Practicing Self-Care this Valentine’s Day
Go ahead and indulge. I promise you, it’s not selfish!
Posted Feb 09, 2017
The national day of hearts, romance, and roses has always been a favorite of mine. Despite experiencing singledom for most of my Valentine’s Days while on this planet, the idea of universal love and emanating these positive feelings for a day has always filled my heart. In actuality, I wish it were Valentine’s Day every day!
However, too often as we focus on loved ones, friends and family, we are quick to dismiss the importance of showering this love right back onto ourselves. We are so busy in modern times and now distracted with our devices that rarely do we take a moment to step back and assess what our needs are.
In Ashley Davis Bush’s artfully written, Simple Self-Care for Therapists, she writes that too often we are quick to feel selfish or guilty for taking time to take care of ourselves. However, when we neglect this critical task, we also risk depleting ourselves, essentially running on empty. The more burnt out we are, the worse our interactions with our loved ones, our work, and in the end, we suffer.
One of the greatest impediments to self-care naturally is time. While we often think that things like engaging in hobbies or exercise is simply too time-consuming (or expensive), it is about learning how to weave these practices into our every day on the micro and macro level.
Many of us are familiar with the macro level. We may (or may not!) take vacations once a year, we might get the occasional massage or do an annual spa treatment. We may consider prioritizing our sleep, our diet and exercise. In fact, some may consider the sheer act of doing well on these domains as self-care enough. While it’s a good start, it’s also about the micro practices.
The inclusion of micro self-care practices is critical. Think about it. What do you do in a given day? Perhaps get up to a blaring alarm (semi-traumatic), stumble through the house, deal with mini-crises induced by missing shoes, spilled juice and any other host of things. Then you get on the road (the bane of my existence) and deal with aggressive drivers, traffic and general misery. NOW, you are just starting your day. You haven’t even checked email yet and the stress response is already high. Micro self-care practices help to combat just this. They begin at the start of the day and go all the way to the end.
Think about your best mornings. What have they looked like? Perhaps you woke up a half hour early. Maybe even ten minutes. It may have been just long enough to have you up before the noise of the rest of the house. You might have read a few pages of the newspaper, had a cup of coffee, or just sat by the fireplace and aimlessly stared off into space. Whatever it was, it was a brief, sacred moment just for you.
What about the work day? What are the simple things that make the unpleasant more enjoyable? Maybe it is soft background music, perhaps you dim the lights. I love turning my fountain on in my office every day when I get inside. Micro self-care also encourages you to tune into the transitional moments that we all have in our workdays. For therapists, the transition is between clients. For others it may be between customers or a break period. What do you do with that short amount of time to really make it worth your while? Meditation apps? Read a few short pages from a favorite book? Knitting? I’ve seen folks do all of them in past work settings. All I had to do was circle our counseling center once around the lunch hour and I saw all sorts of lovely self-care taking place.
Lunchtime is also an important part of the ritual of self-care. As much as I love the convenience of eating out, there is something about a nutritious meal you have made with love for yourself that simply can’t compete with the Freshii bowl. Depending on the length of the lunch hour you might take a power nap, or connect on the phone with a loved one. Again, these activities can and will look different for various folks. What might be relaxing to one person is a nightmare to someone else.
One of my favorite simple ideas from Bush’s guide is the afternoon beverage ritual. While our society has essentially shamed us out of a Starbucks habit due to excess sugars and chemicals, Bush encourages us to savor our afternoon treat. No, she is not encouraging the Frappuccino with double whip. But she allows you to indulge. I used to have a small piece of dark chocolate with tea every afternoon that somehow in the busyness of life got completely neglected. So often in an attempt to be “healthy” we end up depriving ourselves of the small things that can bring us so much joy.
Finally, the end of the day is critical in rejuvenating us. Safely in the haven of home, the choices we make here are also deeply impactful. Do we lounge in front of the tv for 3 hours, or do we go for a walk around the block? Is dinner fast food or nutritious? Do we stay up late and repeat the cycle of exhaustion, or prepare ourselves for an energizing day ahead?
Perhaps put most simply, self-care is about choosing joy. It’s about not feeling guilty or badly, but knowing it is essential to our vivacity. Self-care is every day but also requires planning. Maybe you decide you finally need to make weekly yoga a habit. Or you sign up for the massage package. But you also fill your work drawer with your knitting needles, aromatherapy scents, and puzzles. However you do it, give it some serious consideration. It’s not just you that benefits. It’s your loved ones, family, coworkers, and if I dare say it, the world at large. Happy Valentine’s Day!
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Bush, A.D. (2015). Simple Self-Care for Therapists: Restorative Practices to Weave Through Your Workday. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.