How Good Are You at Self Care? Terrible? Same.
I work a lot. That's just something you may or may not know about me.
The other day my sister came over and hung out with me and Mr. V on a Sunday night, we ate dinner together, shopped for dudes on her Tinder account, made some popcorn and watched the Office. She was straight up jazzed about the way this evening was going, and she asked, "is this what your life is like? You guys just hang out and have fun and watch the office at night?"
Mr. V jumped in to answer the question and he was like "yeah! usually, except she's on her computer working while we do". I nodded in agreement because it was true, but then when I thought about it more, it made me a bit sad.
I do usually spend my evenings sitting next to him on the couch, while the office is playing, working, and while that sounds like, "woo you go girl, get that #sidehustle", it also made me realize how much time I spend in front of my computer instead of just watching a show I love and maybe (dare I say!) cuddling with my husband.
I work full-time during the day, in front of a computer, as by trade I am a graphic designer/art director and then at home, I'm always working on some project I have on the go. Typically, I'd say I work an average of 3-4 hours per night before retiring for bed.
I can't really tell you why I do this, it definitely isn't for the financial gain, because the projects I work on really don't amount to be majorly significant - don't get me wrong, they are perfect for those extra perky bills that came up, or that expense you weren't expecting, tucking a bit away for a vacation or savings, or some new clothes for the season - but I'm not doubling my day job income, and I'm surely not about to be transitioning from my day job to freelance.
Most of the projects I take on are passion projects; friends of friends who need help but don't have a huge budget or a project happening in my community that needs some TLC. I don't want to complain because all of these projects are things I've said "yes!" to, but sometimes, I won't lie to you, I say yes out of obligation, or I say yes because I don't want this friend to waste their money paying some random designer or firm who is going to grossly over charge them. I've become better at saying "no" (which my friend, is the first step to self-care) and I've been better at referring other designers or helping to educate people so they can be more self-sufficient on their own.
I guess the reason is that I don't like to be still in life. I'm always looking for ways to achieve more or accomplish new things, but sometimes that comes at a cost.
There are times when I literally feel ridden with anxiety and exhausted beyond something that can be fixed with a nap or an early bedtime. Something as simple as going to a family dinner or having to meet up with a client after my work day is done is something that often will send me straight into emotional and mental turmoil. I believe this happens to me because I don't let myself rest. I don't allow myself to rest, to just be. I allow the feelings of guilt to dictate my workflow, to dictate the time I allocate to my relationships and frankly, the time I allocate to myself.
Now, the flipside of this is that I do practice SOME self-care. You probably do too - because why wouldn't you?
But....*unpopular opinion alert*
You're probably doing it wrong.
(Just so we're clear, by you, I mean me. I'm doing it wrong.)
Now, I am definitely not the authority on self-care as you can see from my tiny testimonial of self-loathing I described above. However, I do know what does NOT help me feel or do my best that I think is currently used as self-care propaganda to make you feel better.
Self-care is NOT eating an entire cake.
Food is something that can make you feel good, and that can be good. I'm not about to say you shouldn't #treatyoself (um hello, my body-type is basically described as "you have continued to treat yourself, ma'am") but when I treat myself with food, I rarely feel better. It's a temporary joy that dissipates almost immediately after consumption.
"When I eat better, I feel better about myself, and when I feel better about myself, I eat better."
While this is not a FUN step in the self-care direction, self-care isn't about allowing yourself to have bad habits or "cheat days" with no end, self-care is literally that, care.
Self-care is NOT (only) doing face masks.
I will never not be in favour of doing a face mask. I think often the "face mask" is a symbol for what we really need to do. We need to unplug, we need to allow ourselves to either, embrace the silence you have been yearning for or learn to be comfortable with it if you're an extrovert (and this is your nightmare). We need to take care of those little things we tend to neglect - maybe it's our skin, our nails, our brows? I find that sometimes just tuning up those little things - maybe it's a coat of nail polish, or shaping my nails, taking a shower and properly doing my hair - can totally change the way I feel about myself and about life. That being said, when you do those things, it has to be FOR YOU. Not because you're going to an event with other women you want to think you are cool, and not because that cutie from the finance department is going to also be at that networking event. Just for you, purely, and only, for you.
