I love to hear about people’s self-care routines. By my rough estimation, every two to three calls with any clients includes a discussion about self-care, slowing down, nurturing ourselves, and refilling our own bucket. Most of us are awake to the necessity of self-care and how much it enhances our ability to show up well at work and in our relationships to the self and others.
We talk a lot about allowing ourselves to feel “deserving” of self-care (and that is often the right place to start for most people), but here is what’s missing for me from all the publications and social discussions about self-care: what we don’t always acknowledge is that self-care is our gateway to the internal work and comfort we need space for. While most of our gestures and actions around self-care are external, this is really an inside job!
I practice what I preach. But in previous years, during times of work insanity (consistent 70+ hour work weeks), my go-to “self-care” routine was drinking red wine and zoning out to the Real Housewives televisions series. Sound familiar?
While both of those little gems remain in my life in some fashion, I had to get real about the fact that these were actually sabotagers and not helping me “feel” what I wanted to from my self-care routine. When I realized that what I wanted to feel was centered and refreshed, I got clarity that red wine interrupts my sleep (opposite of refreshing) and the drama and fighting on those shows actually wound me up. Watching women behave that way (which makes for good television) was out of alignment with my personal values and so, when I really checked in with myself on this, I felt unsettled (the opposite of centered).
There is a lot of buzz right now around the phrase: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Between our culture of achievement and consumerism, the noise from social media, being constantly connected, and our political climate, I think we are good on the “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” part. While I agree that a lot of growth comes from pushing ourselves into exploring the unknown, I would argue that the new buzz phrase needs to be: “Get comfortable creating your own comfort.”
Here are three tips for total self-care and creating your own comfort:
- Aspire to a feeling. A lot of self-care routines fail because we aren’t conscious about how we want to feel. We approach our self-care from a generic place of, “I’m so busy and tired, I just need to go to the spa, or watch TV for a few hours, or do nothing.” But, does the spa, TV, and “nothing” make you feel a particular way? Just because we disconnect from the spin doesn’t mean we are necessarily recharging the way we truly need to. So, start with a feeling you want to have. Pick one from HERE.
- Get clear on what enables that feeling. Identify the moments when you feel most nurtured, nourished, and relaxed. Self-care might be a “we” thing. I once had a client who said, “For me, self-care isn’t about having alone time as much as it is being able to spend quality time with my family.” Her self-care was an “us” thing. What’s yours? Whatever your choice, stake a claim on consistent pockets of time throughout your week to do the things that enable the feelings you want and guard it like your life depends on it. This might mean you have a regular “you” (or “us”) day and out go the cell phones, social media, and television. Self-care doesn’t have to be an event. It might be as simple as 10-15 minutes of mindfulness or meditation throughout your day.
- Supplement extra self-care in proportion to your stress. If your stress just increased 150 percent, but you still cling to your measly thirty minutes of self-care a week (if you’re lucky), then that math doesn’t add up. Most of us can’t afford a 1:1 ratio of stress to self-care, but we can keep a conscious eye on how much time we spend with the feeling you identified in tip #1 and look for opportunities to increase your self-care efforts.