Getting crushed at work? Busy schedule? Stressed out from the kids? Struggling to get your workouts in and stay focused on eating better? Watching the news a little too much and haunted by a perpetual feeling of existential dread?
As humans, we tend to focus on things that aren’t going so well or even worse burying those feelings in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. We try to “fix” those feelings of being tired, bored, lonely, angry, frustrated, and stuck by coping with food, booze, and other temporary distractions.
I mean, those things are pleasurable and help us feel good. In the moment.
I’m not saying snacks, alcohol, or TV are ‘bad’. I love Netflix and chill as much as the next person. The problem, however, is when these are the only things we have to soothe ourselves in our toolbox. We begin to overuse these coping strategies perpetuating the cycle.
WHAT DO WE NEED?
After coaching in the fitness and nutrition industry for the last decade one thing I’ve noticed one thing we all need to focus more on is self-care. Most of us actually give ourselves very little of it.
But here’s the thing… you fucking matter.
And since you matter I want to give you a gift. That gift is simply permission to engage in self-care more frequently. Daily, in fact.
Self-care is the thing we often need when we’re looking to (snacks/booze/distractions) but don’t realize it.
Feeling bored, stressed or under-stimulated? Lean into those feelings to discover what is actually needed and do something based on your values.
SELF-CARE IS ABOUT MORE THAN BUBBLE BATHS
I recently posted in our private Facebook group asking our Members what they do for self-care strategies. Here are the most common responses:
Take a bubble bath (and listen to soft music)
Light candles and relax
Get a mani/pedi
Get a massage
Take a yoga class
Most people have this glamorous image of self-care being only about scented candles, mani-pedis, and bubble baths. Beyond that we believe we need to go on an exotic beach vacation or have an expensive trip to a day spa to come back feeling refreshed.
The truth is that self-care is about much more than pleasure. Not only that but it doesn’t have to take lots of time and money.
Pleasure-filled experiences are nice but most of us aren’t living on our mega yachts sipping champagne when we thirstay.
Seeing self-care solely through that lens just isn’t practical all the time and limits us to the fact that we need more than just relaxation.
We also need skill-based self-care (hobbies, etc) and just ‘take care of our own shit’-type self-care. These are often the missing pieces we actually need to address all the feels.
WHEN AND HOW
To be more intentional and deliberate with your self-care it might help to know when and how to use each type.
1. RELAXATION: The one we’re most familiar with, relaxation, is best used at the end of a long stressful, exhausting, or emotional period. That can simply be at the end of a 12hr workday, challenging day with the kids, or at the end of your busy time at work.
At the end of a long day it might make sense to take that bubble bath or read a book where as taking a kickass vacation at the end of your busy season could be necessary.
Other strategies might include:
Taking a walk
Getting a massage
Going to a movie
Going out to a nice restaurant
Cuddling/making out/having sex
Sitting by a campfire
2. HOBBIES: The second bucket falls under having a hobby or two that provides you with another meaningful outlet. If you have a gap in your day or there’s still energy left in your batteries at the end of the day it might make sense to do something you enjoy.
Having a skills-based hobby is shown to do things like improve your self-efficacy, improve performance in other areas of your life like work and relationships, improve your physical health, and reduce stress. SOLD!
You could try things like:
Playing an instrument
Writing (blogging, poetry, fiction, etc)
Crafting (knitting, woodworking, painting, etc)
Martial Arts (Jiu Jitsu, Tai Chi, etc)
3. LIFE STUFF: This is also what I refer to as ‘take care of our own shit’-type self-care which is perhaps the most important bucket. This is essentially taking care of your ‘self’ which interestingly is what some people forget to do.
We skip workouts, forget to eat, put off having difficult conversations, and procrastinate on doing important things like going to the doctor. These self-care items are all important AF.
Take time to include some of these things:
Set healthy boundaries for your self and your relationships
Go to bed on time
Go food shopping for the week
Plan for the future (this is hard for some)
Clean your house/closet/files/inbox
Have difficult conversations
Conversely, make time to call those you love
Reflect (gratitude, what you’re learning, growth, etc)
It’s important to note that the goal isn’t perfection. It’s just recognizing when you actually want to have a snack or other distraction and when you might just need more self-care in your life. It’s the ability to know the difference and choose.
First, if you’ve read this far, take this moment to identify where you could use a little more self-care in your life.
Second, grab a pen and paper and make a list of a few things from each bucket you could use to enhance your happiness.
Bonus: If you want to dig a little deeper, take a moment to consider the things you might be using to distract yourself from unwanted feelings (food/booze/TV/etc). Next, write down when those are the hardest to control AND what self-care item you could use instead.
You. Are. Worth. It.
PS Want to upgrade your self-care AND come give First Guess Fitness a try?
Claim a spot in our two week Fitness Reboot HERE