The Unsexy Truth About Self-Care (Part One)

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by TIffany Walking Eagle | 10-minute read

Oh, self-care. What a widespread mental health buzzword these past few years.

I think it’s absolutely important that everyone practice self-care. We should all strive for health physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

But what the heck does that even look like in real life?!

I came across this hilarious comic awhile ago that sums up our attitude toward self-care far too often:

LOL. I love it. But it’s so true. I think that self-care is often marketed to us in a certain way, and far too often, we settle for things that don’t necessarily serve us and label them “self-care.”

Don’t get me wrong. Getting your nails done, having a treat-filled meal, buying some new clothes, and getting extra sleep can definitely be forms of self-care.

I just think we need to dig into the equally important yet not-as-sexy or marketable sides of self-care because so often, the simple, mundane, everyday forms of self-care get dangerously overlooked.

Maybe you bought yourself a green juice, or maybe you got a pedicure, or maybe you had brunch with the girls, and all of that is awesome…but doing all that stuff and slapping on a #selfcare while neglecting other vital areas of your well-being won’t ultimately serve you.

  1. Sticking to your nonnegotiables.

    It’s vital to make time for the things that recharge you. Whether it’s reading before bed, walking in the evening, crocheting, cooking, playing card games, underwater basket-weaving….do the things you love that rejuvenate your soul.

    I recently listened to a podcast where a mom of 9 kids (yep, 9!) named Jennifer talked about what she called her “nonnegotiables,” and it really spoke to me and made me realize that I need to stick to mine! If she can prioritize her self-care even with 9 kids, I really needed to up my game.

    Basically, your nonnegotiables are the things you need to do every day, week, or whatever to keep you sane and centered. For Jennifer, one of her nonnegotiables is her near-daily run. Even if she doesn’t have time, she makes time, because being adamant about your self-care is crucial to your success, sanity, and overall well-being.

  2. Drinking enough water.

    I know. It’s so simple but also so easy not to do! But if enough #fitspo people haven’t hammered the importance of hydration into your brain, here’s your reminder.

    Basically, you need to drink about half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Seriously. Try drinking more water and see how much better you feel. Sure, you’ll pee a lot more, but that’s a good thing!

    If you absolutely hate drinking water/peeing all the time, here’s a couple of suggestions. First, one simple way is to add a few flavored sparkling waters into your day, since those are hydrating and taste awesome.

    But my easiest tip for getting your water intake in if you don’t feel like peeing all day long or just don’t enjoy sipping on water, chug 32 ounces first thing in the morning, chug a couple/few of glasses throughout the day, and then chug another 32 ounces or so about 1-2 hours before bed. That way, you’ll minimize trips to the bathroom while still getting reasonably hydrated (depending on your size). Pretty smart, eh?

    These seemingly insignificant things like drinking water are absolutely essential to the basics of self-care, and they are unfortunately so often neglected.

  3. Moving, even when you might not feel like it.

    No matter how you slice it, our bodies were made to move, and being active isn’t just about losing weight. Exercise is important for mental health as well, and it boasts loads of benefits like helping with depression, improving mood, building your confidence, and relieving stress.

    It can be easy to associate the gym or working out in general (definitely don’t need a gym to get a great workout in!) with anxiety or needing to lose weight, but being active is about so much more than that. Whether you’re lifting weights at the gym, going for a spin on your bike, doing an at-home workout, busting out some yoga poses, or just going for a walk, you’re doing wonderful things for your mental and emotional well-being as well as your physical health.

    A sedentary lifestyle comes along with contraindications like anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, loss of bone density/muscle mass, and an increased risk of heart problems and certain cancers.

    Please, please understand that even just a little bit of consistent physical activity can benefit you so much. You don’t have to spend hours a day at the gym or running. Just move, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day.

    Most of us have a family member/friend(s) we know who have suffered the consequences of not taking care of themselves. Don’t go down the same path. Fight for your health! You are worth it.

  4. Taking time for the people you love.

    Introvert, extrovert, ambivert, or Lil Uzi Vert, you need people. Even if you feel like you don’t have time, make time to spend time with people you love and who uplift you, even if it’s just once in a while.

    I know you’ve heard it over and over, but you really can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s just science.

    What are your nonnegotiables?

  5. Getting enough sleep.

    I know that it’s fun to watch Hulu late into the night, but you really need to get enough sleep. Sleep is when your body recharges and repairs itself, and sleep deprivation can contribute to issues like depression, hormone imbalance, a weakened immune system, weight gain, and even heart issues.

    Even though it’s hard to make yourself do, try to start a wind down routine and just get in your bed a wee bit earlier.

    Full disclosure, I’ve been really bad about this for so long, but it’s one of those things that once you start doing it, you’re like, why didn’t I do this sooner?

  6. Practicing good posture.

    Our posture affects us so much more than we realize. Bad posture can cause neck pain, back pain, muscle tightness, headaches, heartburn, digestive issues, and even harm your sexual health. (Were you as surprised as I was by those last few? Yeah. Sit up straight.)

    Do your best to be more mindful of your posture and stop craning your neck to look at your phone or crouching like Gollum over your laptop.

  7. Working your arse off for the things you want.

    Want to know one of the most anxiety-inducing, stressful, depressing things we so often choose for ourselves?

