Self-care has been a huge topic lately. I see articles on self-care everywhere I look and the importance of taking care of your mind and body (duh!), but I’m also seeing people talking about how you’ve got to make sacrifices to reach your dreams and the “no pain, no gain” mentally is still very much present. It seems like 2018 doesn’t know what it wants from us, and that there’s this dichotomy between hustling and working your butt off to be the best you can be, and taking care of yourself and relaxing.
I know I have a hard time stepping away from the work flow to make sure I’m being the best version of myself in mind, body, and spirit, but I also know that self-care is important. To me, self-care is about being in tune with your emotions and understanding your body enough to know when you need a break. It’s not about shirking off responsibilities or procrastinating on an assignment because you “needed a self-care moment.” Self-care is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong, (I wrote a whole post about it, of course I think it’s important) but it shouldn’t be an excuse as to why you couldn’t go to the gym or couldn’t complete a work assignment that your team was relying on. It’s great that you recognize that your body and mind need a break, but self-care should be about improving yourself, not hiding from life on a constant basis.
In need of some productive, self-care ideas? I’ve got seven for you. Let’s get started.
1. Interact with nature.
Nothing gets me feeling back to my old self like a little adventure. I have to admit — I’m not the biggest fan of the creepy, crawly critters out there, but I try not to let it stop me from enjoying a few hours outdoors on a sunny day. I know it can be hard this time of year with the chilly weather depending on where you live, but keep it in mind for when the days are warmer and longer. Even getting a little walk in around your neighborhood can lift your spirits! Explore local parks, and if you’re really feeling up to it, you can turn it into a camping weekend. I have friends who love to spend a weekend outdoors after a long week in the office. A weekend away from social media and constant texts and phone calls can feel like true paradise, and there’s no better way to connect with yourself.
2. Do some art.
The point of self-care, in my opinion, is to get yourself out of your rut. Don’t stew in your sad moods, but try and fight them. Show sadness that it has no control over you and you are still going to create and express yourself even on your toughest days. Even if you’re not the best artist, expressing yourself through a creative medium can do wonders for your attitude. Find some easy crafts on Pinterest or make a DIY gift for a friend’s upcoming birthday. Focus on something other than your funky mood and you are bound to feel a little better in no time. I also find that I am the happiest when I am creating because I am focusing on something and am distracted from my thoughts for a little while. Added bonus? I potentially get a great gift for a friend or new addition to my home decor.
3. Get lost in a bookstore.
It’s no secret that bookstores are my happy place. I love finding hidden gems and getting lost among the shelves. If you don’t have any used bookstores in your area, hit up Barnes and Noble. I actually have a favorite Barnes and Noble believe it or not. The most important thing (in my opinion) is to get out of the house and feel inspired again. Nothing inspires me like being surrounded by hundreds of amazing authors that faced fears every day to pursue their dreams.
4. Hit the gym.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t,” Elle Woods.
I hate to admit it, but everyone telling you to go to the gym because it will make you feel better after a long day is actually right. Nothing gets me feeling better than an hour at the gym. My brain pretty much shuts down when I’m in exercise mode. I don’t think about what’s bothering me, and I try not to think about anything work related. I just focus on being in the gym and getting my sweat on. It’s my “me time.” Find a workout that works for you. Not everyone is into running or lifting, but there are so many interesting forms of exercise out there, you’re bound to find something you like! During the month of February, I am committing to doing yoga once a week — an activity I have dabbled in before but never really committed to. I can’t wait to see what it does for me!
5. Put on a face mask and your favorite episode of “Friends.”
This goes against EVERYTHING I said in my introduction, but sometimes it really is necessary, and I can’t shame anyone for that. Pamper yourself for a little bit and truly let yourself relax. And that means no obsessive social media stalking during your self-care Netflix binge. This is probably the most common type of self-care I see on the Internet, and I have to admit, I indulge in it too. To be honest, I did it last weekend. I wasn’t feeling my best mentally, and I spent the majority of my days in bed finishing “The Vampire Diaries.” And man, did I feel guilty. I’m kind of bad at the self-care thing and feel like I should be “on” all the time, so when I’m not, it’s really hard for me. But I had to remind myself that it’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to not feel your best 100 percent of the time. It’s okay to take a weekend off from being “perfect.” But it’s also important to remember that you can’t do this every weekend, and you can’t just shut down. After you’re binge session, it’s important to dust off those productivity sneakers and get to work. So, here you have it. Permission to turn on your favorite show to binge watch, open a pint of ice cream, and go to town. (At least for a little bit.)
6. Splurge on your favorite coffee.
And while you’re at it, hang out at your favorite coffee house. Getting a little pick me up and reading a book or working on a blog post in a cozy spot is never a bad thing. I HAVE to get out of the house sometimes, and if I don’t want to spend money on lunch with a friend or a movie ticket, I just take myself out to a nice coffee spot. It gets me out of the house and keeps me working on anything I have to get done that weekend. Sometimes, it also helps me feel a little more creative being in a different location (hopefully) surrounded by other people who are working creatively.
7. Journal it out.
There’s nothing like facing your problems by putting pen to paper. I know journaling can seem weird or intimidating, but you don’t have to be an expert author to write about your feelings. Self-care is about being in tune with your emotions, and what better way to understand them than to write about them? I swear I don’t even know what I’m feeling half the time until I write about it. And, I usually come up with a solution for how to solve my problems while I’m writing. Who wants to end an entry with “well life sucks bye”? Try it out. You never know what you’ll learn or how you’ll feel.
Self-care is an immense balancing act. Between your boss asking for the design file for the hundredth time and your own ability to pressure yourself into 16 other commitments, you probably need a break. So take it. Seriously. And don’t feel bad. But don’t hide behind self-care as a reason not to get the work done. Work hard, play hard, self-care harder.