Take the time to go inside and discover what you need to feel your best self
You are going through your daily routine of working, going to school, taking care of loved ones, home, and trying your best to navigate the various roles in your life that test your patience and peace. No one wishes to not engage in self-care, it just kind of happens. We get caught up in living to survive, stealing moments of joy and happiness that seem to give us a boost of energy to continue our lives. At the end of the day, when you have time and space to get rest, you ponder about what have you done for yourself today or you reflect on those weekend plans, future vacation, etc. that you hold on to for dear life in your mind waiting for the opportunity to rejuvenate.
Taking care of yourself does not mean that you are being selfish. If we don’t create the time and space for self-care, we end up feeling depleted, holding resentment towards people that love us most, or not having the time and capacity to dream and envision how to live our lives with purpose. If this resonates with you, here are some creative suggestions about how to be intentional in creating self-care.
1. Plan A Solo Special Day or Vacation That Is Outside Your Comfort Level
The push back on this suggestion often comes up in my therapeutic work. I totally get it. It is ingrained in our DNA to desire to spend time with others and join with others on an emotional and mental level. However, spending time with oneself can be the key to understanding what your hopes, dreams, and desires in life. I often ask clients to consider setting up a day or vacation that they would ordinarily never try solo. For example, having a day that is simply a “go with the flow day to see where your time takes you” is often a good start to getting to the setting up a date for yourself or vacation level of planning for self-care. Even strategizing about how to execute this experience often allows you to examine your self-awareness, self-esteem, and attachments that we may need to work on to overcome any anxiety or fear around leaning into discomfort to execute this level of planning. If one is able to challenge themselves to engage in a new experience beyond their norm, the things that you can learn about yourself can be truly insightful and revealing.
Often in mental health we discuss the need to be more self-aware of our thoughts and feelings. Within this context, I find that we can learn more about self-awareness within ourselves when we take the time to notice the small things in life that bring us joy each day. Even noticing or observing someone’s struggle, especially if we decide to join in and help to assist them or uplift them during our day, can cause us as human beings to really take stock of things we are thankful for in our lives. Some examples of noticing small things in life that can lead to other small revelations are seeing two birds fly/play with each other in the sky, noticing the child on the bus or train laugh with combustible laughter, or seeing the joy that someone has sipping that cup of coffee or eating that morning sweet treat on the way to work. All of these moments can help us to get in a mindset of gratefulness and embracing optimism for our day.
3. Evaluating Our Go- To Coping Mechanism
We all have ways that we cope with life. For example, my clients who are open about living with addiction, often discuss the stigmas of living openly with addiction is that people in their life often remind them of their addiction and their triggers as a way to help them, but this help or insight is often not asked for by my client.
I have found in my work that we all have something that we turn to make us feel better and numb the pain. Escaping in television, shopping, traveling, watching pornography, eating, or even not being comfortable with being alone and surrounding yourself with others to validate yourself. None of these things in and out of themselves alone are bad unless they interrupt or life and daily general functions to a large degree. However, I challenge myself as well as my clients to think about if the way that we cope with life actually deepens the quality of our life or simply fills a void to “makes us feel better”. As a mentor once said to me….”The word uncomfortable has the word comfort within it…You can find something there to bring you peace if you are truly willing to look for it.”
4. Saying No
Creating boundaries are difficult. It is not easy to say no, create space and time for yourself and others that you love, as well as to balance our daily obligations with our financial commitments. In my work with communities of color and ethnic cultural groups where the family dynamic is an integral part of their life, saying no to family or creating a space that is separate from the family unit can cause feelings of guilt, shame, and selfishness that conflict with how one perceives the meaning of being a part of a family. Finding a balance is indeed delicate. However, I challenge my clients to realize that if they are not able to take care of their selves, the other members of their family or even their partner(s) needs will not be taken care of as well. Often times I find in my therapeutic work that we don’t validate our needs, wants, and desires, because we fear that they will not be met, or we are not sure if we are “asking for too much”. What is ironic about this thought process is that often people are asking too much of us. Nevertheless, we have not had the realization yet that accommodating their needs is too much for us to embrace, because we are constantly in a state of surviving and not thriving. Let’s start to think about how to change that now please.
5. Play and Laughter-
I love talking about play with adults. In my work with children, play is a consistent part of our conversation. The creativity, laughter, and imagination that play entails can be a powerful source of happiness. Developmentally, as we mature, adults may not always see or understand the value of play. Some clients struggle with being intentional in setting time aside for fun activities. For example, play as an adult can look like the following things: 1) Create a Play Box- A play box with items to color or draw, add small comforts or treats for yourself to engage in play-ex. puzzles, Play-Doh, LEGOs, etc. 2) Hang Out With a Youth- You can learn a lot about yourself and play from a youth whose imagination is limitless 3) Scavenger Hunt- This is a fun idea to do with friends or on a date. You can even have your partner or friends create clues for each place that you will discover a new adventure. 4) Have Silly Idea Time- You can do this alone or with others, even at work. Take time to think of the silliest or craziest brainstorm ideas you can think about a situation or something that you wish to do. You will be surprised at what good ideas might be there waiting for you amid your silliness.
Now that you have heard my thoughts about intentional self-care, what are the ways that you engage in self-care? After we take care of ourselves, this allows us take care of the needs of others. I will post a new blog each month. So, stay tuned for more writings, and let me know what topics you are interested in reading. In my next blog post, I will explore how intimacy (physical, mental, and emotional) are all connected to vulnerability. Let’s break down the literal and figurative walls we have built to keep us from being vulnerable.