If you are a rule follower, then I suggest you stop reading right now.
The parts of you that are primed to comply with the norm will get super itchy.
Unless, of course, you are interested in creating some new rules for yourself instead of going round and round on the conveyor belt of hustle culture.
You know exactly what I am talking about.
The endless battle of feeling irritable, exhausted, and just holding on for the next break or moment to breathe. Maybe you are depressed, anxious, and even start to pathologize yourself when in reality you are having a completely normal response to the overflowing plate of routines, expectations, unfulfilling relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
When I start to work with a therapy client, before I start thinking of a mental health diagnosis, I assess if indeed they are surrounded by jerky people and ridiculous situations.
So, let's rebel.
I am not saying to throw everything and everyone out the window.
(Because even then, you would still need to contend with yourself.)
What I am saying is, we can break the rules society that commands us to "level-up" and "365/7/24" in order to feel peace, belonging, success, and joy.
We can do this by fiercely owning the way we take care of ourselves.
We can do this by zooming in on our day-to-day routines and transitions and making reasonable (and sometimes radical) changes to make space for ourselves.
If you have experienced trauma in your life (spoiler alert: we all have in some way, shape, or form) then your nervous system may also be primed to exist in fight/flee/freeze/or fawn mode. This can result in day-to-day routines that feel extremely hectic or rushed and/or having difficulty with initiating tasks and setting boundaries. The outside world itself may not change, but the way you experience it within yourself can. If the concept of self-care feels foreign, then I highly encourage you to press on with your curiosity. Sometimes, freedom is born out of leaning into resistance.
“My life is not this steeply sloping hour, in which you see me hurrying.
Much stands behind me; I stand before it like a tree; I am only one of my many mouths, and at that, the one that will be still the soonest. "
― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
3 More Ways to Take Care of Yourself During Transitions
1) All Work and No Play Wreaks Havoc on Your Mental Health
When we have a lot of responsibility it can feel frivolous to prioritize having fun or making room for activities that don't check off any to-do lists or result in a felt sense of productivity. This happens when people, places, and things become the puppet masters of our lives and our inner child gets lost in the background. If the idea of finding and taking care of your inner child makes your eyes roll, my hope for you is that there will come a time where you are open to this because it is a game changer.
On a cool trauma-therapist nerd note, when we feel playful, that means our nervous system is not in survival mode (fight, flee, freeze, or fawn). Operating on survival mode for a long time is a direct path to burn out, clinical depression or anxiety, sleep problems, addictions, and a whole host of medical issues.
For example, if you are being chased by a bear, which would require your nervous system to kick up into survival mode, there is no way that you would stop in the middle of running or trying to fight it to start jumping rope or play a game of Boggle. Conversely, engaging in activities that are playful and fun send the message to your brain and body that you indeed are not being chased by a bear (or reliving a past trauma) and the nervous system can relax a bit. So, the truth is, that making room for play is actually one of the most productive and helpful forms of self-care.
What could this look like though? It could look like driving with your windows down and singing, listening to a funny podcast, making a ketchup smile on your plate, jumping in rain puddles, going roller skating or creating a giant slip and slide. It could mean visiting an amusement park, creating art, or having a dinner date with a friend where you wear mysterious wigs and funky clothing and create characters for one another. Perhaps you take an adult hip hop or Broadway Jazz dance class (even though you are not a great dancer) because as a child you loved to dance. (Pssst...It me. This is me. There will also be a recital:)
Think about what you loved to do before the world started to feel so serious. Before there was comparison or the pressure to perform. Do more of that.
2) Use Your Senses (Common and Sensory)
This is a two for one! Self-care during your day-to-day transitions requires our common sense to understand and honor our limits. Be mindful of causing more stress in your life by placing too much pressure on yourself to do "all the self-care things."
The antithesis of self-care is shaming and blaming ourselves when we haven't taken good care of ourselves.
There are going to be days when your self-care is on point and others when it feels like an afterthought. The important part is to use common sense about what is going to work best for your life and circumstances. Waking up at 4am to meditate or workout may work well for one person, but would be detrimental for another.
Self-care can also be supported by bringing in elements of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. This is known as sensory modulation and something I use in my daily life as well as my clinical work as a therapist and as a workshop and retreat leader.
Self-Care Tips Using the 5 Senses
Take a few deep breaths while looking at a favorite photo or a beautiful landscape
Practice mindfulness by bringing your attention to a piece of art, something in nature, or whatever attracts your eye and notice all of the small details. Notice what you especially enjoy about what you see.
