I step into the soft, delicate bubble bath oozing with effervescent lavender aroma. I turn on my spotify playlist of the most hauntingly mesmerizing songs, in my ambient bathroom with fragrant, aromatic candles. I've been stressing out a lot, and this is what the internet has told me to do. So, let's relax, it's time to relax, self-care...
Several minutes later, I still just couldn't relax! The more I tried to relax doing these activities, the more chaotic and anxious I felt. What the hell was going on? Wasn't this self-care? Yet, why didn't this feel good for me? It felt uncomfortable, and didn't help me de-stress at all.
Why couldn't I relax? I would curate the perfect environment for me to do so, the air would waft away with mellifluous music, ambient lighting at 10pm, and I would try to curl up with a book, something I claim to be obsessed with, and I still couldn't relax and I barely get through a few pages before reaching for my phone to be distracted again. I had a problem, my friend. A big one. Something was constantly running through my head, and none of these wonderful activities were helping me relax.
I tried to take a few deep breaths, very highly recommended by the internet. And I tried to dive deep into what the hell my problem was. One, two, three breaths later, it came to me slowly.
I couldn't relax because I felt like I didn't deserve to.
Okay, insecurities, what is it this time? I sulked and pouted and asked them to answer me if they dared... And they immediately did. They sprouted a few hundred things on the list of my possible insecurities that were keeping me up at night. I sighed and heaved and wore my glasses (for effect, I have perfect vision) and pursed my lips and took a look at that darned list.
Alright, here's what we're going to do. We're people of action! Am I right? Yes. So, here's what we'll do. We're not going to ignore these problems by being in denial like a bunch of phonies, now are we? No, sir. We're going to tackle these puny little problems head on.
We're going to reframe our self-care activities to address these insecurities.
1. Posture Corrective Exercises.
Everyday, I do a 10 minute routine of posture correction exercises. Young, old me has developed terrible posture by being a lazy sack of potatoes, back in her day, and did some chronic damage to her shoulders and neck. So, I pretty much have constant pain in my shoulders, that not only distracts me from focusing on things, but also is something I am insecure about. Rounded shoulders just don't exude the kind of confidence I wish to, I just end up standing there like a lil' shmuck. No longer, sir! We are people of action. 10 minutes, everyday, without fail. This helps me not be so distracted by the pain, and actually focus on things I love for the rest of the day. Self frickin' care!!
2. Meal Prep.
I am a worrier, and I need to figure out how to accidentally become a warrior instead. I worry about most things, but what I worry about most is how I will manage to eat healthy when I am off to grad school. I have lived alone, abroad in the past, and I either spend too much money, or eat super unhealthy, or both! Broke and overweight. My two big fears. Big, big insecurities, oof. So, I spend some time in the kitchen, figuring out what is both healthy AND tastes good. It has to be flavor country, else life is just not worth it. And I need to work on being efficient as well, because it is simply a part of life, forever, and the sooner I master this life skill, the sooner a huge chunk of my lifestyle will be figured out and can run on autopilot. So, when I catch myself worrying, I prep some meals, so I can gift my future self good health, and a great lifestyle. Meal prep warrior, yes, that's a big goal. Self care of the highest order.
3. Life Planner.
I love making plans, I almost feel giddy with glee while I draft them. So, whenever I'm feeling too stressed, I actually resort to diving deep into my planner and getting my personal organization in order. I sometimes make a 20-day sprint for some goals I want to achieve for my fitness journey, or a 100-day checkpoint to achieve some larger results. I sketch out the rules, the effort, the process, and make a clear vision of what I want to achieve at the end of it, with emphasis on how to get there. It's just the thing I need, when I'm feeling out of sorts, to help me feel like I'm on the right track. This is my favorite and most liberating self-care activity.
4. 10k Steps.
Believe it or not, this is actually my self-care activity. I've been hitting my 10k steps a day, not just as part of my weight-loss journey, even though it started off that way. Now, it's become a way of asserting to myself that I am an active, energetic, fit person and reaffirming this belief with every step I take. I've had the label of being a "lazy", "irresponsible" person ever since my childhood, which solidified even more when friends and family take it for granted that I indeed am, while making light of it. So, even when it is done in good humor, I still used to feel very insecure about being lazy, and lethargic, especially after having a few moderate depressive episodes in my history, when you feel nailed down to your bed by all that self-loathing for weeks together? Shivers. I've decided, never again. Never frickin' again. I take my 10k steps everyday to solidify this new identity of me. I am active, fit, energetic, and I'm left feeling beautiful and light and accomplished at the end of each day. I walk, jog, skip, sprint, shuffle, dance to fight my demons. And isn't that self-care?
5. Throwing My Phone Away.
Buy some instant peace of mind by throwing your phone away for a couple of hours. Keep it on silent, keep it in a different room, whatever works. But I try not to be caught dead with it, unless it is really important. I've been addicted to scrolling away, and being distracted. And this sucks, because distractions are simply a way of telling you, you're not happy with how you're living your life. Every time I catch myself scrolling away aimlessly, that's what I remind myself. Hey gurl, you're feeling distracted because you're not happy, let's try to focus on some of the other self-care activities that might actually help address the problem, yeah? And throwing my phone away for a few hours is the first step to any self-care breakthrough. So, I do that whenever I'm feeling particularly agitated.
6. Positive Self Talk.
This is sort of close to meditation. But this is more intentional, and almost scripted, haha! I absolutely deem it necessary for me to function alright, every damn day. I take 5 minutes twice a day, to remind myself of everything I am capable of, celebrate even the smallest of my accomplishments, fill my heart up with more love than I can take as I run empty sometimes (a lot of times). It helps me come out of it feeling great, and strong, and prepared for what life may throw at me. It is a conventional, highly accepted self-care act and for great reason.
Last, and probably the most important. Chores! That thing we seem to dread, as adults. Trust me, adulthood is something to be celebrated, not dreaded. Having complete freedom, choice, control over our lives is the epitome of adulthood. Chores are just small hurdles in our journey of taking back control of our lives. So, let's knock them out of the park, eh? Laundry is a self-care act, keeping tidy surroundings is a self-care act, paying bills, taxes, paperwork are self-care acts. Anything that makes our future selves stress free and happy is a self-care act. When I reframed these chores as "self-care acts" as opposed to "boring burdens", my perspective on it changed. It flipped the switch to positive.
My list of self-care activities are things that have actually helped me feel better when I'm feeling stressed, or at the verge of combusting into flames with agony. And once they actually help me feel better, I can switch to more conventional self-care bubble baths, or reading books in a calm, soothing aura. But until I tame my anxiety and chaos inside my head, I won't be able to relax, and the above acts work perfectly for me, as they're tested and tweaked over several years.
Sometimes self-care is about doing the hard things to design and achieve the life that we deserve to live. It's studying hard for a test, it's doing taxes on time, it's everything that we tend to procrastinate on because it is perceived as "boring", "hard", or "mundane". But this kind of self-care is what actually shows yourself that you do care! You care so much about yourself that you do these acts of service for yourself.
Once I'm actually feeling good, and feel like I do deserve good, beautiful, amazing things in life, I embrace listening to music, cooking myself a wonderful meal, meditating, dancing, playing a sport, all those activities that feature in other conventional self-care lists.
But for me, the ultimate form of self care is getting my life together. :)