Minal Nebhnani on Jul 02, 2018
After a blissful two-week vacation in Italy, my family and I returned to the U.S. where once again, our president has turned our country on its head. I try to make a point of staying out of politics, especially in my professional life, but this current government has a way of reeeeaallly riling me up (to put it mildly).
Since Trump was elected, I have experienced a range of emotions ranging from paralyzing fear to intense anger to deep sadness to sometimes, and I’m not necessarily proud to admit this, a feeling of apathy – that what I do doesn’t matter. It sometimes takes a while for these feelings to settle and, after I’m done wallowing, I move into battle mode, figuring out ways to fight back (see my last blog post here). Quite honestly, each experience is exhausting and leaves me drained. I have implemented more self-care since Trump became president than in my entire life. Which leads me to today’s topic: Self-care.
The idea of self-care is not a new one (you can read about that here), but in today’s political climate, it seems to be much more desired and much, much more needed. Common questions that come along with self-care are: What is it? How do I do it? Isn’t that just being selfish? The answer to that is a big fat NO. Let’s go ahead and dive in.
What it self-care? Self-care can be defined as any intentional action that we take to enhance our physical, emotional or mental well-being. Self-care includes activities such as working out, getting a massage, spending time with friends and, more traditionally, meditating. It can even include things like reading a book, taking a walk and taking a much needed break from the news from time to time. Self-care differs from person to person but the ultimate goal remains the same – to find activities that replenish some part of you.
So, how do you do it? You start by making a list of activities that you would love to do if only you had the time. Activities that help you slow down and feel good. Then look at the list, pick one activity and put it into action once a week. When you have that down, try one self-care activity every other day. It can be the same one or you can switch it up. And when that feels good and manageable, try one activity every day until it become a natural part of your routine. If you dare, try engaging in more than one a day!
Here’s an example of what it could look like in practice: Start on a Saturday or Sunday morning by waking up without looking at your phone. Get out of bed and make your favorite morning beverage. I prefer tea, but if you’re a coffee drinker, go for it. If you don’t drink either, then try a cup of hot water with lemon (starting your morning with something hot really warms up your system and lemon is great for cleansing). Take your mug and find a quiet and relaxing place to sit. And then sit for 10 minutes. You can listen to music, journal, stretch or even – wait for it – just sit. Once your 10 minutes are up, go ahead and move on with the rest of your day. By starting your mornings this way, you are allowing your body to wake itself up naturally rather than jump starting it into fire drill mode by checking emails or reading the news. That’s it. That’s how you start to engage in self-care.
From there, if waking up and sitting on the weekend feels good, try implementing it during the week. Start a little morning routine for yourself. (Our bodies LOVE routine!) If that feels like too much during the week, that’s ok, try something else like stepping away from your desk around lunch to get some fresh air and nourish your body. Then try adding in a daily workout either pre- or post-work. (Here’s the link to my favorite free 15-minute workout!) Other things to try during the week include going for walks, meeting up with friends, spending time with family, taking a class or cooking yourself a delicious wholesome meal. You choose the activities that feel good to you. They can last for 3 minutes or 3 hours. The only caveat is that they have to be realistic and implementable.
In order to really take care of ourselves, my husband and I each take off one night a week. Wednesdays are for my husband and Thursdays are “mommy’s night out!” We are free to do whatever we like (within reason, of course), but without each other. That way, we don’t need to pay for a sitter and we can each have one guilt-free night out a week. Not only do we get our individual self-care in, but it’s brought us even closer as a couple.
Great - but isn’t self-care just another way of being selfish? NO!!! The dominant culture tells us that self-care borders on frivolous. It’s equated with pampering and over-indulging. It’s the “I can’t be bothered with the world’s problems right now, I’m getting a massage” attitude that contributes to this and although we all need moments to really indulge ourselves (yes, it’s ok to go ahead and get that massage!), self-care is not about pampering-focused activities. It’s about recharging your batteries so you can be present in the world.
If you’re truly implementing self-care, you start to engage with the world differently. Rather than tuning it out, you’re more tuned in. Rather than running on autopilot, you slow down to notice and appreciate the small stuff (the birds chirping, the sweet child on the bus, the awesome, tangy taste of your iced tea). You are able to feel and work through all of your emotions rather than trying to stuff the “bad ones” back down. You feel energized and invigorated and use that to inspire others and give back. Your relationships are thriving, your creativity is blossoming and you appreciate all that you have to offer to the world.
Self-care is a process that takes patience, self-awareness and a willingness to keep trying. We may not do it all the time or even be good at it at first, but the point is to keep at it. Once we get it down, the benefits are innumerable. We start to shine from the inside out. Another wonderful aspect of self-care is that it’s free and always available to us no matter where we are. So, go ahead and give it a whirl, what have you got to lose?
To help you get started, check out my website to download your free, weekly self-care checklist.
Need more self-care ideas? Here are some great resources.
As always, be kind to yourselves and remember, we are all works in progress.
Minal Nebhnani, LPCC, has a small private practice in the Castro/Mission district of San Francisco where she specializes in helping young Bay Area professionals (individuals/couples) manage anxiety, build self-esteem and strengthen relationships. Recently she's done a lot of career counseling as well. When she's not with her clients, Minal is usually chasing her toddler around various parts of San Francisco, hiking, sailing, camping, doing yoga or spending time with family and friends. More about Minal and her practice can be found at www.honestspacetherapy.com.