Committing to Self-Care: 2019 edition
Newly elected House Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez recently asked her Instagram followers for tips on how to practice self care over the holidays. It's a question many of us ask ourselves this time of year.
Self-care is an amorphous term defined by a wide range of activities: A late-night catchup with besties can be just as meaningful as a strong session at Orange Theory or a 30-minute run. The problem arises -- self-care becomes just a rare quick-hit with few lasting effects -- when you aren't sure what kind of self care you need most. It's also an issue when you're unclear how to map this activity into your daily or weekly routine. It may be that what you wish you could do to stay calm or feel nourished is too expensive, or logistically difficult, to make happen regularly. A once-yearly massage gets washed over by weeks or months of stress at work, for example, or a few weeks of productive gym visit fade away as after-school activities or travel assert their presence on the calendar.
That's why it's so important to set realistic parameters around what self care is for you, and for how you will commit to making it a regular part of your life. Using small steps as a sign of major progress, you can then measure your success against the feeling of grabbing something (anything!) defined self care when you occasionally come up for air.
Here are some simple ways to use this time of reflection and connection to set up positive self-care patterns for 2019.
First, define what self care is for you. There are so many resources to help you do this, from good friends to sites like mine. Questions to ask are: What is self care for me and my body? Do I feel best after I've gone for a good walk? Worked out at the gym? Let myself be nurtured by a massage or even a good pedicure? Could even sleeping in once a week, without the alarm, fall into my definition of self care?
Determine how much time weekly you can reasonably schedule yourself for this self care you have identified as being right for you. Schedule this as you would any other meeting. As a yoga teacher, for example, I schedule in yoga classes that I teach myself. I put these classes on the calendar as I would any other class I teach, and I cancel them only in such rare cases as illness or a fixed appointment for my children. I stick to this schedule because I have prioritized these classes for me. I know I start feeling poorly if they are not a regular part of my life.
Be real about the budget implications, if any, of your self-care of choice. Can you afford this over the whole of 2019, for example? How many funds can you set aside? Are there any self care activities that your workplace subsidizes or offers? One crucial aspect of working self-care into both the schedule and the budget — because time is indeed money — is the belief that this is as critical a priority as eating healthy food and sleeping well. It may even be the most important, as regular self care in turn influences the other choices you make for your body daily and over the long term.
Share with the people you care for, and who care for you, that you’ve chosen to prioritize self care and that you are asking for support in keeping it in your life. All of my clients or close friends who commit to self care in this way are more successful doing so, as they are not only holding themselves accountable to the decision they've made; they’re asking to be held accountable. They are letting themselves be vulnerable to others’ help and support as they self-improve.
These are some simple, focused ways to set a self-care schedule and stick to it. Without this commitment — and if we try to go it alone — the rest of life will eventually insert itself, and self-care becomes another unchecked box on the "to do" list.