Borrow a page from Color Psychology and purposefully look at colors that evoke the emotions you are seeking. For instance, wearing something yellow can help boost optimism and happiness. Purple can stimulate creativity and wisdom.
I will never ever stop spreading the word that a solid playlist is capable of changing a mood and/or amplifying a feeling to allow you to have a cathartic release. Got a big presentation on Monday? Create a pump up playlist to listen to that morning to get you in the right headspace. Going through a heartbreak? Create a sad playlist and then a rage one that allows you to move through the loss in an expressive way so all that pain doesn't get stored in your body.
Listening to binaural beats or theta waves is proven to help support our nervous systems. Give yourself a few minutes before, during, and after transitions to help center yourself.
The part of our brains that allow us to smell, our olfactory system, impact our limbic system, which is connected to stress and emotions. Diffusing essential oils, using a small roller-ball applicator for essential oils, burning incense or a candle, using delicious smelling shampoo or soap, or having a fragrant plant are all ways to access self-care. (Please use caution with essential oils as some are not good for children, pets, or even yourself depending on your medical status).
Get and give long hugs from people you love and trust. At least 20 seconds, to be exact. Research shows us that physical touch and long hugs releases hormones like oxytocin, which reduces stress, improves our immune system, and supports vagal tone. The world doesn't need to move so fast that you can't slow down for a really good, solid hug.
Take care of yourself throughout the day by slowing down enough to enjoy different textures of clothing, blankets, or other things that feel good when you touch them. I am a huge fan of faux-fur and weighted blankets, which I have at both my home and office. When my days are particularly busy, it feels like this part of my self-care is automated in the background because these things keep me centered.
Have a favorite lotion on your workspace and give yourself a short hand massage as a form of simple yet effective self care.
I won't write an article on self-care without talking back to diet culture. If you have ever craved a specific food but then told yourself "I can't or shouldn't have this" (excluding medical reasons) then diet culture is sabotaging your commitment to self-care. Allowing yourself to enjoy a variety of foods and learning about intuitive eating is a cornerstone of self-care and mental health.
Small acts of self-care like adding lemon, mint, or cucumber to your water can make ordinary hydration feel a little more fancy.
Slowing down and limiting distractions during meal times allows us to really taste the food we are eating. This doesn't mean you need to take a full hour for lunch every day (although, this is really ideal, not always realistic) but starting to savor your food and notice the different tastes is a great start. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder and not ready for this yet, my hope is that you will not give up on yourself and arrive to place of truly enjoying food.
3) Protect Your Energetic Boundaries
Energetic boundaries allow us to stay connected to ourselves in times of stress and when in relationship with others. They allow us to not take in other people's "stuff" while also remaining empathetic and compassionate. These boundaries, when in place, prevent us from being drained, irritable, and overly exhausted. If you have ever felt pretty good overall, then had an interaction with someone or walked into a room and left feeling very different, this could be an indicator that you absorbed energy that was not yours to begin with.
One way to mic-check your energetic boundaries is to ask yourself, "Is what I am feeling right now mine or someone else's?"
Tips for Energetic Boundary Self-Care
Use visualization to imagine a fence or bubble around you
Wear an article of clothing or accessory when at work or with other people and when that interaction is over, remove it to symbolize detaching yourself from any negative energy you took on.
Imagine any stress from the day washing down the drain when you take a shower or bath.
Take your hand and face your palm towards yourself. Start from your feet and move slowly to the top of your head and imagine zippering up your energetic sleeping bag from the inside. Only you can choose to zip up or down.
Leave a small bowl or glass of water out in your home or workspace for the day to symbolize collecting any stress or negative energy. At the end of the day, pour it out and send all that gunk back to the earth to be recycled.
High Fives & Hell Yeahs,
To check out Part 1 of this article, click here. I'd love to read your comments so please share them within the comment section.
Did you know that I now offer Self-Care Masterclass mini-retreats?
Get on the waitlist by emailing below. I am developing mini-retreats for therapists, medical professionals, educators, CEOs, sober folks, and more.
These mini-retreats are less about "lecture" and more about bringing self-care right to you in the moment through authentic connection, expressive movement, and transformational breathwork. (There will be dancing and a stellar playlist involved:)
Didn't catch my latest Instagram Live Q & A on Self-Care? No fret. Click below to access the replay completely for FREE.