“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others”—Christopher Germer
I’m pretty big on self-care. As I said in my last article, the older I get, the more I realize that my wants and needs are priorities, too. My version of self-care means that I generally wake up early, do yoga, spend some time reading for fun, or take a bath at the end of a long day. However, self-care isn’t always deep-breathing and bubble-baths – there are many things that you can do to take care of yourself. Today, I thought I’d talk about eight different ways you can practice self-care:
- Treat yourself
This might seem like a cliché, but it’s true! Sometimes it feels good and refreshing to take yourself out to dinner, or to buy that new pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing, or even just to go get a pint of ice cream. It’s the little things that help keep us grounded and that make the big things seem less stressful.
- Make time for yourself
This one can definitely seem like a “duh” moment, but making time for yourself can be one of the most difficult things to do. Whether you’re a busy parent, or a single college kid, it can be hard to make time for the things that you want. There are so many other important needs and tasks that occupy your time (i.e. finals, making sure your kid gets to their piano lesson on-time, etc.), that it can be easy to let the things that are for you slip through the cracks. I know, it might seem silly to take five minutes a day to just sit, or read a chapter in that book you put down a couple of weeks ago, but it will make all the difference in your mental state to do it.
- Do the things that make you happy
Okay, I know, another “duh” moment, but this one is just as important! What makes you happy is not necessarily what’s going to make me happy. If you couldn’t already tell, yoga and reading with a nice cup of coffee are my happy places, but it could be totally different for you! My best friend? Total green thumb, and playing in the dirt is what makes her feel most like herself. She has absolutely no interest in yoga or reading, and that’s okay! She takes care of herself by spending time with her plants, and using them to make delicious food. Your version of self-care might not look the same as anyone else’s.
This one is pretty new for me, as well, but exercise is proven to elevate your mood and make you happier. This was something that I struggled with forever: I was one of those girls in college that could eat and drink whatever I wanted and not gain an inch (I know, we’re the worst), but as I’ve gotten older, that’s definitely not the case anymore. It seemed like as soon as I hit the other side of 25, I was feeling sluggish all the time, and my moods were all over the place. One minute I was happy, and the next, I was crying because I couldn’t reach something in the pantry. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on with me. So, I thought I would start running – and let me tell you: it helped tremendously! I have more energy overall, and now, I feel a little stir-crazy if I don’t run. It’s helped to regulate my moods (along with my yoga and meditation practices), which keeps my emotional state pretty sunny.
- Do something nice for others
One of the aspects that I love most about yoga is the aspect of service, or “seva”. One of the ways that I serve my community is by teaching yoga, which allows me to directly give back to those around me. While my way to serve is to teach yoga, there are other ways to do this for those around you: “Seva” can be anything – it can be as simple as telling someone you love them, or buying a coffee for the person behind you in the Starbuck drive-thru. Giving to others can be one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and recharging things you can do for yourself.
- Feel your feelings
I think there is a stigma around having or displaying emotions (especially if you’re a woman in America), and I think that it’s stunting our growth. There is nothing more basic or human than our emotions, but we’ve come to a point where we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t be feeling something, or that displays of emotion are bad (particularly if that something has been deemed by society as being negative!) For example, maybe one day you wake up and you don’t feel quite like yourself. You might tell yourself to get over it or that there’s no reason for you to be feeling the way that you’re feeling, and try to ignore it. Well, I would argue that there is always a reason, and that sometimes it’s okay to feel “off” or not like yourself, and not know why. You’re not always going to be happy, the same way you’re not always going to be sad. So, if you feel a certain way: acknowledge that you feel that way; let yourself feel it, and then you can move on or explore why you’re feeling that way.
- Learn to say “no”
This might sound counterintuitive, but learning to say “no” has been one of the most productive things I’ve learned in my late-twenties. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything for people to like you. You don’t have to go to every party, or event, or happy hour. You can take time away from all of that and still maintain your relationships.
- Advocate for yourself
Listen to your gut! If something feels off, chances are something is off. Learning to stand up for yourself and to advocate for your needs can be difficult (again, especially as women), but I’ll remind you that you are important and should be treated as such. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Do you think you deserve a three percent pay-raise instead of two-and-a-half? Come up with a list of reasons that support your case, and speak to your boss about it. Are you having issues with a friend? Listen and consider what they are saying, but stand your ground. Advocating for yourself doesn’t mean you have to alienate those around you, but makes your self-worth known.
There are so many different types of self-care, and these are just a few of them. Self-care and mental health go hand-in-hand, and with as much craziness that goes on, day-in and day-out, in our own worlds, it’s important for us to take time for ourselves.
© Keira Mountain 2018
Photos courtesy of Pixabay, gifs via Tenor