Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care
Hey Food Lifers! I’m back from a three-week hiatus, and I am filled with vim and vigour. Starting a new job in critical care (my front hustle), taking on new responsibilities, working many extra hours, all while trying to maintain and grow The Food Life, left me feeling completely and utterly burned out. Instead of fighting it through gritted teeth, and likely producing some sub-par work in the process, I took a break. I let some things slide. I didn’t fold my laundry. I left some dishes in the sink. I actually did some of the activities on my mental “Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care” list.
Giving yourself a break, whether it be with work, personal life, or physical activity, is just as important as working hard. Yes, we need to put effort in to reach our goals and see great results, but the continual pushing, striving, and reaching doesn’t leave room for the rest and repair that is required to grow.
I love that self-care is becoming part of the conversation, particularly for women. I was raised to put others needs before my own, to not raise a fuss, to put in the effort to please others no matter what. And guess what? It’s helped me to be seen as a “nice person”. But at times it’s also left me feeling unsatisfied, unheard, and - I’ll say it – unhinged. Over the years I have learned to put myself first. In 2015, my sole new year’s resolution was to say “No” whenever I felt like it. And through my experiences, as well as with this new dialogue on self-care (thanks Instagram!), I’ve learned a lot about what self-care activities works for me. I’ve narrowed it down to ten ways to practice self-care, and here they are (in no particular order):
Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care
1. Read a really, really good book. You know the kind where you get completely absorbed in the story, and you read, and read, and read, until three hours have passed without your knowledge, and you realize you really have to pee? That is my kind of self-care. My most recent really, really good books are:
The Woman in The Window by A.J. Finn
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright
Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes
2. Do a face mask. I just love the results. Repeat weekly.
3. Paint your nails. I do my own nails, and I make a ritual of it. In the evening, I brush (and floss) my teeth, wash off my make up, and put on my favourite pyjamas. I put on a favourite show, like The Mindy Project, or Gilmore Girls, and I carefully paint my nails. Because they take a while to dry, and there’s nothing worse than a smudged manicure, I am forced to do nothing for at least 20 minutes. Current nail colour = NAILS INC. Mayfair Mansion Mews.
4. Organize your closet. Marie Kondo is on to something. I love re-discovering old favourites, and seeing all my cashmere sweaters perfectly folded in neat rows.
5. Go to bed early. No need to rush here. I put away my phone/iPad/laptop, put on some comfy PJs, and slide on into bed. I let my mind unwind by reading a really, really good book (see #1), or listening to a non-work-related podcast (I like Zura Health, Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin?, or The Expanded Podcast).
6. Go for a meandering walk. The French call it “flaneur”, meaning “to wander aimlessly”. Find a great path, and walk. It’s not about reaching your step goal, or maintaining a pace, or getting to a destination. It’s about the walk. Look around. Check stuff out. Stop and smell the flowers, or frolic in the snow. Feel the air go in and out of your lungs.
7. Meditate. Speaking of breathing, meditating is a great way to practice self-care. There is a huge body of evidence showing its effectiveness at managing stress and maintaining good mental health. Meditation is basically sitting quietly and observing where you are in the present moment. If you’re unsure where to start, or are new to meditation, I recommend checking out the (free) Headspace app.
8. Laugh with a friend. Call up that friend or family member that just gets you, and let the good times roll. Reminisce about that funny thing that happened, or just get silly. Let your laughter ring long and loud.
9. Do something creative. I personally love writing, so I find journaling or writing a short story to be extremely relaxing. For you, it might be singing, or painting, or making a collage. Scrapbooking, knitting, and doodling count too. Leave your judgement behind, because this isn’t about creating something good, it’s about leaving the world behind and letting your creative side out.
10. Cook or bake something you really love. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be delicious.
I do acknowledge that this list does come from a place of privilege. I have a safe place to live, enough food to eat, and enough money to pay for my face masks. But I do hope that my list of ten ways to practice self-care makes you think about your own practice, and maybe even gives you a few ideas. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bake brownies.