Last week I wrote that the self-care movement has become a trend that glosses over the real issues. Half of the articles on self-care are for those who with some form of depression who can barely function, with encouraging reminders to drink water and take your medicine, while the remainder basically encourage some form of indulgent escapism, by having drinks with friends, splurging on pedicures, or eating dessert.
Actual self-care is about love and acceptance of where you are in the moment, good or bad. It is less about treating yourself and more about mothering yourself. It is a daily process that is integral not only for a functioning society, but in short, actual self-care will help you build a life you don’t need to escape from.
If you’re going through a hard time, that’s okay. Work the steps below. You’ll feel better. If you’re going through a fun and easy time, keep working the steps so your fun and easy times will be extended. I’ve found that the key is to do this daily or near daily. Track your moods if you want proof; happiness is a skill.
1. Say no when you don’t want to do something. As a recovering people pleaser, this was the hardest thing for me to do. A lot of times I don’t have strong feelings and desires where I really need to stand my ground, and that’s okay. But because I love when my friend and family are happy, and I love when I can help them be happy, I would quietly suck up my hesitations and eat food that wasn’t as good, explore cities and places I didn’t really care about, and even date men who were really wrong for me because maybe, just maybe, they knew something I didn’t. Maybe I would come around. But I didn’t. A lifetime of acquiescing to small requests meant that my internal guidance system would have to scream to get my attention, and by that time I was already miserable, unhappy, and burnt out.
2. Say yes when you want to do something. This is a similar but different way of living for yourself. There can be a lot of fear around saying yes, whether that’s fear of new people or new places or fear of what others may think about you. But just as above, you know what you like and what you don’t like, and you can’t live your life for others without causing some major damage to yourself. Say yes.
3. Process Your Emotions. Negative emotions are not only okay to have, but they’re good. They let you know when something is wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t lash out in anger, and maybe you shouldn’t plot revenge and live in your bitterness for the next 40 years of your life, but anger and bitterness are important for processing and moving on. The faster you embrace them, the easier it is to find your happy vibes and be more secure there. Here are a few of my favorite ways to process negative emotions:
- Drop the story and focus and feel the pain in your chest, in your stomach, wherever. As you focus on the pain, it will get very intense, and then it will just dissolve.
- Grab a journal and write 3 pages in stream of consciousness style – anything that comes to mind gets written down. Don’t read it when you’re done.
- Make art. Cook. Dance. Read. Hike. Find a mindful activity you love and get lost in it for a little while.
4. Meditate. Find Your Center. Be mindful. Live in the now. Whatever you want to call it, give your mind a break. I tend to over-analyze situations, and my brain is great at connecting the dots. This is wonderful for puzzles, but not so great for moving on from a bad situation. When I take 10-15 minutes each day to meditate and not think, it doesn’t mean my brain stops working or that I’m trying to escape. It just means that I need a rest from my brain’s constant processing. It is my daily meditation that keeps me calm and happy and actually allows me to think better and be better. If you’re new to meditation, I highly recommend the app Headspace. Its creator, Andy Puddicombe recently tweeted, “We assume it’s the world around us that causes the feeling of busy-ness in our life, but if we look closely, we will often see it’s the movement of our mind.”
These are all different ways of moving through your emotions instead of feeling guilty that you’re not where you want to be, which ultimately keeps you stuck longer. What’s your favorite process?