By Kjersti McDonald
Maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe the world is a mess, but it seems like everybody I know is stressed.
As a staunch feminist (who also happens to work in activism), I personally understand the feeling of caring too much, stretching yourself too thin, and feeling like a ragged, wrung out mess.
This quote from Thomas Merton sums is up gracefully:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
Boy, does this ring true with me. It feels like since Trump got elected, I’ve been going going going, trying to keep up with the ever-dramatic news, the pending policy work, the activism and indignity and resisting, and sometimes, this just wears on me a bit too much.
So! I decided to do a week of self-care. A different method every day, to try out some new ways, and revisit some old ways, that I can take care of my body, mind and soul to make sure I’m not committing violence against myself by trying to care about and fix all the problems in the world all at once.
Here are the seven self-care methods I tried:
- Try a new class, like hot yoga!
When I saw a friend who teaches yoga share a post about a hot yoga class at 4 States Yoga Downtown (Tuesdays at 5:45pm!), I thought, what the heck? I’ll try it. I texted my girlfriends, and one agreed to meet me there, so I wouldn’t even be alone!
It was close to 100 degrees in that studio, and a 75-minute, all-level class that kicked my butt. I got sweat all over my yoga mat, and my new leggings were soaked. But MAN, did the heat clear my mind! Focusing on my practice and breathing and feeling my body detoxing really reset my emotions. I felt great afterwards! I’ll definitely be doing that again.
If you’re looking for a self-care method that changes it up, try a new workout class. I highly recommend hot yoga, but other fun options include: kickboxing, Zumba, swim aerobics, and pole classes.
- Go to the doctor!
Have you been putting off that issue? Have you been postponing starting therapy or getting on some meds you need?
THIS IS NOT SELF-CARE.
I went to my doctor and made the decision to get back on anti-anxiety meds. It’s not easy or fun, but a healthy body AND mind is necessary for us to function and live our best lives. Do yourself a favor, and if you’ve been putting these not-so-fun appointments off, don’t anymore. (Slowly steps off of minor soap box.)
- Have lunch (or coffee, dinner, etc.) with a friend!
On a busy day when I was working and my husband was working and we had plans with his family after work, it felt like I didn’t have a spare minute to practice self-care. So when one of my best girlfriends texted me to see if I wanted to do lunch at The Bruncheonette, I said YES. I bought us both lunch and we spent our lunch breaks catching up on the good and bad and stressful and funny parts of our lives we hadn’t been able to share for a week.
See your friends! Make time to listen and vent and connect. Even if it’s just a short lunch break, take time away from the monotony to feed your friend’s soul, and let them feed yours.
- An at-home spa day (or night).
Duh, right? Wash your hair – maybe even throw a deep conditioning treatment on it! Shave your legs (if that’s your thing). Scrub that old nail polish off you’ve had on since your wedding (what?), and maybe put a fresh coat on. Grab a face mask from your pile of ipsy face masks, or pick one up for a couple bucks at Target or Sephora, and RELAX.
This is one of my favorite, easy methods of self-care that I can do pretty often, if I think about it. It honestly is refreshing to just spoil your body, lay back, and try not to think about all the everyday stressors that keep us from resetting our systems. (If you’re lucky, you may have an awesome significant other like mine who will even give you a foot or back massage.)
- Wake up and do yoga!
OK, so I know I’ve already mentioned yoga once, but seriously – this is one of the most grounding and relaxing activities I know. If you can manage to wake up slightly early and do yoga before starting your day, I PROMISE you won’t regret it. I actually have never regretted doing yoga.
It’s calming. It stretches out the body after lying (or tossing) in bed all night. It can be a great workout or just restorative stretches. And like I mentioned, it’s very grounding and especially helps me manage my anxiety. Doing it before starting the day is a great way to go forward with a clear mind.
If you don’t have experience with yoga, and want to learn in the privacy of your own home, (or even if you need some more structure for your home practice) I HIGHLY recommend downloading the app Down Dog. It’s free for the basic version, and like $8 a month for the premium version. It’s super customizable and has practices for all different levels and preferences. I LOVE it and simply would not be where I’m at with my yoga practice without it.
- Do some cardio.
Don’t roll your eyes. I know cardio is sometimes seen as punishment and not self-care, but hear me out: endorphins. Repetitive motions. Some time to listen to music or a podcast uninterrupted.
I’m definitely not as disciplined as I’d like to be when it comes to doing cardio consistently, but if you are having a day where you just can’t get out of a funk, or your anxiety or stress levels are through the roof, go do cardio. Run. Bike. Swim. I like spending 30-45 minutes on the elliptical. This is another method that I rarely regret afterwards, and we all know the benefits.
- Treat Yo Self!
Now this can be whatever it means to you. A special sweet treat. A shopping trip (with a budget). Getting your hair done, brows waxed, or a facial.
Personally, I decided to go shopping with my mom on a day when I was feeling kind of gloomy and bought a of couple items on sale, then ended up freshening up my hair color and cut a couple days later.
I know this sounds shallow, but allowing ourselves these treats every once in a while (they definitely shouldn’t be daily habits) is a great way to show ourselves a little love and reward ourselves for our hard work on our goals or for getting through a tough week. You are worth a little treat every once in a while, and if you’re feeling a little unloved by YOU, then maybe show yourself a little love.
BONUS: Take a break from social media.
I actually tried to do this a little more throughout the whole week, but especially on the weekend, and opted for picking up a book any time I was bored or tempted to scroll mindlessly. I never took an entire day off, but instead, tried to be more mindful about when I was jumping on Facebook or Instagram and asking myself: is there a purpose for what I’m doing or am I just trying to distract myself? If it was the latter, I locked my screen and either read a book, cleaned the house, or engaged someone around me. I’m going to try harder to implement this consistently because I can tell you I noticed a big difference in my mood and mindset.