I find that investing in my appearance, whether it is my hair, or my nails, or my eyebrows makes me feel happy, it makes me feel settled, and it's also akin to cleaning, for me. When I spend a Saturday cleaning the house, I feel excellent. I think because I hate exercising (sorry, just do! always have! I'm a libra and apparently this is #classic? Thats the excuse I'm planning to use from now until forever, even if that's not true.), I love a good and serious deep clean because you can work up a sweat and actually get some cardio in, if you're moving fast enough! If you don't know what I'm talking about, you've probably never truly deep cleaned. Just sayin'.
Anyway, my point is that, these things are different for everyone. You may love exercising, you may do the full hair routine every day for work (who are you? how do I become like you?) and so an air dry hair day is the most self-care thing you can do. My point is that, it's not good enough to put on a face mask and then head back to your desk to crank out more work. You need to take some time just for you. No distractions, and care for yourself.
Self-care is NOT allowing yourself to forget your responsibilities so that you can just "chill".
This one is important, and it's kind of a tough-love aspect of self-care. Self-care does not mean shirking your responsibilities. I'm all for a mental health day ever now and then - in fact I straight up count those as sick days - but I'm not talking about those. Do you have an overdue bill and want to buy some clothes instead? That's not self-care. Do you have debt that you need to sort out? Self-care is making a spread sheet and a budget and a plan to pay it down. Are you behind on your taxes? Self-care is making that appointment and getting it done. Self-care sometimes is the grossest, worst thing you have put off doing, and would truthfully rather NEVER do. Self-care is dealing with the one thing that has been weighing down on your shoulders for months.
Personally, I can be REALLY avoidant when it comes to, um, literally everything. I put off renewing my insurance, I put off sending in my passport photos or my tax forms, I put off sending invoices. I put off calling people back. So, self-care for me, is forcing myself to do those things. I don't always succeed, but honestly it's usually way better and way easier than I expected it to be.
So, with those thoughts and realizations for myself, I've started to do a few things to help me on my path to more self care:
- I've become more honest. I still struggle with this one in this area, because, well, it's hard. But sometimes I get an email or a voicemail from a client who just seems like they could be the straw that broke the camels back (I am the camel in this scenario). So, instead of letting them know that I will get back to them by *insert date*, I'll just let it sit there. I'll let it sit there and stew until it feels like it's been so long, I can't possibly respond and then it becomes awkward for everyone. But, I've tried to be really transparent about timelines with my newer clients to help rid myself of the guilt and I think so far, it's been a good plan.
- I've stopped apologizing. Not when it is necessary, but when it's not. Too often I would turn down a social event or a birthday party or what have you, and I would apologize, non-stop for missing it. Or apologize for my "excuse" as to why I missed it. But, you know what? I don't need to apologize. I've simply started to say, "I'm sorry, I would have loved to, but I'm unable to make it". It's none of their business why I can't attend, it could be a variety of reasons, maybe I don't want to? and maybe, even more dramatically, it is a matter of my mental health and I literally "cannot even".
- I've taken food out of the equation when it comes to designated self-care time. I used to think about the food first. Okay, I have Friday night all to myself, no client work, no social obligation, Mr. V is out with his friends...what will I eat? Instead now, I think of all the things I want to accomplish during my "designed self-care time" (overachiever much?) and THEN think about what will sustain me.
So, as I will profusely continue to say, I am no expert. This is a work in progress. I'm trying my best to not only get better at TRUE self-care, but also to create a life that need to escape less often from.
Luckily for me, and you, we have someone who has an excellent perspective on well-being, health, self-care and all the rest who will be writing some articles very soon. I'll give you the formal introduction when that happens, but for now just remember to chill out, be kind, and check yo'self before you wreck yo'self, girlfriend.
Do you have some questions you'd like answered? Some thoughts on self-care? Comment below, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!