When I tell people everything I’ve been through in the last two years, they usually ask how I’m still standing. Some days I can’t believe it myself. But when I reflect on how I have gotten through it all, it turns out that it’s not that complicated: I took care of myself.
In my work, everyday I talk to people about budgeting time and money for self-care. I watch people work themselves to death until they retire only to know nothing about themselves when work no longer defines them. Or moms who put every single ounce of themselves into their children and feel completely lost and alone when their kids become more independent. Marriages fall apart everyday because the couples put everything into each other and nothing into themselves. We can’t pour from an empty cup. We have to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of anyone else.
Self-care is such foreign and new concept, especially in the Midwest. We tough it out and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and, as my mother likes to say, put on our big girl panties. It took some serious trauma for me to walk away from those stereotypes and belief systems and start to allow myself the time, care, and attention I needed to heal. But I discovered that if I didn’t allow myself that time, I was incapable of being a good friend, coworker, or mom.
Self-care looks different for everyone. What feels right to me isn’t going to work for someone else. The goals are the same, though: self-care activities should calm and center us, improve our self-esteem and overall mental health, and allow us time to reflect and heal.
You don’t have to spend gobs of time and money to do that, though. Here are some quick and budget-friendly self-care ideas that anyone can do:
- Go for a walk in the woods. I won’t go into all the research that shows the positive impact that nature has on our mental health. Just do it.
- Meditate. This isn’t my thing personally, but I know a lot of people who do it and love it.
- Read a book. Get lost in some fiction for a while. Or maybe read something motivational (I loved You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero).
- Play with makeup. While everyone else was learning how to make sourdough bread during quarantine, I was watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. I dove into everything beauty and I LOVE it!
- Have a dance party. Sing it loud! Let it all out! Have kids? Invite them along. This is a really good opportunity to teach them all about what we were dancing to in the clubs in our 20s. (My kids love the part where “Shorty got low, low, low, low.” Especially when we’re in public.)
- Take a bath. Get some bath bombs and candles, lock that bathroom door, and soak.
- Talk to your best friend on the phone. This is another thing I started to do during quarantine. I called my people to hear their voices and tell them I love them. Even if it was just a quick phone call, it brought me great joy. I know it made them happy, too.
If you have some money to spend, treat yo’self. Here are my favorite things to do:
- Get a mani/pedi. I had no idea how much time I spent worrying about how bad my nails looked. I chewed them and my cuticles and they looked very unhealthy. My confidence has improved so much because my hands look good all the time now.
- Get a massage. We need positive touch from other human beings. When we have children climbing on us all day and not a lot of time with partners or friends, we’re really missing that important touch. Massages are so good for so many reasons.
- Travel. Go somewhere that makes you happy with someone who makes you happy. Or alone. The important thing is to get away from real life for a little bit.
- Get a facial. Learn how to take care of your skin. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself. I have a very simple skincare routine but it helps me start and end my day feeling refreshed.
- Go shopping! Find yourself clothes that make YOU feel good! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or whether this is going to fit into your capsule wardrobe. I have found that having a couple pieces that make me feel sexy or powerful or confident is all I need to dress for success, no matter what my day looks like.
Whatever you decide to do, though, make sure that during that time, you are focusing on YOU and YOUR needs and everyone around you knows that this is YOUR time. And DO IT! Put it on the calendar. Set a reminder. Whatever it is you need to do, YOU NEED TO DO IT. We need it so much. Budget your time and your money so that you are able to meet your needs, which in turn makes it possible to meet the needs of those around you.