Everyone’s talking about self-care. We’re lambasted with motivational slogans, self-love memes, and feel-good tips that barely scratch the surface of what we’re up against.
We’re sold templates for alleged relief:
- The Quick Fix Template: Do these five easy steps, and everything will be perfectly fine.
- The Indulgence Template: Take this big spa get-away vacation to magically erase your problems.
- The Bougie Wellness Template: Pay $30 for spin classes. Spend $99 on designer yoga pants. Suck down a $15 bottle of charcoal lavender lemonade to clean out the damage of the day.
- The “Me” Template. It’s all about you. Spoil and treat yourself. Expect easy. When life isn’t, consume more. Because you work hard, you deserve to binge. Ignore the impact of this on you and your loved ones.
Generalized tips and templates aren’t enough. Stress doesn’t magically vanish. We’re short on time and money. Effects wear off. “Me” Templates contribute to massive cycles of overconsumption, addiction, and ill-health.
We desperately need to stop scratching the surface to find deeper relief. Resist the bait of working ourselves to the point of exhaustion and adrenal overload. Savor presence with ourselves, and each other. Appreciate the treasures of our natural world.
Oversimplified, manufactured solutions don’t fit. We can’t skim the surface, chasing quick little highs. We need to practice the science of sustainability-engaging in substantive, intentional self-care to improve immediate and long-term health outcomes.
Here’s how to find your sweet spot:
- Permission. Take breaks without labeling yourself as “lazy”, “weak”, or “selfish”. In our hyper-busy culture, downtime is stigmatized. We’re entrained to act as robots or machines, at everyone’s beckoning call. If you don’t grant yourself permission for leisure and recalibration, guilt steals the very moments you need. Breaks are necessary elements of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual hygiene. Permission is essential.
- Know the difference between self-indulgence and self-care. An indulgence mindset involves spoiling, pampering, self-medicating, and overspending. This generally delivers short-lived results. Self-care is a continual process. It embodies an intentional focus on nurturing mind, body, and soul. This helps prevent erosion of well-being. It fosters resilience and sustainability. Substantive self-care nourishes; indulgence pacifies.
- Identify your “sweet spot” activities. Be your own researcher. Gather data to discover works best for you. Science shows a host of activities can enliven, but everyone has different responses to different practices. Experiment. Novelty and variety fuel the brain. Be creative and expansive. Make a list of your favorite artistic, athletic, social impact, fun, healing, connective, and centering activities. Prioritize like you would an important meeting. Attend to your self-care sweet spot. Keep your brain, body and soul singing.
- Ritualize self-care in your daily routine. Don’t fall for the “lull fallacy”-that things will actually slow down. Do they ever? Don’t make false promises to yourself that “one day” you’ll relax, after this or that deadline or phase. Most of us only have small slivers of time. Research shows infusing short, regular breaks protects well-being and promotes sustainability. Don’t wait for the lulls to take care of yourself. Take advantage of every chance to offset stress and nourish on the daily.
Following cheaply manufactured feel-good templates for self-care wastes time and precious resources. Give yourself permission to devote yourself to crafting your own self-care strategy that honors your sweet spot and becomes a ritual in your life.