I’m going to paint you a picture. You’re scrolling through Instagram on Sunday afternoon (even though you know you really should be at the gym or meal-prepping instead of living on takeout AGAIN this week). As you scroll, you see a bunch of gorgeous photos of IG models wearing pastel-coloured face masks, their hair in perfect buns (with zero visible frizz, of course), in a fluffy white robe. Perhaps they’re posting from their immaculately-decorated apartment or sponsored hotel room with no mess in sight.
You remember that you’ve accomplished nothing today AND done nothing to signify that you’re ‘taking care of yourself’. Suddenly, you’re overwhelmed. So instead of doing any of the things that would actually help you for the week ahead, you turn on Netflix and binge season 3 of Queer Eye until 10pm, when you finally slather on some moisturizer.
The Self-Care Paradox
Believe it or not, there is a wrong way to practice self-care.
‘Self-care’ means different things to different people (because after all, no two ‘selves’ are exactly alike). The wrong way to practice self-care is doing whatever picturesque activity you saw on your feed and expecting it to bring you instantaneous inner-peace.
The right way to practice self-care means taking care of yourself in the way that makes you feel your best (whether that is rested, re-energized, calm, whatever) and is restorative to your soul. Since we’re all unique beings, this process is going to look different for everyone.
The picture-perfect version of self-care that we see on social media is not necessarily what will make YOU feel your best. I don’t know about you, but if doing a face mask requires me to slick down my hair, make sure my fluffiest robe is always clean, and take a selfie to document the experience, that’s a lot of pressure and it defeats the purpose of the process for me.
So how do we stop ourselves from reverting to the most aesthetically-appealing kinds of self-care that actually just stress us out even more?
What does ‘Self-Care’ mean to YOU?
Here’s your first task: ask yourself, “What activity makes me feel BEST about myself? What activity makes nourishes my soul, instead of exhausting it?”
For me, self-care means:
(1) 1x/week, I do a face mask routine that includes three different masks (I’m crazy, I know)
(2) meal-prepping my weekly meals every Sunday
(3) cleaning my kitchen every Sunday night
(4) taking my daily vitamins
(5) reading a book and meditating before bed
(6) exercising 5x/week
(7) never checking my work phone after 7:30pm, and
The Myth that Self-Care means ‘Relaxation’
There’s this myth that self-care means relaxing, which probably started around the time women started posting pictures of themselves at elite spas and tagging #selfcare.
The truth is, many of the things on my list don’t feel fun or relaxing in the moment. They also don’t look very glamorous. Unlike that overpriced brand of candles on Instagram (I’m looking at you, diptyque), I can’t take a picturesque photo of my vitamins and I don’t look cute when I’m going hard at the gym. The thing is, investing time in these activities has an incredibly positive impact on my mental and physical health – and that’s defines ‘self-care’. I’ll probably never enjoy meal-prepping. But when I come home from a long day of work and a home-cooked dinner is already waiting in the fridge for me, I absolutely feel cared for.
Self-care doesn’t always need to make you feel zen or chilled out. It just has to be an act of service that you do for yourself. The things on my self-care list are essential to making me feel that I am living my best life and caring for myself every single day. That’s what we should all be seeking from our self-care routine.
Self-Care Suggestions that won’t Stress you Out
Still stuck for ideas? I asked a bunch of friends and corporate colleagues for their recommendations on self-care. Here were some of their personal favourites:
– Call your friend and chat about nothing in particular
– Call your mom and let her gush about you (without brushing off her compliments or rushing her off the phone)
– Buy yourself an expensive bottle of wine and savour it during a quiet night in
– Cook yourself a delicious dinner and eat it at the table (instead of in front of the TV)
– Go for brunch alone
– Implement a ‘no-phones’ rule during dinner and actually focus on your partner or your food
– Rewatch your favourite movie or reread your favourite book
– Write in your journal
– Clean your room
– Take a hot bath. Bring a book or magazine with you. Leave your phone in another room
– Put on your favourite song and dance your heart out for three minutes
– Join a recreational team for a sport you love
– Listen to classical music
– Stretch/roll-out your muscles
– Do a mindfulness meditation (I use the Calm app)
– Take a nap
– Lay on the couch for an entire night
– Give yourself a couple of hours to browse through a bookstore. Buy yourself something you wouldn’t typically read
– Go on a long walk outside. Put your phone on Airplane Mode and listen to a beloved podcast or favourite music album. Don’t check any notifications.
Wow. Just writing out that list has me feeling better than ever!
Ways to Make ‘Self-Care’ Stick
The single best tip to making ANY new habit stick is to build it on top of existing habits. This way, you’re not starting from scratch when it comes to making self-care part of your routine.
For example, all of my self-care takes place either first thing in the morning, at specific meals (lunch and dinner), last thing before bed, or on Sundays. It’s way easier to remember “take my vitamins!” at the same time everyday – while eating lunch at my desk, my vitamins sitting in my drawer. Meditating as the last thing I do before bed means that I am guaranteed not to forget about it.
How to take action: Identify your existing habits and add self-care goals to them. To make it really easy, start with your morning and nighttime routines. You brush your teeth every morning, so take your vitamins right after that. You brush your teeth again every night, so try turning on your essential diffuser right after brushing. Easy!
Are you excited to start building your unique self-care regimen?! Comment below to let me know if you have any cool ideas you didn’t see here!