this time out for your well-being has to happen on a regular basis if it’s to be truly helpful. This is where communication with your partner or nanny, or any other adults you might share your life with comes in. Be firm but compromising and come up with a weekly or bimonthly schedule where you can spend some quality time with YOU.
Step Two: Find and Create a Space
Once you have that recurring ‘me time’ scheduled in your day planner or iCalendar, find a space in which to spend that quality self-time. The space itself doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it does need to be without distractions — no phones, no computers, no TV. This is about you, and having an unexpected work call in the middle of your meditation (or nap, or yoga session) will defeat the entire purpose of the exercise.
The key is QUIET.
This also means no 6 year olds barging in and demanding macaroni and cheese RIGHT NOW. If you’ve communicated effectively to the sitter or your partner (or your demanding boss) how fundamentally important this time is, hopefully those interruptions will be few and far between. We aren’t saying they will never happen. But effective communication will keep the distractions to a minimum.
Now it’s time to create a soothing ambience. Each person could do this step differently, depending on what they want and their personal style. One might use the early morning as their ‘time’ and sit in a room they’ve filled with fresh flowers. Open the window, let in some fresh air, and simply sit on a meditation cushion and breathe in and out. If you need guidance, there are some wonderful meditation apps online, including Headspace or SimplyBeing.
Or one might choose her self-care time in the afternoon or evening. If you’re at home, choose a room that doesn’t feel cluttered or energetically chaotic. Light some of your favorite candles, we love the Capri Blue Volcano from Anthropologie and the Tea from Diptyque Paris, and put on some soft music that calms you, or use a nature sounds app like Naturespace. Lie flat on your back on the carpet or a yoga mat, and bliss out.
Step Three: For the Antsy
It’s ok if you can’t sit still and think lying on a yoga mat on the floor in a candle-lit room listening to nature noises sounds like torture. We’ve got plenty of self-care activities you could choose during your hour (or half hour, or two hour) self-care session. If you do find yourself in a hotel room on your scheduled self-care day, and you’ve been sitting on a plane and then in a boardroom for longer than anyone should ever do either, turn up the Aretha and dance around the room until you feel worn out. Then take the Aromatherapy Shower Tabs or lavender salts you packed in your checked bag and dump them into the tub. Crawl in, and breathe.
If you’re at home, put your power yoga DVD in the player and start those sun salutations. Light some incense beforehand (if that’s your thing). Or have your own private dance party in the space using your favorite ‘shake it out’ playlist, like this Dance Party playlist from Spotify.
Step Four: Working at Introspection
If you have a private room with a desk and chair, and enjoy journaling, spend some time writing down your thoughts and feelings. Get a journal you like, a nice pen, and go to town. Remember, only you will ever see this journal. It’s a great way to relieve stress, a safe method of self-expression, and who knows? You might come up with some important insights about yourself. Journaling is freeing, and part of self-care is allowing ourselves to feel that freedom.
Self-Care is Broadening
The point of this article is not to prescribe a single method of self-care for you, nor is it to promote a line of spa items you can use at home. Self-care starts by making time for just you, and then spending that time however you want to — even if it’s on the Peloton bike (go, you!). The ‘what’ is immaterial— it’s the how and the why that are important. Do it for you. You’ll be glad you did.
Journey On, Janes!