Treat Yoself; 10 Commandments Of Self Care
So this particular blog post is kind of off the rails from what we normally post, but I feel like it is so very important. I’ve personally gone through many life changes to be the imperfect human you see, or rather read, before you, and I’ve witnessed close family and friends make a plethora of changes to improve their quality of life. This post is all about positivity, respect for others and yourself, and detoxifying your life. If you’ve got questions, concerns, or feedback relative to this post, I would LOVE to hear from you via comments below or emailing us at BalancingTheBoones@gmail.com anytime!
Let’s not waste space, and get right into it!
Self care is not, by any means, a new concept, but rather a redefined perception of self love without the negative connotation that you can’t care about yourself without being self absorbed or selfish. Self care is not getting a pedicure. I mean, it can be I guess, but the root of self care is not just physical wants or material needs. Self care is a culmination of caring for your mind, body, and soul, in a respectful way towards others. To be honest, there is a lot of confusion about what is or isn’t a “treat yoself” moment, so here I am to clarify, and ensure that you’re not confusing your terms.
First Stop, Self Care 101
I feel like I could sum this whole thing up in one sentence, (haha we alllllll know I won’t, but I probably could…) being that self care is a mindfulness that is learned, not always innate, and pertains to the acts of setting aside some time to look inward and to let yourself pay attention to the needs of your mind and body, not in a narcissistic manner, but in a way that only you can tell yourself exactly what you need. It’s then allowing yourself time to act upon your own needs.
My Personal Self Care Journey
I am not a psychiatrist or any sort of a qualified clinician, let’s be clear here. I am a product of a family who always encouraged staying in touch with your emotions. Growing up, I was a crier, a ‘bawl bag’, an emotional child for sure. Honestly, not much has changed. When I am sad, I allow myself to live in the heartache, not forever, but for a brief moment to get rid myself of the stress and anxiety of holding back or concealing who I am and what I feel (there are of course appropriate moments to allow your emotions to take over, so be aware of your surroundings). When I am happy, I let the gleeful moments not be shadowed by anything else, so they can shine to their full potential. I feel anger (quicker than some), anxiety, and fear just like anyone else. The difference between what and how I feel, and acting upon my feelings is, honestly, therapy and self awareness. I began seeing a therapist about 3 years ago or so, when I had some major life changes in mine and Nik’s relationship, and I wasn’t exactly dealing with my feelings in a healthy way. I was negative, and had been for some time. I didn’t know it then, but I was allowing myself to wallow in self pity, and I wasn’t taking time to look inwardly to see what I really needed to get myself back to a positive, healthy place in life. I was living in a dark place emotionally, and I was dependent on others for happiness. I’ll never live in that place again, though I now understand that visiting is a perfectly normal part of life. Just visiting NegativityTown is tough.
Throughout these weekly sessions with my therapist, I was actively working towards understanding a little more about myself, separate from who I was as a girlfriend, daughter, mortgage loan officer, etc. I was learning to define myself from myself, which was a new concept as a woman in my early 20s. There are plenty of people willing to tell you what mold to fit, and who you should be, but truly choosing to acknowledge and accept yourself for who you are is completely different. Within a few weeks of making this revelation, I made some major life changes. These included changing my health plans, which at the time were 5 AM fasted cardio, skipping meals, and taking diet pills, and I put my mental state up on a pedestal, because it was finally important. At this time in my life, I was just learning self care. I now have a mindfulness routine every Sunday where I practice caring for myself from making a healthy, sometimes challenging meal, running a bubble bath, using a face mask, planning my appointments for the week, sometimes reading a book, and staying away from technology for an hour or two while I wind down and mentally prepare for the upcoming week. My personal self care routine will fluctuate depending on my needs of that particular week, and that is OKAY.
We will call these the 10 Commandments of Self Care:
I will get to know my true self better. Remember the self awareness we talked about earlier? Do you have a short fuse (like me)? Are you quick to anger, or become sensitive to certain situations? Recognize these discomforts in your life, and start trying to minimize them. Begin to learn how to control your own emotions in a healthy way (including an outlet… like a workout or a good crying session).
I will identify what feeds my mind, body, and soul. Find something that makes you truly happy; something that has no dependency on another person. Find ways to implement this in your life at least weekly. (Examples: 15 minutes of early morning meditation/mindfulness/prayer, watching the sunrise/set, listening to an encouraging podcast on the way to and from work, or reading a book before bed, etc).
I will allow myself to be fully present in the moment. Feel the sun on your skin on a warm day. Breathe in the scent of a loved one’s delicious cooking (because there’s something oddly comforting about that). Watch your children (or furbabies) play without fear of judgement. Hear your favorite band play, and don’t post it to Instagram (it’s annoying anyway). Let the flavors of a good wine mull over your tongue for a moment longer. All too often we are distracted by documenting our lives instead of living them.