    Inaction.

    When you start thinking about all the stuff you have to do today, tomorrow, next week, or over the next few months, or the things you’ve been avoiding that you know you need to do, you’ll likely start feeling stressed. And when we neglect our long-term goals for too long, we start to torment ourselves for not doing what it takes to achieve our dreams.

    Whether you’re stressed about daily work or chores, or you’re beating yourself up for not fighting to do the things you’re passionate about, putting one foot in front of the other and just doing the things is a potently powerful form of self-care.

    It won’t be easy. It will take work. It might even be scary (probably will be). It’s worth it.

  8. Eating foods that make you feel good. And also…eating!!!

    I realize there’s a bit of nuance to this topic relating to financial situation/access, etc.

    And I am 10000% not here to tell you what or how to eat.

    However, the simple truth is, you probably aren’t going to feel your best if you never look at vegetables or you live on a strict diet of Twinkies and Top Ramen.

    Please, please, enjoy your life. Don’t place a bunch of restrictions around food (outside of ethical reasons, allergies/sensitivities, etc.)

    But if you can swing it, aiming for balanced meals that prioritize adequate protein, carbs, fat, and fiber will do wonders. Also, make sure you eat enough in general! I know for myself, and I think a lot more people struggle with this than they realize, undereating is way too common. (Quick note: One quick way to estimate your maintenance calories {yes, maintenance! If you’re always dieting, you can mess up your health and hormones!} is using this calculator.)

    I know life gets busy. I understand if you’re struggling emotionally that taking the time to make yourself real food takes a lot of effort. Still, you are a human, and humans need food. So either up your self-care game by devoting a couple hours a week to meal prep, or just figure it out day by day; either way, you need to eat.

  9. Finding a routine.

    Some folks live for their routine, while others seem to struggle their whole lives to find a routine that clicks with them.

    Whether you’re a lover or a struggler, some form of daily routine can become a major stress reducer. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Even just simple things like setting aside 20 minutes a day to do some yoga or sitting outside with your coffee and a book can make a difference.

    Morning routines can also be fantastic for your mental health, but don’t freak out if you miss some mornings. You’re human, and life happens. Just try your best. And when you find yourself getting more anxious and stressed than usual, make your routine a priority.

  10. Taking care of your teeth, skin, and body…even when you don’t feel like it.

    Simple actions like practicing daily oral hygiene and developing some form of a skin care routine (even if it’s just washing your makeup off and slapping on a moisturizer) can tell your subconscious loads about how much you value your health and well-being.

    If you’ve been skimping on some basic physical self-care things like these, it’s time to make them priorities, even when you don’t feel like it.

  11. Investing time in your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

    The sad truth is, the mental and emotional side of health gets so often overlooked, but it’s an absolutely vital part of overall well-being. Repressed emotion, depression, and stress, though these are invisible parts of our lives, these things seep out into our daily existence in ways we may not even be aware of.

    Check in with yourself. Pray. Meditate. Journal. Make an appointment with a therapist. Reach out to a friend. These things take effort and time, but neglecting your spiritual/emotional side will only lead to pain and difficulty in the long run.

  12. Taking an honest look at yourself and doing the hard stuff.

    Social media paints self-care as fun, easy things. Things easily bought. Bright, happy things like manicures and new clothes and iced coffees and face masks. Marketable things.

    However, these things will not bring you inner peace. Sure, they are important, but true self-care isn’t always pretty.

    Sometimes it’s digging deeper into the ugly, uncomfortable roots of our problems to find solutions.

    Sometimes it’s working really hard to shake off limiting beliefs and change our mindset.

    Sometimes it’s acknowledging areas we’ve been wrong or selfish and working to be better.

    Sometimes it’s recognizing negative habits that are holding us back.

    Sometimes it’s unpacking decades of pain we’ve stuffed down deep in order to finally heal.

    The harsh reality is that self-care isn’t always as easy as a trip to the nail salon or your favorite juice bar. It takes work. Hard work.

    This might sound like bad news, but wouldn’t you rather face reality than keep trying to get by with the minimum when it comes to your mental health? How has that been working for you?

    We’ve learned to be high functioning without self-care. We learn how to get through each day, and we become quite efficient at continuing on even though we’ve skipped meals or avoided tough conversations or haven’t had a moment to ourselves in goodness knows how long.

    We can continue on like this for quite awhile. Years, even. Maybe even decades. But when you actually slow down and sit with your thoughts, how are you really doing? Are you thriving or barely surviving? Living, or just breathing?

    You can keep going down the path you’ve been on, if you want. That’s your choice. But the longer you wait, the more buildup of junk you are going to have to work through later on.

    Why not, instead of continuing through life as a high-functioning zombie, you try taking just baby steps at first? Don’t expect yourself to become the queen of self-love overnight.

    Start small. Maybe journal for five minutes a day and start a skincare routine. Maybe just make that appointment with a therapist and go for a walk. Spend 15 minutes a day doing something that pushes you toward your dreams. Whatever it is.

    It’s work, but half the battle is making yourself put in the time, and the little things do add up.

    You are worth the work it takes to be healthy. Your well-being is worth fighting for.

How can you up your unsexy self-care game? Which one of these have you mastered or which ones do you need to work on? Did you think of any of your nonnegotiobles? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat. :)