The new year allows us to pause and consider what we want to change in our lives. For many women, the need for self-care is a top priority. As women, we are good at taking care of others and forgetting about our own needs.
A quick Google search for "self-care" will produce a host of blogs and articles about anything from bubble baths with candles to the need for alone time to pursue your hobbies and interests. Who doesn't love a little spa treatment and self-indulgence? Yet, a subtle message is often lingering under the guise of self-care. It's the idea of escape.
Many self-care concepts stem from the notion that you need time to escape your current reality; but, the highest form of self-care is not about escaping—it's about creating. Rather than looking for pockets of relief to the stress of your current life, why not set out in 2020 to create the life you want to live?
True Self-Care Requires Changing Perspective
Here's an empowering truth: You are in control of your own life.
I'm not implying that there aren’t circumstances outside of your control. We all face unexpected obstacles, grief, suffering, consequences from other people's actions, stressful responsibilities, and situations that we can't regulate. However, there are choices we have in every situation and we CAN control those. When you change your perspective from "life is happening to me" to "life is happening through me,"—everything changes.
What if everything that happens to you must first pass through a self-care lens that you've set for how you see your life and the world around you? The question then remains, what is that self-care lens?
Self-Care Includes Gratitude
You can choose to be happy, grateful, and fulfilled. If you choose gratitude every single day, regardless of where you are or what's happening, positive results will follow.
Practice identifying the things you are grateful for by tuning into the everyday details of your life and notice the good things you might take for granted. Here are three ways you can immediately start practicing the self-care of gratitude:
1. Each day, reflect on three things that deserve your thankfulness. It's amazing what you notice when you focus on gratitude.
2. Start a gratitude journal. Write down good things each day so you can look back over the year and see how your spirit of thankfulness changed your life for the better.
3. Begin gratitude rituals, like praying before a meal or saying your "three thankfulness things" out loud before you go to bed every night.
It's essential to make space to appreciate the everyday blessings in your life and savor them.
Self-Care Means Saying "No"
In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis says it best:
"You get one and only one chance to live, and life is passing you by. Stop beating yourself up, and…stop letting others do it too. Stop accepting less than you deserve. Stop buying things you can't afford to impress people you don't even really like. Stop eating your feelings instead of working through them. Stop buying your kids' love with food, or toys, or friendship because it's easier than parenting. Stop abusing your body and your mind. Stop! Just get off the never-ending track."
There are probably things in your life that you're doing that you know you need to stop. If you want to create a better future, rather than simply escape for a moment from your current reality, then you're going to need to start saying, "No!"
Saying "no" is hard but necessary. Many women aren't good at saying no, because they want to please everyone. You don't want to lose a friend, make an adult child mad, disappoint a boss, or upset your family. However, most of us have also ended up in places that aren't good for us because we said "yes" when we should have said "no."
In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff talks about quitting something every Thursday. You probably won't be able to stop all your unhealthy patterns at one time, but every Thursday ask yourself, "What am I currently doing that isn't moving me toward becoming a better, healthier, happier version of me?" Then do one thing to make a change. Sometimes making that choice will be harder than other times, but that's true self-care.
Self-Care Also Means Saying "Yes"
Our actions shape our lives, not our words. Maybe this year, you made a New Year's resolution to get healthy. You start strong, but over the first few weeks, your resolve starts to wane. Blowing off a workout, running through the drive-thru, or continuing a toxic relationship even after you've tried to breakup may not seem like a big deal—but they are.
If you are going to say "no" to the unhealthy things in your life, you are going to have to say "yes" to healthy replacements. (And, it doesn't hurt to also have some accountability in place.)
You want to be healthy but, too often, we women associate that word with being thin. Healthy isn't about being a certain size; it's about being a better version of yourself every single day. Healthy self-care looks like taking in proper fuel for your body, mind, and spirit that is positive and encouraging. Get up off the sofa and get out of the fog that you have been living in. See your life for what it is and run in the direction you want your life to go.
Self-Care Is "Running To" Not "Running From"
As you seek self-care in this new year, here are two stories to remind you that creating a better life is about running to something beautiful and not running away from something scary. If you want to reach your goals in 2020, you should know where you're going and why it's vital for you to get there.
Perspective is everything.
The "Running From" Perspective:
Sometimes, life feels like you are running from a pack of hungry wolves. Life is bearing down on you with so much stress and pressure—you have to get out! You begin to run. As hard as you run, the wolves run harder. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweating. "I have to get out!" In time, your legs feel like they can no longer carry you. Then, you trip over a fallen tree in your path. Bloody and wounded, you cry out into the darkness. Is it worth it? Will you ever escape? Eventually, you give up and let the predators have their way.
The "Running To" Perspective:
Now instead, imagine I told you that there is a treasure of great value buried under the Golden Gate Bridge. You are the only one who knows about it and, if you can reach it, it will change your life forever. There's only one rule. You can't get there by plane, train, or automobile. You can only use your feet. The trip will be long and hard, so you find people who can support you along the way and encourage you to keep going. You buy the proper shoes and make sure you have enough water and fuel for your body at each stop. When your feet are blistered, and your muscles ache, you pause long enough to recover and then keep going. Nothing will stop you from getting to the treasure.
So, by all means, take a bubble bath, get a manicure, meet up with your girl squad, and make time for your hobbies. Just be sure you're doing those things for the right reasons. You will never continue your self-care goals if you are trying to escape your current reality. Self-care is about seeing your future as a treasure that makes it worth doing hard stuff every day.