I’m a hard worker. I’m also a perfectionist, and the combination of these two qualities unfortunately means that I also tend to overburden myself. This was especially true of me while I was in University. I took full course loads, joined two clubs, was in student government, had a part time job, worked out regularly, and still took on additional side projects whenever I could. The result was often that I ran myself ragged; all-nighters and 40-hour weeks in the library turned into anxiety attacks and sickness without fail.
I trained my body to run on coffee and cigarettes and 20-minute workouts. I taught myself how to push through hunger, fatigue, tears, and panic to get all of my work done on time. I used my mental discipline to dominate my emotional and physical exhaustion, and I succeeded. I put so much effort into being an overachiever, and put no effort into the area I should have been focusing on: self-love.
Learning to practice self-love and self-care has been one of the most difficult parts of my recovery process. Even though I’m out of school, I still tend to load myself down with work, blogging (at any given time, I’m always working on 3 or 4 blogs), errands, appointments, and side projects. Days off make me anxious, and I don’t know what to do with myself on “mental health” or “me” days.
So what constitutes self-love? What rituals, habits, or hobbies can be deemed acts of self-care? I submit that anything that makes you focus on your body or your mind in a non-judging, loving, and compassionate way qualifies as self-loving/caring. For example, the one “me-time” ritual I have maintained throughout the years is doing my nails. I clean them, buff them, shape them, and paint them, sometimes taking the time to do painstaking patterns on them. Throughout this process, I’m not thinking about my failures or my successes. I’m not thinking about my clothing or my obligations or the size of my stomach. I immerse myself in the ritual, focusing all of my attention on a part of my body I cannot hate, and make myself (or part of myself) feel beautiful and worthy of my own time.
I still have a long way to go (no one should have to rely on having just one self-care ritual), but I have no doubt that as I progress through my recovery process, I will find new ways to care for myself in a loving, compassionate way. For the time being, I will continue to treat myself to mini mani-pedis a few times a week.
If you’re like me and have trouble practicing self-love and self-care, here are a few ideas for you to try out (remember – don’t do any of these things if they incite judgment of your body or eating habits! Everyone is different, and some of these rituals could encourage compassion for some but be triggering for others.):
- Go for a long walk, a hike, or do some yoga
- Take yourself on a date – go see a movie, go for coffee at your favorite café, lie on the grass in a park and read
- Draw, paint, or do arts and crafts of any kind
- Go shoe, purse, or makeup shopping (i.e. shopping for anything that doesn’t include clothing sizes)
- Re-organize or clean your kitchen, bedroom, bookshelves, etc. Creating a comfortable environment is caring for yourself, too.
- Listen to music (loudly) and dance around (or sing) alone in your room
- Work your favourite food into your next meal or snack
- Create a vision board
How do you practice self-love and self-care?