It’s become even more evident to me now that momentary escapes are essential to my peace of mind. Life in New York City moves so fast that it can be hard to live in the moment. Especially for self-proclaimed dreamers, we are always thinking of our next move rather than relishing in our current achievements. Before you find yourself on the verge of crashing from anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, etc., incorporate what I call small moments of self-care.
My academic advisor is always preaching that “Good self-care is good ethics.” It became even more than a catchy mantra after the first year of my pastoral counseling program. Determined to get my summer classes over with and head back to sunny South Florida, I signed up for back-to-back one-week intensive classes.
An entire semester squeezed into seven days— twice. I knew it would be difficult, but as I would say in my corny salesman voice: My name is Tara, and I specialize in results.
That confidence soon faded after week one when I found myself running on little sleep while trying to juggle reading and assignments. On the eve of week two, which also happened to be my 24th birthday, I found myself fighting a wave of tears and anxiety rather than celebrating.
Thankfully I passed both classes, but from that moment on I’ve tried to place my mental health and well-being over another accomplishment to post on my LinkedIn page. This ‘self-care’ my advisor constantly emphasized was going to become a part of my routine.
For those who hear the ‘self’ in self-care and automatically assume selfishness, an article from Psychology Today best describes the difference:
"Although people, especially women, often think of self-care as selfish, just the opposite is true. Being selfish is to be focused on one's own needs regardless of the needs of others. Selfish acts come at the expense of others. Self-care, on the other hand, is intentionally taking time to do something that energizes you."
-Laurie B. Mintz, Ph.D, The Unselfish Act of Self-Care, Psychology Today
For those who may be the "strong tower" for your friends and family, understand that you cannot be there for them if you're all burned out. Though difficult for your inner Olivia Pope, at some point you have to give the constant fixer mentality a rest and exercise the power of no.
One of my current reads, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, is encouraging me to no longer be nice out of fear. I used to take on favors or obligations because I did not want to be seen as an unreliable friend or employee. It’s OK to do favors, but it’s not OK to constantly save someone from their lack of planning or responsibility. Learning to build mental, emotional, and physical boundaries are proving to be the self-care I never knew I needed.
Your moments of self-care should not only energize you, but also improve your mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional health. So although an evening of Netflix binging and a pepperoni pizza from my favorite spot in Washington Heights would be quite lovely, I know that it doesn't quite count as self-care.
Good self-care is going to be unique for each individual. I enjoy sitting down with a cup of chai or peppermint tea and my notebook— as I’m doing right now— while my sister Jessie enjoys going for a morning/evening run. Both acts are intentional, which I find to be an important criterion. We both set out to do these acts because they bring us peace.
For me, writing out my feelings helps me to make sense of them before moving forward. It is also a way for me to be creative as I pen new ideas. In this way I find that I'm enhancing my emotional health. For Jessie, running obviously improves her physical health, as well as helps her to relieve stress.
Now some of you may respond to this by saying, "Yeah this sounds nice, but I'm way too busy."
If you could set aside 20 to 30 minutes each day (See? Small moments of self-care!), you'd be doing yourself a great service. Just as we abide by scheduled hair appointments or doctor appointments, we should also abide by scheduled moments of self-care. Your time could include praying, meditating, going for a walk, seeing a counselor, or even screening a call from someone who only reaches out when they need a favor.
If you're like me, you love to help others as much as you can. Just remember that it's OK if one of those people is you. It's important to make your mental health a priority and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Our peace needs protecting in a world that equates busyness with relevance.
So tell me, what are you currently doing or would like to do to take better care of yourself? Share with me in the comments.
Photo credit: Jessica Hughee