I’ve written about self-care on this blog before. One post on the benefits of making a self-care meal for yourself once a week. Well, my self-care meals have turned into a self-care routine that has been evolving since its meal time inception. And it’s something that’s given me a fair amount of joy in the process. I was so focused on pushing myself to achieve, that I almost completely forgot how to relax. No bueno. So my solution? Some forced fun and relaxation : )
I’d like to go over some of the parts to my self-care routine, as it is now, and why it’s so important to my mental health. It has been a difficult road, learning how to care for myself as I would, and have no problem doing, for a loved one. Hopefully, my realizations will help others who have struggled with self love also. Maybe we can relax our way into a healthier version of ourselves, together. Let’s step into something a little more cozy : )
“Find What Feels Good” -Adriene, & Keep Doing it
This was a tough one for me. Because when I started out on my journey to finding what I enjoyed doing, I didn’t really know what I liked. The ways I spent my time in self-care before was by numbing my emotional experience of the present. Usually by playing video games, drinking or watching TV.
These activities felt good, but it wasn’t the type of feeling that was satisfying, and weren’t really self-care. Not the way wrapping up a night by the fire pit with friends and a good conversation feels. It was more about passing the time without engaging in what was happening around me. Much like being on autopilot. There, but not there.
Or the feeling I get when I achieve something. This, however, can be dangerous. I was using the feeling of achieving and being productive, like a drug. I would keep pushing past what was healthy for my body, all to feel the high of my accomplishment. As Melba says, “it’s no easy”.
So what’s the solution? How do we “find what feels good” and pursue that in healthy moderation? And then how do we turn that into a sustainable routine? Something we derive joy from on a regular bases? To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. But I have some ideas. Let’s take a look at what I’ve come up with.
Step One: Get to Know Yourself & What You Even Like?
This one is tricky. I thought I knew what I liked. I thought this one was a no-brainer. And for some, maybe it is. But for me, getting to know what I liked was a challenge. Some of the conclusions I’ve come to on the subject are, I was so busy chasing something I thought I should like; i.e. a lifestyle and image, clothes and cars, that I lost touch with what I really enjoyed.
I’m not saying anything that’s new or mind blowing by any means. It seems that each generation struggles with this a new. But when you wake from, and realize what you’ve been doing, that’s worth paying attention to and to cultivate healthier habits. For me, and I imagine most people in my age and demographic, looking like Tylor Durden from Fight Club was what I thought happiness looked like.
There’s something so deceptively enticing about waking up and feeling completely satisfied with how you look, that you feel will lend you the confidence you need to be the person you want to be. And no matter how often we hear the perennial wisdom, “just be yourself”, there’s still that part of me that thinks I’ll be happier if I’m just a little bit different, a little “better” than who I already am.
Step Two: Breaking the Cycle
So, in order to break the cycle of making yourself chase somebody else’s idea of what we should like, stop, look around at your surroundings and ask, “do I like what I see?” If you’re like I was, it’ll take a while to recognize what you’re looking at. I had so little structure, so little order in my life, that there were very few threads that I could hold onto and say for certain, “this is who I am, this is what I like.”
And to add to the confusion, we change. Who I am now, isn’t who I was 10 years ago. And some things have changed, but only slightly. For example, I still love good food. Only now, I prefer to cook my meals at home instead of spending a night out at a restaurant or bar. I know what I like to eat. That’s one area that I’ve discovered I have a strong opinion about. Hence the self-care meals I prepare.
And like I said above, be patient with yourself. This process may take you some time, as it did me. Don’t be discouraged if you think you like something, only to realize that it doesn’t quite bring you as much joy as you thought it would. Or maybe you’re in a place where you’ve racked up a considerable amount of debt, holding you back from pursuing your interests. In this scenario, I’ve turned to the planning phase for solace. But be adventurous. Try new things. If something looks interesting or fun, give it a shot. How else are you going to find what you enjoy?
Step Three: Make a Plan
Making a plan is something that is comforting and doesn’t cost you any money. And if it’s something you’re going to enjoy doing, it’ll also bring you joy to plan for and think about it. For me, I enjoy the act of planning my self-care days. The routine that has become a somewhat regular part of my week. I spend some time picking out the meal I’ll be preparing. The dessert as well. The type of bath I’ll be taking and the scents that will be involved. Maybe choose the podcast I’ll be listening to also.
