We’ve talked about burn out, and we’ve even talked about self care for geeks and gamers, but today, I’m about to get very honest with you about real self care. There’s no Lush bath bombs or cute animal face masks here. It’s just me and my journey to finally figuring out what makes me personally feel the best. It probably shouldn’t have taken this long, but here we are!
In March 2017, I started on a weight loss journey. I had moved to a new state less than 6 months before on my own and had gotten engaged the month prior in Ireland to my boyfriend. On the flight home from Ireland, I pledged to start living a healthy and active lifestyle after realizing how much weight I had put on. As someone who has always been “bigger,” it was a scary concept.
I turned to Reddit’s r/loseit, a weight loss forum, to get me started. I studied the content linked in the sidebar, downloaded My Fitness Pal and got to work. I started walking my little dog, Padme, twice a day around the apartment complex I was living in. I started logging all of my food and counting calories. I learned how to meal prep and plan for “cheat meals” once a week that didn’t ever go over my calories.
But I also started doing other things to take care of myself. I found r/skincareaddiction on Reddit as well and began a simple skincare routine. With the skincare forum’s help, I went to Target and purchased a cleanser for my sensitive skin and a moisturizer that was both budget friendly and highly recommended. My skin saw immediate improvement, and I was ecstatic with my progress.
I unknowingly created a nightly/Sunday ritual that helped me care for my body and in turn, helped my mental health tremendously. I felt good in my skin. I felt good in my clothes. Having a “plan” to follow through the week kept me on track and helped me reach my goals. It was all going well until I got married.
This was by no means my husband’s fault. Being long distance while dating, moving 10 hours away from my family and friends, and being in a city where I didn’t know anyone left me a lot of time to myself to do these things. When he finally stepped off the plane in STL of October 2017, we were married the following weekend. My rituals and normal routine were thrown off, and I never picked them back up. Between the immigration process, planning a wedding for the following year in my home state of AL, feeling the stress of my new job, as well as finally confronting my demons in therapy left me with little time for myself.
Instead of making time for those nightly rituals and Sunday routines, I made excuses and talked down to myself about being lazy. My weight loss stalled even though I was still counting calories; however, I wasn’t watching them as closely as before and was indulging much more often. I was no longer accounting for cheat meals or taking as many walks. I turned to a gym membership thinking that my plateau must be because I needed a more strenuous exercise regimen.
Recently, while staring in the mirror at my large pores and the speckle of acne on my forehead, I battled against my negative self talk and instead told myself it was time to start back on my skincare routine. In that moment I realized I had stopped doing things for myself that made me feel good. I had stopped caring for my skin and caring about the food I was putting in my body. I had only sporadically been walking Padme. Everything was going great at the gym, so why was did I feel so uncomfortable in my body and clothes?
So I started making an effort again.
A few weeks ago, I had been back on my skincare routine for a whopping two days and my face was already looking ten times better. I had been back on the (accurate) calorie counting wagon for a week. I started getting up on time to get my mobility exercises in, put together my lunch, and make a breakfast protein smoothie. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, made dinner (that would leave leftovers for two days of lunches), and baked an apple crumble dessert from the apples Alec and I had picked on a farm the week before. I was tired when I picked up Alec from work. I was tired, but I felt better than I had in ages.
As I went to wash my face that night, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was feeling so good because I was taking care of myself again. I was washing my freaking face. I was battling the freaking negative self talk. I was cooking from freaking scratch. I was eating good freaking things that were good for my body, too. But these annoying, time-consuming things were helping me. I knew it was time to finally start putting myself first again.
How I Practice Real Self Care
- Going to Therapy. I know that therapy is a personal choice, and that it doesn’t always work for everyone. I’m a huge advocate for therapy. It might take several therapists before you find the right one for you. My therapist is amazing and has helped me through so much. I’m currently back in weekly therapy, and it has really been a big part of my self care.
- Stopping the Negative Self Talk. There’s a ton of ways you can combat negative self talk so I recommend finding a method that works for you by talking with your therapist. I personally use affirmations that are personal to me as well as rephrasing negative thoughts to be more neutral or positive. I always try to think of how I would talk to a friend that is going through what I’m feeling in the moment.
- Taking the Dog for a Walk. Putting Padme on her leash and heading out into the neighborhood never fails to put me in a better mood. Walking always clears my head and offers a moment of peace in my busy mind. Sometimes I’ll put on my headphones and listen to a podcast like Pretty Basic or Sierra Unfiltered. If I know I need to socialize, I’ll call a friend on our walk as well.
- Eating Foods that Make Me Feel Good. I’m talking fruits and veggies here. Apple and peanut-butter is one of my favorite feel-good snacks but so are dry roasted nuts and jerky. When brussels sprouts are cheap, I like to roast them with a bit of salt and pepper for a snack. I find that I feel better both mentally and physically when I’m eating whole foods.
- Having a Skin Care Routine. I mentioned above how getting back into my skin care routine lead to this post. Having this little bit of time to care for my skin feels special. It makes me feel good afterwards as well. I reap the benefits when I keep up with my routine as well.
- Planning Meals for the Week. While you’re more likely to see this as a tip on losing weight and saving money, planning out our meals for the week helps me manage my stress levels therefore is also a form of self care.
- Doing a Digital Detox. I’ve taken blogging breaks and breaks from Facebook before but I would like to a complete digital detox and document it. Small breaks here and there from social media can be amazing for my mental health so I want to work on doing that more often.
- Escaping into Something Happy. Sometimes I need a happy escape for a time. When I need a ‘pick-me-up,’ I often turn to games like The Sims and Animal Crossing. I’ll indulge in comics and manga like Fables and Chobits. I cuddle up on the couch with Padme and watch anime or something else light-hearted like Bob’s Burgers.
- Sticking to a Routine. I have noticed that my stress levels and anxiety are so much better when I have a routine, and I stick to it! I try to get up at the same time Monday through Friday. This means avoiding hitting that snooze button. It can be difficult some days to stick to my normal routine, but I always feel productive and more put together when I do.
- Remind Myself that I Am Not Defined by My Mental Illnesses. It’s easy to get caught up in my diagnoses. I unfortunately have found myself falling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole concerning PTSD, anxiety, and depression which leads to me spiraling. Instead of immersing myself too deeply into internet articles, I try to remind myself that I am not just someone with these mental illnesses. I am a wife, a dog mom, an artist, a writer, and much more.
Real self care is putting yourself first. Do I have a lot of productive self care days like that Sunday? No. Far from it. In fact, I have already neglected to wash my face a few times. I have eaten things that don’t make my body feel the best this week. And sometimes I can’t muster the energy to leave the bed or the couch, but that’s a post for another day.
Self care look different for everyone, but I’ve found that addressing yourself when you know you haven’t been putting yourself first, can be ground breaking for your mental health. Once you’ve realized you haven’t been good about self care, you can change that but doing things that feel good and are good for you.
What are some ways that you practice REAL self care? Let me know in the comments!
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