A quick scroll through Instagram will give you a visual narrative of what many people consider self care: a dip in pristine waters off the coast of some exotic beach, a trip to the local day spa for a massage and an overpriced latte, or lighting a special candle beside a tub of perfumed water filled with petals (possibly fruit) and a glass of wine. What the social media feed will not tell you is the truth; the occasional treat for yourself is not self care. It’s a treat; a distraction from the everyday pressures of work, family and regular demands of life. And while that itself is a lovely notion, it does nothing to encourage the regular, almost ritualistic care of self.
Self-care is not a new concept. Women all over the world take self care as seriously as they do their obligations as mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives and the like. But in the United States, where women are expected to do it all to have it all, the concept of self-care typically takes a back seat. Women are typically encouraged to first take care of everyone and everything around them, and think of her own needs once everyone else’s have been satisfied. So how does one indulge in actual self-care? How does a person go from running through tasks, jumping hurdles, making deals, kicking ass and taking names… to actually taking care of oneself? How do you go from 100 to zero, only to rev back up and do it all again tomorrow?
You take it one breath, one choice, one step at a time.
MORNING: ADD AN EXTRA 15 MINUTES
If your morning consists of slapping the snooze button multiple times, eventually falling out of bed and rushing through dressing, coffee and out the door… it’s no wonder self care is the furthest thing from your mind. Add 15 minutes to your morning. That might mean getting up 15 minutes earlier, and taking those minutes just for you. 15 minutes of meditation (there are fantastic apps like HeadSpace to help you breathe and relax) can make the difference between blowing a gasket over a small incident and making the choice to let it go. Remember that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. We make the time for what’s important to us. If you’re interested in self-care, make the time for it.
MIDDAY: WALK AWAY
Barring a life-threatening situation, pick a time in the middle of your day to walk away. Push away from your desk, set the laptop aside, put the baby somewhere safe, hang up the phone, excuse yourself from a meeting, and walk away. Stand up. Stretch. Step outside. Take deep breaths. Do something to bring your mind and your body back to neutral. A few minutes set aside to do nothing more than take care of your body and your breath is a great way to reset.
EARLY EVENING: WIND DOWN
This part of the day can get tricky, because it’s typically when many people start the Second Shift. That means taking care of partners, parents, children or friends. Those without familial obligations may take this time to bring work home, or get to work on a secondary entrepreneurial passion. There is a space between a daily job and the Second Shift that often goes ignored. Sometimes that space can take place on the commute home. Most people spend this time on the phone, complaining about the day so far, or stressing about the evening to come. Believe it or not, even something as simple as listening to an audio book can help get you out of your head.
LATE EVENING: BEFORE BED RITUAL
Take your time. It’s easy to just fall face first into the bed and declare the day done. Instead, light a candle while you get ready for bed. Take the time to plot out the next day. Make a ritual out of the nightly habit of washing your face and brushing your teeth. Take the time to enjoy your skin care as you get ready for bed. Make your sleep space neat and attractive. Carve out a few minutes for more meditation, or even some light reading. Set up your night so that when you fall asleep it’s in a state of peace versus defeat (exhaustion).
The secret to self-care is in the little details; the spaces that we take for granted between one task and the next. Eventually, self-care becomes second nature versus a rare Instagram-worthy event. Before you know it, those few minutes that you’ve set aside for your health and wellbeing add up to better stress management, a sunnier outlook, and an opportunity to find the joy in every moment.