A Note On: Self-Care
The matter of self-care used to seem so self-indulgent to me — probably because I lacked the awareness of what exactly it meant and also, how much I needed it myself. Then came a time, years ago, where I really wasn’t in the right place and made the decision to fully work on myself, to figure out what I want to do in life and also what kind of routine and habits made me feel most like ‘me’. Along the way I learned that it’s not about being self-indulgent or selfish, it’s a very healthy and necessary way to be the best version of yourself. I know, that sounds so over the top, but just think of one of those days where you feel so light, happy, determined and (almost) everything seems to go well… those are your ‘best version’ days. I used to think that these days are lucky, with everything coincidentally falling into place. But as I was becoming more aware about my routines and habits, and how they impacted me, I also became more aware of the fact that we really are much more in control of everything that happens around us than we might realize. Fast forward a few years and I am fully convinced that self-care extends way
beyond you. When you are completely aligned with your self, you are also able to be a kinder friend, a better daughter, a more inspired worker, etc. The way you feel, in body and mind, affects everything you do and how you impact others. Self-care is about showing up. About pro-actively doing things for yourself, so that you feel ‘complete’ and can be a better person in your environment (not so selfish after all, right?). I once went to a lecture and learned that we always have to make sure that our own “love tank” is full, before we can give any love to others (or our work). I was skeptical at the time, but kept the thought in the back of my mind and one day realized, when I was keeping better track of my great and ‘off’ days, how much my inner thoughts and feelings impacted everything else in my life. So yes, fill that love tank — or whatever analogy you may want to use — with lots of self-care practice, every single day. Even when I forget it sometimes, it’s an ongoing, daily task to work on being your best self. That’s why it’s so important to figure out your ideal habits and stick to them.
MY SELF-CARE HABITS & ROUTINES
Setting the tone in the morning —
I’ve never considered myself a morning person (at all), but ever since moving together with my boyfriend, I have changed up my routine and have noticed that the way I start my morning really sets the tone for the rest of the day. I used to question my boyfriend’s need to get up and do something, without lazying around and easing into the day, but I get it now. My best days are when I get up around 7, make coffee and start work by 8. Diving straight into work makes me feel productive and keeps me motivated for the rest of the day.
Prioritizing working out —
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my posts about my preferred work-out. Even though I quickly get “addicted” to being active (once I am back on the bandwagon), it remains a struggle to pro-actively prioritize working out — especially when I am feeling tired or have a lot of work to do. Then I tend to reschedule, which usually only results in me feeling even more flat and unmotivated. The thing with working out for me is that it’s just as much, if not more, about the mind as it is about the body. I have never tried actual therapy, but I feel that working out has the same effect on me. I have tried different things in my life, but full-body cycling at Ride Berlin (check it out) has been the best work-out for me in terms of resetting my mind, gaining clarity and feeling positive. The combination of being lifted up by the group’s energy in the room, while having the ability to focus on yourself (the room is dark and the music is loud), makes for a very unique environment.
Keeping a gratitude journal —
I have the tendency to focus on the past (“why didn’t I…”) and the future (“what if…”), while completely losing sight of what I have now, what is currently happening and, possibly most importantly, what is in my control to influence. Last year I had an especially hard time focusing on the positive and controllable after I had suddenly lost my beloved grandmother. I read somewhere about a gratitude journal, figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go, and it honestly helped me so much. I no longer use it on a daily basis, but do so when I feel the need to change my mindset. This is the one I use.
Tracking my health —
This is a new one and I started doing it mostly out of curiosity. I initially downloaded the ‘Clue’ app to track my cycle, but since you track your daily well-being, related to your mind and body, you also learn a lot more about how everything is connected and why some days are simply better than others. I am now much more aware of the link between my well-being and my cycle, and how it can impact my day-to-day. And with that information, I am able to plan around my potential off days and, more importantly, be kind to myself when I’m simply not feeling it…
Enjoying the good stuff —
I used to save expensive candles, a good bottle of wine, a favourite treat, luxury skincare products and wardrobe pieces for special occasions, so that I wouldn’t use it all up or wear something out on a regular day… thinking it would otherwise lose its “specialness”. Little did I know, it’s actually way more fun to burn that fancy candle and crack open that wine on a regular ol’ weekday. It takes the focus off the (price of the) product itself and instead puts an emphasis on the enjoyment of it.
Planning spa ‘me’ time —
What’s better than taking a moment during a (busy) week to give yourself some TLC? I see weekly beauty sessions as more than just a ‘maintenance ritual’, it’s actually a bit meditative for me. Just taking an hour to focus on caring for myself, with some nice beauty products, perhaps a TV show to watch while my face mask is doing its job, and nothing else to do or think about.
Saying ‘no’ and ditching “friends” —
This sounds a bit harsh, but I promise, it isn’t really. I have never had much trouble saying ‘no’ to things I didn’t like doing, but cutting people out of my life - or reducing the amount of exposure to them - is a different story. Being an ambivert, I have always been careful about my social environment; I like being around people, but too much social buzz drains my battery. When it comes to friends, I prefer quality above quantity. This also means that if I feel there is no real connection, or someone may even have a negative impact on my life, that I prefer to not spend my time and energy (literally) on them. I used to think this was pretty selfish, but have now come to realize that it’s so important to surround yourself with great people.
Being aware of my thoughts —
They say “the mind is a powerful tool” and I SO believe in this. We see things the way we are, not always the way they actually are. I still find it mind boggling (ha!) that our thoughts change so much depending on how well we take care of ourselves. That pesky inner voice can be a real nuisance and it’s a work in progress to smile and then say ‘ok thanks, bye’ to those negative self thoughts. But acknowledging and understanding your monkey mind is the first and biggest step (also, I just have to laugh about the name of the term).
And take note, when you don’t do these things, how that affects you as well. For me, I really notice insecurity and unease creeping into my mind when I don’t work out at least a couple of times a week. It directly affects my behaviour, relationship and even the quality of my work. The same goes for showing gratitude and staying present, and keeping my thoughts in line.
Self-care is a daily practice, much like hydrating enough or eating your vegetables. Some days are better than others, but overall it makes for a better life. Curious to hear which habits and routines make you happiest!
In an ideal week, I manage to implement all of the above into my life but, of course, that is not always the case. Part of good self-care, to me, is cutting myself some slack and not being too strict about it. That also means that I need to realize that it can still be a good week, and I have still done a good job, when I work out once or twice (my ideal is 4 times) and simply stay aware of my mental and physical health. As with everything, what works for me, may not be for you. If you’re looking to prioritize self-care more, I recommend paying attention to things that make you feel (and think) in a positive way, and then integrate these into your day-to-day - or week - as much as possible.