girl, take care of yourself
It’s becoming more acceptable, and even cool, to talk about your mental health and I am loving it. We’ve seen amazing campaigns and initiatives popping up all over the world encouraging people to open up about their feelings and struggles. A shift is happening, but the need for more education and services for millennial women continues to persist. Women are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues and the numbers are pretty shocking. They are 40% more likely to develop mental illness and twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
Ladies, we’ve got to start taking care of ourselves and asking for help. Our lives depend on it.
The self-care movement has been a massive response to the mental health struggles of women. But, I’ve noticed a big trend – self care is becoming really expensive. It’s also becoming an item on our to-do list. Sometimes this item doesn’t get checked off, and then the shame cycle begins.
“I can’t believe I didn’t make it to the gym this week. I am such a failure…I never follow through on anything.”
I know I’ve been this girl. The girl who picks an activity that is supposed to help me and then uses it as a reason to punish myself when I don’t follow through. Ouch, that’s not how this is supposed to work. Self-care is supposed to make us better in the long-term. It’s not supposed to be a quick fix or a punishment.
Somewhere along the way the term “self-care” sold it’s soul to the devil. Now self-care is expensive, it rarely works, and it’s something we use as a measuring stick for success. We’ve been sold a lie that self-care comes in the tube of the latest lipgloss or is at the bottom of a glass of wine. It has become both exclusive and elusive. It’s time to take back self-care.
All that “stuff” we’re buying, it isn’t the real deal. I am all for massages, and facials, and pedicures, and fancy dinners. In fact, I live for that stuff. Sign me up! Sadly, it will only make you feel good temporarily. It won’t make up for everything else in your life. You’ll just end up right back where you started. You’ll end up like Jane.
Meet Jane. She works 60 hours a week and then comes home and eats dinner in front of the TV while scrolling on Instagram. She has had a string of boyfriends who were mean to her. Jane is highly critical of her body and her performance. She rarely tells people no and always feels over-extended. Jane gets a lot of massages and bought some relaxation candles on the internet, but she can’t seem to feel better. Jane won’t feel better if she doesn’t make some changes in her life. She’ll keep buying more candles, and massages, and yoga classes with very little relief.
Can you relate?
Self-care happens in the decisions you make every day. It’s usually cheap or free. It doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it almost always leads to long lasting change. We can’t just care for ourselves when things get bad and hope for a miracle. Real self-care requires practice, commitment, and introspection. It requires putting yourself first and getting in touch with what you really need, not just what you really want.
This is how you really practice real self care.
- First, you have to get in touch with your feelings and actual needs. Most of us reach for all that fake self care as a way to cover up what we’re feeling. I want to encourage you to reach for something that is going to befriend that emotion and nurture it. With practice, this will improve.
- Practice kindness. No feeling is final, even the good ones. You can say some variation of this to yourself: “Ok I am having this feeling. That’s ok. I am allowed to have this feeling.” You don’t react. You don’t judge.
- Ask yourself, “what do I need in this moment?” Again the key word here is need, not want. Really look at the feeling and identify it. You’ll be surprised how a simple check-in with yourself will help you take control of your feelings, rather than them controlling you. This also helps eliminate that whole auto-pilot sensation that happens when we become flooded by emotion and are searching for comfort.
Some self-care guidelines to follow
- Drinking or using substances is not self-care. The research shows us that we cannot selectively numb emotions. If you numb the negative ones, you will numb the positive. If you are really struggling with a particularly difficult or strong emotion – drugs ain’t gonna cut it. Sorry.
- Self-care has to happen regularly. As in every day. Not just when you hit a breaking point.
- Ask yourself what you need and respect that need.
- Self-care is not a to-do list item. It is a necessary survival skill, like drinking water and eating food.
- There is no one type of self care that works for every person or every situation. The things I use change constantly.
Free Self Care Ideas
- Set boundaries in your personal and professional life
- Drink water and eat food that fuels your body
- Turn off your phone when you go to bed
- Spend time with people you love
- Get outside every day
- Pet a dog or cat
- Speak to yourself kindly
- Tell someone you love them
- Practice meditation
- Log off social media for the day, the week, the year, or forever
- Organize some part of your home
- Practice forgiveness (of yourself and others)
- Cry or laugh
- Unfollow people on social media
- Move your body
These tips are simple, but they have to be done continuously. If you wait until you’re at a breaking point, cleaning your room and petting your dog won’t work fast enough. This may lead you back to ineffective coping skills that provide you with quicker relief in the moment. The first step towards real self care is believing you deserve it. Every single day. Not as a treat, not as a reward. But just because you are a human that needs it to live and thrive.
Hi, I’m Whitney Goodman, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist – and I love a challenge.
Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, I get the same reaction, “Wow, that must be hard.” I always meet this with the same response and a big smile, “I love it.”
Seriously though, watching couples and individuals transform their lives is my passion. I live to help high-conflict couples and struggling individuals transform their lives. The power of therapy really is incredible.