If you are a frequent reader, I am sure you remember me announcing the start of a new series, Learning Happy & Healthy. Many of you were excited about this new feature, and so it was frustrating for me when I didn't have time for awhile to pursue it. But life happens and moving happens and tiring job hunting happens and I know you all understand that. And I, well, I couldn't bring myself to start this series — full of such meaningful topics — until I could devout my full attention to it. This series means so much to me, so you can imagine I am very excited to share the first installment with you today; I felt it only natural to start with what I feel is the most important topic in this entire series. Let's talk about self care and ways you can better show yourself a little love, because you deserve it.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was, "Take care of yourself as you would take care of your daughter." Now, that may take some imagining for many of us (myself included), but you don't have to have a daughter of your own to understand the way in which you would want to care for her. I'm not saying you should see yourself as a child, but rather you should give yourself that extra attention and care that you would most certainly give a child of your own. I don't want children of my own, but I still know how I would want a daughter of mine (if she were to ever exist) to feel about herself. She would be as healthy as I had control over. She would always, always feel safe. She would never feel that there are unreasonable expectations she must live up to. She would be confident in herself and her talents; she wouldn't hesitate to pursue her passions. She would never, ever hear bad things spoken about her body. She would always have consent over her body; she would express herself freely and by choice — in clothes, conversation, sex. She would never be afraid of her ideas or to ask questions. She would know, without a doubt that I love her.
The exercise I would encourage is pretty simple: use the examples I've listed above or create your own list about your own daughter and change all the pronouns to fit yourself.... I should be as healthy as I have control over. I should always, always feel safe. I should never feel that there are unreasonable expectations I should live up to. I should be confident in myself and my talents; I shouldn't hesitate to pursue my passions. I should never, ever hear bad things spoken about my body. I should always have consent over my body; I should express myself freely and by choice — in clothes, conversation, sex. I should never be afraid of my ideas or to ask questions. I should know, without a doubt that I love me.
I know it is easier said than done. Completing an exercise like this is helpful to discover areas in which you need to pay more attention to self-love and care, yes. But, it will not make you instantly kinder to yourself. Self care is something you should constantly work on and constantly be aware of. A hard fact we all have to learn is that no one else is going to do the work for you. Yes, relationships can be fulfilling and wonderful and I fully encourage healthy ones. But relationships themselves are work too. They can be means of support and love, but they are a balancing act and take equal effort from both sides to be successful. You simply cannot rely on another person for your happiness. When you realize that your happiness relies on you alone, drastic measures must be taken. As someone who deals with cyclical depression and battles anxiety daily, I know that happiness is an effort. Fighting for happiness requires that I accept that my life (for the most part) is in my control. That doesn't mean that I can get everything I want, it means that I get to decide how things affect me. It means I can decide the type of person I want to be. I want to be a happy and healthy person — I hope you do too.
For me, self-care is a lot of work. Like most women, I've learned quite a few bad habits over the years. I am constantly self monitoring. I silence myself and my ideas often. I care about my appearance and the way my body looks to others. I tell myself lies about myself. In addition, I have some unique bad habits. For instance, I sometimes find myself focusing on bad things and exaggerating them. These habits can be hard to break but it can be done with some consistency and effort. The most important thing is to remind yourself regularly that you deserve success and happiness, however you choose to define that.
Self-care is a constant part of my everyday because it must be. If I am not proactively encouraging myself, choosing healthy activities, focusing on positive moments, and making time for the things I enjoy, then I fail. I fail because when I don't have control over my life I loose my happiness. Failing is inevitable, from time to time — and it is okay. But taking care of yourself should always be first priority. Don't let anyone ever tell you you are being selfish for taking care of yourself. You do you; no one knows you better.
MY SELF CARE TIPS
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Regularity creates a lot of peace in my everyday life. I enjoy change and embrace it when it comes, but having an everyday routine when possible helps my anxiety tremendously. Just as completing big projects can bring a sense of purpose and accomplishment, having things to get done everyday can be rather rewarding. It doesn't have to be much to be productive. I enjoy waking up early, packing lunch for Will before he leaves, having a slow breakfast while catching up on news and blogs, then taking Pippin out for a walk or hike all before starting any "work" for the day. I also have little tasks to complete by certain times throughout the day, like straightening up a bit before Will gets home (mostly the kitchen so it isn't a mess for dinner making) and getting posts out by certain times. Routines create rhythm and meaning.
DOCUMENT HAPPINESS/TAKE SELFIES
This is something I have been really enjoying lately. I use to keep a small journal where I'd jot down happy moments at the end of every week. I use this blog to document some everyday moments on occasion. I recently jumped on the #100happydays bandwagon and couldn't be happier (hah!) about it. It is the perfect way for me to capture and encourage moments of happiness. Find a way that you enjoy and that works with your lifestyle to document happiness; doing so will encourage you to find and seek out and create more happiness all around you in your life. I also highly encourage selfies, because you look good and you should share it!
MAKE TIME FOR WHAT YOU ENJOY
When you have the choice, don't commit your time to things that do not benefit you. End toxic relationships and avoid situations that you aren't comfortable with. Try to build your life around the people and things that make you feel good and that you enjoy. You deserve success, happiness, and health. Find out what works for you to achieve those things. I recently moved into a new place with Will, and while there were cheaper housing options none of them would have made us a happy as this place does. We are near the trails, near job opportunities, and we have a happy, creative, positive environment to live in and enjoy. Choosing this place over others means that we sacrificed flexibility in our budget but we chose happiness. It is easy for me here to make time for the things I enjoy — from crafting to hours of hiking, I am constantly satisfied.
CREATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT
We can't all live in our dream home or apartment, but we can all make improvements in the environments we are in currently. This can be applied to home, work, school, relationships, etc. You should be spending your time in environments that uplift you and make you feel safe. For me, having a home where I feel free to create is important. This means I keep order, but I let messes happen too, for the sake of crafting. It means I keep things open, airy, and fresh. Something as simple as straightening your work area can be loads of improvement to your overall happiness (and productivity!).
REWARD YOURSELF. I had to write that in all caps again. For reasons. It's that treat yourself mentality, right? When you accomplish something, big or small, find ways to reward yourself for the work. I've been job hunting like mad, and while I have yet to land a position anywhere I have to reward myself for small accomplishments. On Monday I had a frustrating interview. I was very excited and prepared for it, but my interviewer wasn't. This has never happened to me before. He was disinterested, frantically searching through my application and resume the entire time to ask me questions. I was, rightfully upset after and mad because I felt he had wasted my time. I let that negative experience eat at me for awhile, then suddenly realized I didn't have to let it affect me! I went for a walk to clear my head instead and to reward myself for being prepared for the interview (hey, the bad interview wasn't my fault, dude) and for choosing not to be bummed about it anymore. I like to reward myself with hikes, painting my nails, baths, watching my favorite tv shows, reading, and ice cream.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND MIND
Learn to be intuitive with your body. Assess it's needs and give them to it. Being healthy is so important, guys, and it's silly to not take care of yourself if you want to be healthy. If you need to take a personal day and have the luxury of doing so, please do. Or, just call in sick to work — I won't tattle on you. Learn what foods make you feel good and enjoy them regularly. Find activities you enjoy, too. You deserve to be pampered so do it often.
These are all things that work well for me and encourage my happiness. They may not work for everyone. I encourage you to take sometime to get to know yourself better and discover ways in which you can better take care of yourself.
Love yourselves, darlings.