I’ve been a different version of myself lately. A version of Kim that is quieter. (I know, it’s crazy.) A version of Kim that has higher stress levels. A version of Kim that doesn’t really feel like how she used to be.
These moods come and go. The stress is crippling some days, other days I barely notice it. It’s hard to know what’s triggering these changes. Growing up, I’ve been told. (Lame.)
To be fair, I’ve had a lot of things in my life change recently. I graduated from college. I started a new job, working mainly from home. I bought my first car. I stressed about insurance for said car. I moved out. I made the decision to go back to counseling. I quit my new job.
In my last post, I talked about the importance of giving yourself space and time to process, something I hadn’t been doing (and the results were messy).
I want to follow up on that concept with the idea of self-care.
No doubt this phrase triggers something for you.
Bubble baths. Chocolate brownies. Nights of Netflix.
The society we live in today is very centered around the individual. I hear “you do you” at least ten times a day. Taking care of yourself is encouraged, praised even.
But how many common “self-care” actions are actually helping us?
I believe in rest. I believe in taking time to break. I believe in the importance of doing nothing. The Lord gave us a Sabbath for a reason.
I see nothing wrong in a half-hour bath or sitting on the patio with a cup of hot cocoa, watching the sunrise. I encourage climbing into bed after a long day and taking a nap or catching up on your favorite show.
But I also believe that self-care shouldn’t be limited to that. Rest has a place. So does productivity. And somewhere between the two, we find what self-care really is.
Washing the dishes can be self-care. It’s a simple task that allows your mind a chance to rest, but is also productive and keeps the kitchen clean.
Haven’t shaved in a few weeks? This can be self-care. Take an extra ten minutes in the shower and do it. No doubt you’ll feel cleaner and better about yourself.
Trim your fingernails. Pluck your eyebrows. Brush your hair. These are simple tasks, but they can help you feel better about yourself and it allows you some control over your life when everything else seems to be spiraling downhill.
Make your bed. Wash the windows. Put your laundry away. Though it may be something you’ve been putting off for a while, once it’s done you can feel the satisfaction of having accomplished something, even if it’s something small.
Like I said, there is nothing wrong with curling up in your favorite blanket and watching Youtube for hours. But when you’re done and you do get back up, there are still things that need to be done. The clothes are still dirty. The sink is still full. The groceries from yesterday are still on the counter. And then you can become overwhelmed again.
My roommate phrases it the best way when she says, “Live to make your future self happy.” (You can check out her thoughts on self-care here.)
If you do the dishes tonight, you don’t have to do them tomorrow! If you go to the laundromat today, you can stay home and watch anime tomorrow! If you finish that assignment tonight, you can go out with friends the next day!
If you know that Wednesday is going to be a long and busy day, take extra time on Tuesday to get everything in place for future you. Set out your clothes the night before. Start the dishwasher so you’ve got clean dishes for breakfast the next day. Pack your backpack before bed so you can simply grab it in the morning on your way out the door.
When we take care of the little stresses in life, like a messy apartment or oily hair, then the big stresses, like tensions at work or conflict in a relationship, don’t hit quite so hard.
I also want to expand and say that self-care also means understanding your own needs and what part of you needs rest.
After a long and stressful day of work or class, I often want to go straight home and spend the rest of the night in bed. But, being an extrovert, I know that in order to feel more like myself, I need to surround myself with people. This could mean going out or having a friend come over to help me make dinner.
Sometimes, self-care can also mean canceling plans or calling into work. Sometimes the only way for you to recharge is to take a break from people and enjoy you.
These needs are different for every person. Pay attention to when you’re feeling certain things. When you’re happiest, what are you doing? Who are you with? That should be the behavior or person you seek out when you’re struggling or need a break.
Self-care isn’t going to fix everything. Plucking your eyebrows isn’t going to raise your psychology grade. Vacuuming the carpet isn’t going to find you a better job.
But it does help us feel like a better version of ourselves. And when we feel better, we perform better. We can accomplish more.
This new version of Kim is still trying to understand her needs and how to do this whole adult thing.
But through self-care and rest, she’s making strides.
I’m making strides.
What are some common self-care actions for you?
How can you shift how you define self-care to bridge the gap between rest and productivity?