Self-care is all the rage. We know that we need to prioritize our well-being, but it seems like rates of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout continue to skyrocket and dominate the news. It seems like we are frequently being told to incorporate self-care into our lives, but either we do something and nothing works or we don’t do it because we feel guilty.
We have a hard time valuing this concept of self-care. I have come up with some things you can consider that could be deemed self-care without it being called self-care.
1. Pay attention to your energy cycles.
Are you a morning person? A night owl? Are you exhausted by Friday? Does it take you until Tuesday to get it together? Are you subject to the influence of a full moon?
Hopefully you know yourself well enough to know the answers to these questions and can optimize our schedule to do your best work. Assess your schedule and determine if you can plan things to align with your energy. Can you schedule meetings in the mornings when you are at your freshest? Can you focus on emails in the afternoons when your energy wanes?
Many people do not have the luxury of controlling their work schedule that aligns with their energy, but try and structure your day so that you can make the most of the time when you are your most productive. Click below
to download a copy of an energy tracker to bring greater awareness and insight into your energy patterns. It may take a few months of tracking to notice a pattern but you may notice a pattern after a few weeks.
Maybe you can advocate with your employer to schedule meetings at times when you know you are at your best. In speaking of advocating for yourself at work, recognizing your energy cycles can help you when it’s time to do an annual review or give feedback about your work.
Personally, I have always known myself to be a morning person, but I would schedule clients later in the afternoons and evenings and that ultimately made me miserable. I know that I am the best therapist and mom when I can see clients in the morning and do paperwork in the afternoons. Choosing to prioritize my energy cycles enables me to get more done.
2. Adapt activities around your energy cycles.
Please embrace the fact that you are not a robot. Some days you will have the energy of a jack rabbit and some days you will have the energy of a sloth. But we push, push, push because we have deadlines and we “should” be getting things done. We don’t want to perceive ourselves as “lazy” so we keep ourselves busy.
Can you give yourself permission to slow down when you just don’t have the energy to tackle the hard things? One way to get around this is to try and create a monthly or quarterly to do list.
Try and write down all of the things you want to get done or have to get done for the month or for the next three months. Do a brain dump, ask the family members in your household what they think needs done and allow yourself to just plug away at them for the month.
Maybe you can create a schedule where every Wednesday is errand day and ever Monday is laundry day. But if Monday comes and the idea of laundry makes you want to throw something, look at your to do list and pick some things that align with your energy for the day.
If there are things that HAVE to be done, such as there are deadlines, try and listen to something uplifting and go get ‘em. Otherwise, recognize that this can wait a few days and do things that support you in this moment.
3. Invest your money in a savings account.
We hear it. Inflation is on the rise, we can’t seem to pay for groceries and gas and our debt is consuming us. We stress about how to pay for an emergency and it all seems hopeless. Globally, life is hard, but if you look at your finances from a miniscule scale, every little bit can help. There are banks and apps out there which round up every dollar you spend and puts that change into an account that can grow.
While 20 cents here and there may not seem like a lot, you are doing something to gain some level of control in taking care of yourself. Savings rates are reported to be the highest they have been in a long time so over time your pocket change can turn into real dollars. Bank services like Acorn, Chime and even Bank of America can round up your change and invest for you.
Consider the investment in your finances as one of the greatest forms of self-care out there. PS. This is not an endorsement for any product. Do your homework and figure out what works for you.
4. Meal prep/plan for an entire month.
There is nothing worse than running around doing this and that and it gets late and you’re stressing about because you have to figure out what’s for dinner. You then decide on fast food and spend $50 on a family meal of burgers, soggy French fries and soda. It’s cheap, it's tasty and it's unhealthy but it’s convenient and it eliminates your stress.
Ease of dinner could technically be considered self-care but if the next day you find yourself cursing the choice to do that, the answer may be to meal plan.
Imagine you knew what you were going to eat for a month straight? How much better could you plan you grocery trips? How much stress would be eliminated because you’re not guessing every single day about what to eat?
Let’s be real and recognize that sometimes we like fast food and sometimes we don’t want to eat what’s in the freezer or fridge, but you begin to reduce the stress of daily decision making.
Meal planning can be knowing that every Tuesday is tacos and every Friday is pizza. Meal planning can be buying premade meals at the store and freezing them. Meal planning can be making big batches of meat sauce that can be divided up and pulled out and microwaved. The point is, you take care of yourself by not putting yourself in a position to have to think or make decisions everyday. You have enough to worry about.
5. Hit something.
You ever notice how when you hit something, sometimes you feel better. I’m talking about hitting a punching bag, taking a baseball bat and hitting the ground with it, or throwing something and hearing it land?
I am not a proponent of violence, but I am a proponent of acknowledging our anger. Anger gets a bad rap because we often hurt other people with it. But anger is an emotion, just like sadness and joy is. It deserves to be expressed but it should be done in ways that are healthy. Sometimes you don’t even need to act out on it. Just acknowledging that you are angry can be enough.
Stay tuned for next week for Part II. Subscribe to find out when the new post gets posted.
My name is Eddie and I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress. I provide online counseling throughout the state of NJ and specifically in Mercer and Burlington County, NJ (Bordentown, Chesterfield, Robbinsville, Hamilton and Princeton). Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.