There is this weird stigma when it comes to the idea of self-care. For most people, the very words summon up visions of eating chocolate, taking bubble baths, and indulging in activities seen as vain and selfish. This viewpoint needs to change. What self-care really means is to do the things that are necessary to lead a happy and productive life.
Everyone’s needs are different. Like me, some people have trouble sleeping at night. Some people might suffer from a lack of energy, especially in the afternoons. Some people might fight cravings for junk food and sweets constantly. Some people might suffer from depression which makes it almost impossible to do everyday tasks. My point is, your needs will not look like everyone else’s needs.
What works wonders for one person might actually make your situation worse. Personally, I find my self-care needs become far more time consuming in the winter than in the summer. The moment the days start getting darker, my energy begins to flag, my anxiety increases, and sleep issues become a more persistent problem. The drive to complete all the things on my various to do lists is just not there.
In the clinical world, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). You are literally affected by the change in the seasons. It’s mother nature’s way of getting a final jab in before hibernating for the long winter. She’s still irritated at the invention of the light bulb.
My self-care routine
Part of my winter self care routine this year stems from the tiny midlife crisis that kicked off a few weeks ago when I turned 40. All of the sudden getting in regular exercise and eating my vegetables seemed so much more important. This is the only body I’m going to get, if I’m not maintaining it in such a way that it runs well for me, then I’m setting myself up for a massive breakdown in the future. Something similar happened when I turned 30 and I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life other than be a mom, I would need to start doing it.
Starting in early October, I pull out my happy light and use it in the morning while I’m working at my desk. It helps wake me up and simulates the natural sunlight I would have experienced in the summer and makes my brain generate more serotonin during the day and melatonin at night. I also get far more diligent at taking my vitamins. Currently I take a general multivitamin, calcium citrate, B-complex, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. All of these are necessary in maintaining healthy brain chemicals and aid in better energy production.
I also aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some of it is while watching Netflix and using an elliptical, or if the weather is nice, going out for a walk. On alternating days I turn on Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. If you are looking for a darling down-to-earth yoga practitioner who excels at making yoga accessible to anyone, check her out.
The other two things I do are regular journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me to analyze things that I would like to find solutions to, while meditation helps calm down the brain chatter and helps me focus on the things that are important and need doing. After exercise, these two practices do more to help me counteract daily stress than anything else.
Does this mean everything in my life is perfect right now? No, it really isn’t. But when I’m diligent at keeping up my self-care, my tools to handle problems are kept sharp and well maintained.
What do you do for self-care? I would love to hear about activities and practices you’ve put in place to help you feel better about yourself.