Self care: “Any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it's a simple concept in theory, it's something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.” ~ Raphailia Michael, MA
The term “self care” gets a lot of flack, and I’m not totally sure why. I mean, it’s the most concise way to state the act of taking deliberate care of oneself.
I do however understand why catchphrases in general cause people to roll their eyes. Words like mindfulness and capacity building are definitely overused. Don’t even get me started on words like creativepreneur and mindfulpreneur. People, like my partner, have pretty strong opinions about portmanteaus involving “preneur.” But that’s a whole other blog post.
Self care, for me, is more than a catchphrase. I believe with all of my being it’s a necessity. And if someone comes up with a better way to describe it, I’m down to start using the word as long as it doesn’t involve “preneur”.
Full disclosure, I’m not always great about prioritizing myself and the care that I need. What’s true for me is that I can be both aware of my need for self care and consciously neglect it at the same exact time. Ridiculous, right?
I think the most important part of self care really is having an awareness of my body, emotions and mind and all of their limits. Without being attuned to all parts of myself, I’m unable to consciously neglect my own needs and in response — fucking stop it.
So for me, step one is noticing.
I started a new bedtime routine earlier in the year because my morning routine was all fucked up. I kept waking up super late or exhausted when I managed to peel myself out of bed early. I tried forcing myself to wake up early for months, but would often find myself dozing off while sitting during my morning quiet time. If someone walked in they’d find me sitting in the dark, before the sun was up, totally asleep. They’d for sure wonder why I didn’t just sleep in my bed.
So in January I decided to implement a detailed PM routine and enlisted my oldest girlfriend to serve as an accountability sister. All she had to do was be on the receiving end of my morning text — thumbs up or thumbs down. Over the course of 30 days, I had to do my detailed routine at lease 27 times. If I didn’t, my friend would get a $20 Venmo transfer each time.
She is $60 richer and I have an almost perfected habit.
I still find myself sometimes scrolling on IG or FB at 11:15 PM when I should be in a deep sleep. But these nights are far fewer than they used to be. I keep my phone across the bedroom now instead of on my nightstand — once it’s plugged in, I’m not allowed to touch it again until the morning.
In the morning, my routine seems to be back in shape — but I think it’s time to shake it up actually.
I started my AM routine about a year ago when I was finally fed up with not having one. Mornings were all over the place. Frantic and scattered, or deliberately slow. Not consistent and not great for my emotional well-being or entry into the day.
I started with writing out my to-do list and what I was grateful for. I created prompts in a big, blank and super cute notebook my niece and nephews got me. This practice evolved into regular twice a day journaling which has been a really good tool for me. It’s brought balance and calmness to my days, in ways that I didn’t know was possible. Honestly, if someone told me to journal in the morning to decrease my overwhelm, I would have said to fuck off. But, it’s changed my life.
The idea of longhand journaling makes me cringe. I’ve done it before, and at times even liked it a little, but there’s no way I’m going to pull out a blank sheet of paper and start writing off the top of my head at 6:00 AM. I’m productivity-obsessed which means I’m constantly on the look out for tools and practices to increase mine. I need to start my day feeling grounded in all that I have to get done.
In the last six months, I’ve been noticing my body’s rhythms and limits in different ways. I can’t tell if my body is changing or if I’m just more aware than ever. In the last few weeks, I can’t seem to get by on less than 7 1/2 hours of sleep. In my 20’s and early 30’s I could get by on 6 or less.
I feel like I’m reverting to my youth. When I was a baby, I would sleep 10-14 hours at a time. My mom said she’d have to wake me up to feed me and then I’d just zonk back out. My grandmas thought something was wrong with me.
As a teenager, I would sleep 10-12 hours. In my mid-30’s (which I only recently exited), I would totally get by on 5-6 hours. I’m a night owl and have my share of FOMO, so I used to stay up super late — like 1:00 or 2:00 AM kind of late. Around that time of my life, I felt gross sleeping late so I’d wake up at 7:00ish.
I still feel gross sleeping in — I’m sure my bed partner would prefer I stop setting my alarm on Sundays — but more than anything, I love being up early. One of my favorite things is the dark, quiet, early mornings. I love seeing the sun rise. I love having time to move slowly before the busyness of the day starts.
