As I look back on my year of radical self-care, I find that I've learned several important things about taking care of myself. It wasn't always easy and, in truth, I wasn't consistently great about maintaining my radical self-care goals. Why? Life happened. Real talk here: thinking about self-care and actively, aggressively cultivating it in the midst of tending to work, family life, and the inevitable curve balls the universe sends your way are two VERY different things. All in all, I've found that it's worth putting in the time and effort to building a healthier lifestyle; and even when I'd gotten off track (hello overwork!), I learned more about the importance of setting boundaries and letting go of things that don't enhance my overall happiness. Although my year of radical self-care is now at an end, I plan to take the following lessons into the new year so that I can continue to develop my wellness routine.
1. Self-care is hard work. When we think of self-care, we think about lighting scented candles and wrapping ourselves in fuzzy blankets for an afternoon of relaxation. And yes, sometimes self-care does look like that. But more often than not, self-care is hard work involving a lot of adulting. It means getting up before the sun to workout because you know that is the only time you can reliably exercise. It means eating more greens and limiting sugar and carbs. Most of all, self-care is about putting yourself first in a world that romanticizes overwork and overextension: a difficult thing to learn how to do if you are used to people pleasing...which leads me to lesson number two:
2. No is a two-letter word for happiness. Seriously, I've had to learn to say no. A lot. It was hard at first because I didn't want to let people down and, frankly, I just get really excited about things and tend to overcommit. Then I realize that I am no use to anyone when I'm overworked. Worse, my self-care routine goes out the window due to lack of sleep, time, energy--you name it. It's hard to see the magic of everyday life when you're overextended. So I started turning down projects I knew I didn't have time for. I scaled back on social commitments to give myself more time to be quiet (a necessity for an introvert like me). I even gave myself more writing breaks so I could replenish myself through reading and daydreaming. I found, through all of this, that a part of me is addicted to being busy and I've had to learn what it means to enjoy a full, healthy life without inviting in the frantic energy synonymous with that four-letter B-word.
3. I can't do it alone. I started the year strong. I would come home from work and hit the yoga mat or take a long walk, determined to get back on a regular exercise routine. Then midsemester hit. The days got a little longer, just like the housekeeping to-do list that kept me from my afternoon workout. I quickly realized that I needed a space to workout that was separate from office or home, a place to focus on my wellness journey and surround myself with people just as invested in their own health. So I joined a boutique gym (Rebel Workout for those of you in Albuquerque). It was life changing! Exercising got easier when I had a place I looked forward to going to every morning to see people who were cultivating similar self-care routines. I was meeting fitness goals at a better rate, healing old injuries, and enjoying being around positive people who supported one another's growth. It made me realize how essential it is to be around like-minded wellness-conscious people.
4. It's addictive. I love exercising and eating well. I love having quiet time at home to read by candlelight. I love finishing my days with a few yoga poses. I enjoy my life more and stress less about the little things. I have more energy and a playful spirit. I delight in my routine again. It is no longer an endless to-do list, but a delicious ritual that keeps the magic flowing...as long as I stick to my self-care routine!
5. The definition of self-care is always evolving. Part of keeping the magic flowing is growing into new ways of tending yourself and those you love. The deeper I go into self-care, the more I let go of energies that no longer serve me and embrace the healthy things that do. The more open I am to my self-care journey--and it is a journey, with many ups and downs--the more I am able to find a deeper way of living.
So that's what I learned this past year of radical self-care. What have you learned about self-care?
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