I will leave my baggage at the door. Let work be work and home be home. The separation is sacred and should always be respected. When you’ve had a bad day, tell your spouse that you need to vent. Allow yourself a timed period where you can rant and rave, and then, pull yourself out of your funk, and revel in the thought that it is now over, and tomorrow is a chance to revisit with a fresh mind. This one is especially complex if you are self-employed with erratic hours, or if you work with your spouse (Nik and I have both of these components in our relationship). Learn to be a waffle, not a pancake. Compartmentalization is key here. When the syrup is spread, can you hold your syrup in your ridges, or does it all spill over the sides? Some days you will have more syrup than others, and it’s okay to let your worlds communicate for a while, but again, set a timer, and when it’s done, let it be done. The best compartmentalization in this scenario is when you can come home to your spouse and complain about your coworkers like they aren’t both your husband. It sounds funny, but I can be upset with Nik at work, and come home to have a pleasant evening together. Don’t let your worlds collide too often. Be a waffle.
I will eat well, drink to thirst, and be aware of my body. Your body is a well oiled machine that has changed and adapted over thousands of years. I will tell you, though I do love a good french fry, McDonald’s does not supply a balanced breakfast. Give your body healthy macros (Fats, Carbs, Protein) to power you throughout your day. Splurge when you need to, as long as you’re balancing your ice cream day with ground turkey days, you are doing fine. The better choices you make in your diet, the better you will feel. It’s not a crash diet, nor yo-yoing that will make your mind and body happy, but if you’re eating empty carbs out of boredom, or having dessert with every meal, you may want to rethink what you’re fueling your body with. On the same note, juice, soda, and milk are not water. Your body is not made up of 55-60% milk. That thought actually kind of grosses me out. Drink water even when you’re not thirsty. Carry around a reusable bottle with a straw lid to encourage drinking. Lastly, be all around aware of your body. Your weight should never define you, but I don’t have to tell you that a 45% BMI is unhealthy, that should be common knowledge. If you’re feeling chubby, hit the gym. If you’re content and you feel healthy, good for you too! There should be no shame in confidence, but also nothing wrong with taking the stairs, or getting your steps in by walking to your friend’s office instead of calling. On the same token, if you are sick, you should rest. Overexertion is just as unhealthy as being a couch potato. Balance. Always balance.
I will get adequate sleep and rest. Many people say they need their 8 hours to feel recharged, but the actual amount of sleep you need varies from one person to another. Pregnancy, health problems, stress, growth, etc. can all bear weight on exactly how much rest you need at any given time. In my early twenties I could sleep 5 hours and be up and at ‘em the next morning. In the beginning of my pregnancy, I needed 8-10 hours or I would feel almost hungover. You put your kids to bed at 7:30 or 8 PM, sure, enjoy a little peace and quiet or a TV show after the babies are down for the night, but don’t forget that you need your rest too!
I won’t be afraid to say “No!”. The stigma behind saying “no” can easily be summed up with the movie Yes Man, but if you’ve been living under a rock, first of all, watch Yes Man, and secondly, please note that committing to too many items at one time will not allow you to give 100% of your best effort to any of them. If you’re stressed at work, ask your spouse to help tidy the house or cook dinner. Don’t commit to making 300 cake pops for a nonprofit event the week of college finals (personal experience, and though the cake pops tasted wonderful, they were getting pretty lopsided and ugly by the end of it all). Tell your hair lady that you don’t like your hair. Return the bridal shower gift you’ll never actually use. Send your food back when it’s cold. And for the love of god don’t let people talk down to you or anyone around you because you are afraid of conflict. The day you say “no”, you’ll smile a little bit on the inside because you know you’ve made the right decision for yourself, even if it ticks others off.
