Self-care means looking after one’s physical and psychological state. It’s a dry definition for a beautiful thought – that of taking care of yourself. I don’t know about you, but my self-care is often limited to cutting my nails on the drive to school, and carrying a pair of tweezers for those errant hairs that seem to sprout fully formed from my chin without warning (a disturbing thing that happens in your 40s that no one seems to talk about). Everyone else usually comes first.
And most of the time we can cope with this. However, sometimes, no matter how much we work on our habits and our environment (as I talked about the other week in 7 everyday tips), things happen that are beyond our control. As a teacher, this might be a particularly challenging child, an out of the blue critical email from a parent, or yet another outrageous demand on your time. Now your day comes falling down around your ears. This is when self-care really comes into its own. If you’re having a stressful day, try one, two or all of these tips, and see if you can turn it into a positive one.
1. Ask for what you need from your partner.
Okay, talking to your partner seems not very self, but it’s fundamental to what comes next. Firstly, when you are stressed it’s easy to lash out at your beloved for not reading your mind and knowing that he needs to cook dinner so that you can do any of the below. By telling him that you’re feeling overwhelmed and you need help, you give him the chance to step up. It is very rare in a relationship that both people are at the point where they feel like they really can’t go on at the same time. He does this for you, and you know when the time comes, you will do it for him. That’s what partnerships are about. In addition, sometimes you just need a good hug or to be told everything will be alright. I have even told my husband what I want him to say (things like- “Just tell me I can work this out”). Asking for what you need is brave because it requires you to be honest and therefore vulnerable. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
2. Circle the wagons.
This is another family saying for when things have been tough and we just want to pull in together and shut out the rest of the world. Pull the curtains, dim the lights, pop on the heater (if it’s cold of course) and snuggle on the couch, clad in the comfy clothes you wouldn’t step out the door in. Don’t get on any form of social media- the idea is to remove yourself from the rest of humanity and take comfort in your own little cocoon. If time permits, this is the ideal scenario for binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy.
3. Nourish all your senses.
If you haven’t already, put on those comfy clothes. Then burn some essential oils. Anything in the citrus family never fails to pick me up. Lavender and rose are also lovely (see here for some other oils specifically for anxiety).
Light a fire (a gas fire also works), or if that’s not possible, a candle. The sight of a flame flickering never fails to calm me. In fact, staring at flames has been shown to reduce our blood pressure. Make yourself a nice cup of tea, and listen to some music, or a guided meditation on either You Tube or a podcast (I can recommend Meditation Oasis ).
4. Celebrate the wins.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a gratitude journal. But a win journal takes it to the next level. I don’t know about you, but something about a gratitude journal can at times be a little passive (I’m grateful I have a roof over my head, that I have my health and so on). A win journal ties what you write down to your own achievements and subsequently makes you feel more proactive about your life. I have a planner, and on the page which has a month overview, I write down one or two wins for the day. They can be small (for example, yesterday I finally cleared a pile of papers that had been on the bench for some time), or large (running a half marathon), but there is something super satisfying in reading over your month and seeing all the things you have achieved.
5. Make yourself laugh
You tube is made for stress relief, as there can’t be much that a funny cat video can’t cure. A plethora can be found by searching simply for (oddly enough) funny cat videos. I also find these Never say no to Panda advertisements hilarious. Or if you’re a fan of Jewel and want to feel all warm and fuzzy about human nature, check out this oldie but goodie from 2010.
6. Do something you’ve been denying yourself.
Read a magazine, make a phone call to a friend, take a long bath – any of those things you often fantasise about but don’t do because you feel like you don’t have time- well if not now, when? Take advantage of online shopping, but so you don’t get in the habit of spending money to cheer yourself up, put the items in the cart but don’t purchase them until the next day. Browse the internet and research a holiday destination, telling yourself that even if your job sucks, having it means you have the money to go on a great vacation.
So if you’ve had a terrible day, hopefully, one or two tips from here might be just what you need to help you feel human at the end of it. And if you can’t help thinking about what happened, remind yourself- will it matter a day from now? A week from now? A month from now? A year from now? Heck, even five years from now? Life is short, and perspective is a fine thing to cultivate. Take care of yourself out there.