I also really love feeling rested. Paired with my love of the 5 o’clock hour, it means I have to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:00 PM. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s always my goal.
It’s taken years to attune my ability to notice the nuances of my energy. I’m a go, go, goer so it’s easy to push past the tired eyes, aching back and hungry belly when I’m on a roll. It’s not sustainable anymore, though. Now I let myself go as fast as I can and also as slow as I need to.
Step two, and the self care glue, is taking time.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to my closest cousin about an upcoming trip she’s taking with her cousin on her mom’s side. This cousin and I have grown up very close to each other. In our adult lives we’ve lived together not just out of necessity, but because we enjoy each other.
We’ve struggled together, cried together, laid on beaches together, laughed til our bellies and cheeks hurt, and daydreamed about all that we want in our lives together.
Over the last couple years I’ve noticed how she’s been really good about prioritizing her self care through travel. Without a giant savings account, she’s managed to take a fair amount of trips that bring her joy, peace and replenishment in the midst of all the craziness that life throws.
That Sunday evening I was sitting there listening to her describe her upcoming Portland adventure, and I was aching with exhaustion. I also felt a twinge jelly.
My brain and my body were operating at massive deficits in that moment. I had just participated in a conference as a presenter and vendor which was a big deal for me. I was presenting myself, my knowledge, my business and my new product to people outside of my house for the first time. Obviously this required a lot of my energy leading up and during. I over prepared, how I do, and delivered in a way that makes me feel proud. What I needed after though was my own getaway.
I’m realizing now that it was more than just the conference that drove me to empty. The business and product pieces were/are aspects of my day to day that take up a tremendous amount of time and energy. I’m working really hard to surrender the perfectionist tendencies that have dominated basically my whole life.
A quick note on perfectionism. I can tap right into the feelings I had as a little girl sleeping at my grandma’s house (she’s 93 today). She is a very particular perfectionist without much self awareness around it. I say that with love and not judgement. It just is.
Her beds were always made perfectly. When I’d sleep over, as an eight year old perfectionist, I wanted to make mine so perfectly that she wouldn’t have to remake it. I wanted her to say say, “Annie, my god, the bed is perfect!” She never did. I know, it’s kind of sad but I’m over it.
In fact, a few months ago I was talking to her amazing 90 year old little sister, my great aunt, who offered me this out of nowhere: “Annie, don’t waste time perfecting things. When your grandma and I were little girls, your great grandma would have us make up the beds and fold clothes perfectly. Today, you know what I do? I don’t even make my bed. Hahaha! Mi hijita, don’t waste time cleaning and making beds.” She literally offered this without any context.
Since that conversation, I now make my bed perfectly only when I’m changing the sheets.
Back to what I was saying about coming off a crazy period of business planning, conference prep and product development. As I sat there listening to my cousin, I became very aware of my physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
I’ve been trying to do things so fucking perfectly for so long, and telling myself that I don’t have enough money right now to get away, I literally pushed myself to the edges of self-employed burnout before even launching the damn business. I mean, c’mon. Not acceptable. Especially because I know the necessity of self care.
I’m happy to report that this Sunday I’m going to spend two and a half days away from my day to day life, just a few miles from my casita, at one of my favorite places in the world. It always makes me feel like I’m somewhere else.
While I’m taking an indulgent staycation at a time when I’m getting my finances in order and launching a business, I have no regrets. For one, my body, heart and mind need time away. Second, I know the cost of this vacation is less than I’d spend hopping on the next JetBlue redeye and spending some days in my favorite city with some of my dearest girlfriends.
I don’t need to justify any of my choices to myself or anyone else, but I think it’s important to weigh them and feel 100% grounded in whatever I decide.
What it comes down to for me is this: Whatever my self care needs and choices are, they should always make me feel good. I can’t stand buyer’s remorse.
It’s important to take time in the mornings, at night before bed, during the day, after big heady stretches of strategy work, and any other time my body, mind and emotions say they need it. Or before they do!
I’m committed to proactively taking care of all myself so burnout isn’t a thing anymore. And I will no longer regret not taking time for myself.
I believe that our lives — business and personal — can be stronger, sustainable and wildly profitable when we slow down, notice and take time.