There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see another article, post, or message about the significance of self-care. This messaging is largely focused on self-care activities that are often reactive in nature. This advice is helpful in it’s own right, but it can also be wildly discouraging when we make a concerted effort in the moment and then feel as though we didn’t reap the benefits we anticipated.
Here are 3 simple tips to be proactive with your self-care practice so you can get closer to achieving the outcome you are looking for.
Tip #1: Prioritize Scheduling Time For Yourself
In a recent LinkedIn post, I shared the first steps towards ensuring that I was being proactive with my self-care by doing the simplest thing: I scheduled the time. I took 15 minutes and did the following:
- I looked at the calendar for the entire year.
- I decided what days to give myself to ensure I was managing stress, burnout, and practicing self-care. I started with taking off holidays, my birthday, my wedding anniversary, and a few other days that would follow a particularly busy time so I could unwind.
- I canceled recurring meetings that landed on those days.
- I scheduled another 15 minutes on my calendar to review this again in a month.
Nothing can start until you actually make the time. If you can’t schedule a day, then schedule an hour, 30 minutes, ANYTHING and keep that commitment.
Tip #2: Identify What Self-Care Actions Actually Work for You
Self-Care is not all masks, tea, and meditation (although I love all three!). Self-care can be any “action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” This can be exercise, journaling, going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, or cooking your favorite dish. However, it can also be sweating through a Beat Saber game listening to Imagine Dragons, getting lost in an Outer Worlds or Divinity 2 side quest, or attacking that miscellaneous junk drawer and making it the most organized work of art the world has ever seen (Yep. All of those are self-care activities for me).
This part is highly personal and doesn’t always match up with what we might think constitutes a self-care activity. I have found the most effective forms of self-care are the activities that keep you present, have nothing to do with anyone else’s perception of you, and actually allow for you to enjoy the now. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not your friend or your neighbor. You. Enjoying life. Right. Now.
Self-Care isn’t all masks, tea, and meditation … it can also be sweating through a Beat Saber game, getting lost in a … Divinity 2 side quest, or attacking that miscellaneous junk drawer and making it the most organized work of art the world has ever seen.
So the next time you practice self-care, observe how you feel during and after you do it. If it’s not preserving or improving how you feel, it might not be the right self-care act for you. And that’s cool – just keep trying something until you find what fits.
Tip #3: Plan Your Response to “Guilt Triggers”
No matter what self-care actions you do, they won’t really have the intended outcome if you are feeling guilty while doing them. Here are three ways to approach those inevitable moments of guilt we all encounter when our mind tries to prioritize other things over our self-care practice.
- Reframe self-care time as necessary. Period. End of story. It’s not a luxury or a thing you do “if you can find time.” It is as necessary as eating, breathing, and sleeping. It’s the prerequisite to being your best for your family, friends, work, and other commitments you care about. Making this a truth for yourself will help a long way in battling the guilt creep.
- Identify the things that are most likely to want to compete with your self-care practice. Is it spending more time with your kids? Is it finishing up that last task at work? Make a list of those things that specifically guilt you into choosing something else so you can then …
- Plan your response accordingly. Maybe repeating #1 is enough or maybe it requires a little more rational thinking, but either way be ready to combat those nagging thoughts that will try to compete with your self-care practice. Whether it is explaining to yourself why this time is just as important or rationalizing why the competing thought is not as urgent or pressing, having a planned response to your internal chatter will do wonders to keep you focused on getting the time you deserve for yourself.