Self-care is something we can easily neglect if we don’t give ourselves permission. Without having good boundaries and the ability to recognize our own energy depletion, we risk compromising our own needs.
Occasionally, someone cares enough to remind us that it’s okay to slow down and take a break when we’ve had a difficult day. And that is such a beautiful thing, but we cannot rely on others to do that for us.
So how do we manage when no one assures us that it’s okay? It is a skill that must be developed and practiced consistently. Part of truly loving yourself is engaging in frequent and regular self-care. And when we reach that feeling of burnout, or energy depletion, we start by acknowledging that what we’re experiencing is valid, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion. Allow yourself to rest when you need to, guilt free. There is nothing selfish about self-care, in fact it is of benefit to those around you. You can’t show up as your best self for others if you are running low on energy stores.
Prioritize your own needs, even if only for a few minutes. It takes courage and strength to communicate our needs with others, it is NOT a show of weakness. And remember that you do not need to ask for permission. Simply assert your needs. It’s okay to say no. This is setting boundaries for yourself, and are so important to maintaining healthy relationships.
If you find yourself in a position of feeling close to losing control over your emotions, lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I did this as a mother of a toddler. I would first make sure he didn’t have access to anything unsafe, and I would just sit in the bathroom breathing or sometimes quietly crying. There’s a lot of evidence that deep diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the vagus nerve, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax. This is effective, because our bodies can’t tell the difference between stress and actual danger. Both stress and fear invoke the same hormone response and quickly put us into fight or flight mode. Our brains cannot function at a higher cognitive level when we are in fight or flight mode. Which is why our ability to problem solve lessens when we are under stress. There’s also research to suggest that crying can actually help us release negative emotions. So, when you feel like you’re about to “lose it”, give yourself a timeout. Just a few minutes of breathing can do wonders for your mental health.
I would just sit in the bathroom breathing or sometimes quietly crying.
Most importantly, practicing self-care regularly helps us prevent those moments when we feel like we’re about to lose it. As you learn to make it a daily practice, you may begin to notice in stressful situations that you’re handling it better than you may have before.
This is why I meditate daily. This is why I unapologetically take a day for myself every month and spend an hour or three giving myself some sort of spa treatment, whether its a deep cleanse on my hair, a bubble bath, a skin treatment, a mani-pedi or all of the above. Self-care also looks like spending a few minutes in nature, walking barefoot in the grass, listening to the birds and the wind, feeling the sun warm my skin. Self-care is having a cup of herbal tea in my favorite cup and noticing the warmth of the tea on my tongue, breathing in deeply the aroma, and appreciating the taste. Self-care can be putting crisp clean sheets on the bed and noticing how lovely that feels on the skin. Self-care is daily exercise and taking an extra 5 seconds to sprinkle cinnamon on top of your buttered toast. Self-care does not have to cost a lot of money. We don’t need to take elaborate vacations, or have expensive dinners at fancy restaurants. We can find special moments in everything if we allow ourselves to slow down, and simply notice the beauty that surrounds. This is mindfulness.
Notice the beauty that surrounds.
And when you do find yourself in a moment of extreme frustration, it’s important to remind yourself that whatever you’re experiencing can only affect you for as long as you allow it to, and that you can and will get through it. Remember that your level of frustration is subjective to your perception. Then remind yourself of one thing you are grateful for. And lastly, remove any association of guilt around self-care because it is the best thing you can do for your friends and family. This is what self-love looks like.