Sometimes I’ll write it down in my journal and actually have a template of what my day will look like. It helps me to illustrate what I’m planning. This way I have a sense of permanence to what I’m looking to achieve. I know that I already have an idea of what I’ll be doing, and need only to take a look at the structure to remind myself that I already have support.
This type of support is important. Most days, after working six days straight and some being fifteen hour days, I don’t have the energy or will power to sit my ass down and come up with a plan. Even if it is a plan full of things I like and are relaxing. Having support means that I’ve already laid out the plan and all I need to do is pick a recipe. And I’m pretty much always in the mood to look for something tasty to eat : )
Step Four: Schedule a Time
This is equally as important as making a plan. Because without a scheduled time, this day may never come to fruition. I usually pick my day off. Setting aside the latter half of the day for my routine. This way I can get done what needs my attention in the beginning of the day, then turn that attention inwardly towards my self-care routine. Win, win.
Ideally, when picking a time, it’s best to choose one where you won’t be rushed from your state of relaxation. Or a time that’s sandwiched in between tasks. Rushing from relaxing to something stressful, for me, doesn’t embody what I’m trying to achieve with a self-care routine. Stress, is usually what we’re trying to care for with our self-care. So if possible, planning a chunk of time where you won’t feel rushed to wrap up quickly do to other, pressing matters will go a long way in finding ease in your self-care routine.
Step Five: Relax : )
This step is a lot easier said than done. It sometimes feels a though this is the great trick that biology played on us. The one thing we’d like to do most, is just out of reach. But, it’s not impossible to get to a relaxed state. It only takes practice.
For me, I sometimes, okay, most times focus on how everything needs to be perfect. If I’m making a meal, it has to not only taste delicious, but look insta worthy as well. The place I’ll be enjoying my meal has to be immaculate and all my creature comforts need to be within reach.
I enjoy all these aspects of my self-care routine. The cleanliness helps me to feel more at ease and I like like sharing something I’ve spent time and love preparing for myself. But what I need to remind myself is, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. That even if my surroundings are a little disordered, or my meal looks unappetizing, but tastes delicious, it’s okay to enjoy what is. Without the critical judgements that pop up. The judgements will come, but we don’t need to listen to them and respond to them. We can just enjoy what we’ve created.
Practice Your Self-Care Routine & You’ll be Practicing Joy
And it’s in practicing these self-care routines that we can learn to derive a sense of joy from them. This is why it is so important, for me, to come up with a plan and schedule a time for these events. Because it is in coming back to them that we learn how to come back to the things that bring us a sense of ease and where we learn how to come back to joy.
What’s so strange about this lesson, for me was, that it took so long to learn. Almost all of our states are products of us practicing them. We aren’t born stressed. This is a trait we pick up from consistently over loading ourselves with tasks and responsibilities, while we slowly take away our recovery time. For most of us, this is a life long process. But if we can practice our way into a more stressful lifestyle, the good news is, we can practice our way out.
Stick to Your Self-Care Schedule
This is why a routine is so important. Practice, practice, practice. And the more we practice these weekly routines, the more we can throw a few smaller ones in throughout our days. Maybe you find that you enjoy the essential oils you put in your weekly bath so much that you find a shower steamer to use during your morning shower routine.
Or there’s a snack you find during your self-care meal prep that you make a part of your regular, after work routine. Whatever it is that you find that brings you a sense of ease during your week, practice that. Because it is here where you will find your joy and ease. And it’ll be worth all your while when you are able to relax, knowing that it is a state that you’ve cultivated through positive and healthy habits.
Practice, Practice, Practice
This cannot be under stated. You need to consistently practice these routines and what brings you joy. Even on the days when it just seems like too much work. Especially on these days, because this is when you need a little self-care the most.
What I’ve found is, when I schedule my routine for a specific day, I tend to look forward to that day all throughout the week. It helps to keep me in a positive frame of mind during more difficult aspects of my days. When I’m tired or looking at a task I know I don’t want to do, I remind myself gentle that there is something to look forward to. And in the larger picture, when I’m out of debt and living according to my new values of thriftiness, I’ll be able to go bigger on my self-care routines : )
So friends, start actively looking for the things and activities that bring you joy. Start small and see where they take you. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of little things that bring you joy everyday. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.