Self-Care For The Modern Woman: A Do-This-Not-That Guide
In case you haven’t noticed, I write a lot about self-care — like how to make time for self-care, how to make self-care easy, and all the different ways you can infuse self-care into your everyday life. I write about this stuff, not just because it’s vitally important to my (and your) well-being, but because I used to naively believe that this stuff sorta just took care of itself. I mean, let’s face it — were you really talking about, thinking about, reading about, practicing self-care in your teens or even your early 20’s? I sure wasn’t.
Instead, I was living recklessly (not intentionally trying to be reckless, but just trying to have a really nice time as a woman in her late teens and early 20’s). I pulled multiple all-nighters a week, drank more coffee (and vodka on the weekends) than water, believed that eating pizza covered all my food group bases, and let way too many people have way too much of me — my time, my attention, sometimes even my body. Self-care wasn’t a term that I had ever heard of. Or if I had, it sure as hell didn’t register for me.
But the universe has a funny way of teaching us the lessons we must learn.
By 24 I was wholly absorbed in creating the life of my dreams — the career, the trendy downtown apartment, the boyfriend, the social life — and wholly burnt out, run-down, and spiritually, energetically, emotionally drained in my pursuit of it all. And then, on a whim, I moved across the country to be with the aforementioned boyfriend, lost my job, and found myself completely alone in a city that was foreign to me. My boyfriend worked long hours out of the house, so from sun-up to sun-down I was on my own; Forced by the universe (or God?) to slow down and focus on myself.
What initially felt like a massive bitch-slap from the universe (or God?), was actually a priceless gift; a lesson; the beginning of my self-love journey. With no other distractions, I finally had the time to focus on myself. To ask the hard questions — What do I want to do with my life? Who do I want to be? What is my message to the world? My purpose? And to do the hard work.
I started exercising again. And writing, not for the corporate world, but for myself. Littlefoolbook was born. I slowed down. I took long baths and long walks. I spent time in nature, and lots and lots and lots of time by myself. I cried. I felt my loneliness. And then I sought out the things that would fill me up.
And what I’ve realized through all of this is that self-care isn’t just a trendy throw-around term, or an excuse to indulge. Self-care is all we have. Self-care is everything. Because the responsibility for our health, happiness, and wellbeing falls on nobody but ourselves. Because if we don’t take care, why should somebody else? Self-care can save your life. Self-care saved mine.
So with that, here’s a do-this-not-that guide for the modern woman.
DO Check In With Yourself Regularly
We live in a fast-paced world full of lists and schedules and appointments and meetings and household chores and familial obligations and and and the list goes on. It’s so easy for us to carry-on from one thing to another, crossing things off our to-do lists, totally mindlessly getting sh*t done, but never actually checking in with ourselves.
Do you need water?
Do you need a break?
Do you need to move?
Take a minute every hour of every day to check in with yourself and ask your head, body, and heart what it needs. And then, do your best to give that to yourself.
Pro Tip: Make this a daily practice by setting hourly notifications on your phone, reminders to check in.
DON’T Ignore Physical Signs And Symptoms
My hair has been falling out more than usual, lately. In the past, I might have written this off as simply needing a new detangler, or brushing it too often. But because I’m tuned into myself and my body, I’ve taken notice, and I’m aware that my hair might be trying to tell me something. Instead of ignoring the physical signs, I’m paying attention to the physical signs and symptoms which means I can do things to address them.
Do you have bags under your eyes? You probably need more rest, babe.
Is your skin breaking out? Make sure you’re feeding your body the nutrients it needs to thrive, not just survive.
Chronic headaches? That could very well be stress. How can you lighten your load?
Obviously, if your symptoms are more serious it’s a good idea to visit a walk-in or urgent care clinic.
Our body is incredibly intuitive, and when something’s not right, it will tell you. It’s up to you to pay attention to the signs.
DO Things That Nourish Your Mind, Body, And Soul
I call this proactive self-care. The kind of self-care that you practice every day to prevent the big burnouts; instead of the more reactive kind of self-care that is so common now (think: having to take a sick day because your body is literally forcing you to rest).
The truth of the matter is that self-care looks different for everybody. For me, it’s practicing yoga 4-5 days a week. It’s letting my body wake up naturally. It’s spending time outside every single day. For you, it could be meditation, a FT chat with your bestie, or a shot of Baileys in your morning coffee (no judgement here, babe!).
Make a list of a few daily non-negotiables — things you can do every single day for your own wellness; things that make you feel good; things that energize you rather than deplete you — and then start doing them. Every single day.
DON’T Be Afraid Of Facing The Tough Stuff
“Maybe it’s the Sunday Scaries, maybe it’s that time of the month, maybe it’s something deeper, something darker, like an innate dread or anxiety. Maybe it's that big scary word that starts with the letter "D" — I'm talking about "depression" (why are we all so scared of that word, anyways?). Maybe it’s a relentless case of the blues. Whatever you call it, it’s yours and it’s time to lean into it.”
I call mine, my “dark cloud.” And for the longest time, I let it linger there because I was too scared of what might happen if I had to say it out loud. What would my boyfriend think of me? How would my friends treat me? I didn’t want to hurt my family by admitting that I was hurting.
Not sure where to start or how? Read this. Tell someone you trust. Seek professional counsel. Join a support group. Talk to a health professional.
Me? I’ve succumbed to my dark cloud many times. But I’ve also risen above it. And I know now, that part of being human means feeling a whole spectrum of human emotions and none of this means that I’m broken. It only means that I’m human. And so are you.
* Feature image by Sara Shakeel