I will detoxify my relationships. Family, romantic relationships, friendships, colleagues, and social medias all play a part in the development of the ‘self’ and how we perceive ourselves in front of others. In a day and age where we monitor every like and unfollow on not only our social media posts, but our best friend’s, boyfriend’s, dog walker’s, and mail man’s, we have to be able to say ‘no more’. Technology is a blessing and a curse, but like anything else, just requires balance. Pick a day of the week to go technology free from the time you get home, until the next morning. Spend time with your partner or friend and know that it’s okay to ask them not to be on their phone as well. You’d be surprised what tea comes out when Facebook isn’t involved. On the same social media note, if you’re following people just to watch their drama unfold (I’ve done it), purge them from your life. Know that you don’t need their drama or self-destructive tendencies to feel better about yourself. Family can be tough, but it’s okay to call your family out if they are treating you or someone else unfairly. Of course, you never want to rattle great aunt Shirley, or interrupt cousin Jeff when he’s on a political bender, but in the long run, you’ll be more happy that you stood up for yourself, and shut negativity down. A polite reminder can usually be used here, or even a joke like ‘COME ON! It’s Thanksgiving!’. If that’s too uncomfortable, try playing a game like ‘let’s go around the table and say one thing we’re thankful for’, etc. It can take some planning and preemptive thought, but if you feel better after the encounter, that’s what matters. Romantic relationships are even more complex, but if you imagine your life in 2-5 years without that person, or you look back on your relationship and wonder how you got where you are, you either need to change the relationship inwardly (this will take the effort of both parties involved), or boot it, and no one can tell you the right call here. I highly recommend seeing a couple’s therapist if you need help with your relationship whether you are married or not. Friendships are sometimes a bit easier, depending on the status of the friendship. If you’ve got a bad influencing friend who doesn’t reach out to you very often, then you may be able to allow the relationship to slowly dissipate over time. However, if you’re long-time friends, or your friend is involved in your life and simply a negative influence, you will have to have a serious discussion about the relationship. It’s okay to tell people what you really think, but talk it over with someone else, or even rehearse it out loud before you say anything to your friend. The end goal here is, of course, to rectify the situation and improve the quality of the relationship, so be open-minded and prepare for them to be upset, make excuses, have a rebuttal, or simply dismiss you. Just like romantic relationships, these things take time and commitment from both sides to be effective. Lastly, colleagues or coworkers can play a big part in your perception of the ‘self’ because, often times, you’re spending more time with them then you are your own family, spouse, or friends combined. If you’ve made a work friend and you feel that your relationship is more of a friendship based on likeness, no so much convenience (think about if you were to quit; would you still talk to each other?), then you can treat the conflict the same as a normal friendship. If you aren’t close enough to the person to speak that freely, you may need to get a manager involved if you are uncomfortable trying to handle the situation yourself. I will tell you from experience, that it’s typically much better if you suck it up, and try to handle the issue yourself, if you have a bit of a relationship with the person. If they’re more of a casual coworker or acquaintance, you should follow your company policy and go to management or Human Resources. No matter who a negative Nancy in your life is, or their relationship status with you, you have the power to change their influence on your life.
I will be prepared to put in work to yield positive results out of difficult situations. When you first decide to follow a self care regimen, you may encounter some backlash. Not everyone will be as perceptive to your newfound self awareness, and some may even think you are ‘doin’ it for the Gram’, ‘going through a phase’, or that you’re flat out selfish and stuck up. Those people will need some TLC to understand the process you are going through, and it’s up to you to decide if they are worth explaining the process and carrying through (this is pretty cool because it usually leads to even more people making positive changes in their own lives), or if you deem them a lost cause/tragic case of ‘Victim-itis’ (where the world, including you, always owe them something). In the latter situation, the relationship will be discarded, but if you decide to buckle down and put in the effort, it will benefit you (and others, YAY for positive byproducts!). The journey to self awareness and care is bumpy. It’s going to test you and your relationships. It will evaluate your dedication to your many commitments, and perhaps it will scrutinize your faith in the system. I can promise you, this is all normal. They wouldn’t call it ‘the extra mile’ if it wasn’t hard. You’re running in the marathon called ‘life’ and you can either reach the finish line, or you can push on a bit further, where the true champions of positivity and dedication to the ‘self’ are.
I will love myself through the process. Choosing to better yourself is always a good choice… it’s easy enough to say (I love myself!)....... but not necessarily an easy implementation. Self care is a never ending process, but one that is full of benefits and rewards specifically for you. The generalization that you may appear more selfish must be brought to your attention. You can address it if you want, but you don’t have to. Appearances are just statements from outsiders, so it depends on what you’re comfortable looking like, as opposed to how you feel. It will be easy to make excuses to overcommit to things. Little Suzie’s mom will drop out of the bake sale the day before, and your kid will come home and beg you to fill in; it may not even feel like a choice to you, but it is. Prepackaged cookies from Costco are great by the way. Recognize that saying “no” doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you successful in sticking to your plan and not letting others distract you from your goal of self care. Know that, just like a diet, the first of the weight will come off easily, but over time, you may feel stagnant or without purpose. This is a good time to readjust the trajectory of your self care plan, and perhaps to hone in on what it missing so you can find the right kind of fulfillment. You are the only true expert on your ‘self’; remember that, appreciate the cultivation and development of your ‘self’, and be at peace with it changing. You aren’t the same person you were 10 years ago, so don’t be offended when you’re told that ‘you’ve changed’. You certainly have. And if people can’t fathom change for your own benefit, please refer to Commandment 8.
Feel free to implement and report back. I’d love to hear about your ‘self aware, self care’ journey!