How to Make Self-Care Become a Mindset Rather Than a To-Do List
RAFT Team, April 5, 2021
Raise your hand if you’re tired. Give a wave if you feel guilty for not doing enough each week. As an advocate, your job is hard. Covid has made it harder on all fronts. Boundaries are harder to define, stress is high and with many working from home and schooling from home, there’s more to manage. Self-care can feel like one more thing that never seems to get done. But what if self-care could be a mindset you learn, a way of being, rather than another thing on your to-do list? Will it still take intentionality and a bit of effort? Yes. But let’s take it off the to-do list and incorporate it into what we’re already doing. And let self-care become a mindset.
But before we talk about the how, let’s consider the what. In its most basic form, self-care is just things that help you feel healthier, happier, and more empowered. They’re things that don’t cause harm, like a shopping spree you can’t afford or too much alcohol. Instead, self-care helps our body, mind or soul feel good. What could those things be? Just about anything! As long as it results in your being healthier, happier, more empowered.
In a community where advocates put the needs of others first, self-care can feel like an indulgence. It’s that thing you don’t have time for, that keeps getting pushed farther down the daily task list. But what if you saw that self-care is a strength and by incorporating it into your life, you were helping those around you? Because your level of health, happiness, and empowerment certainly impacts the people around you. Self-care can boost all three and allows you to serve the people you love and the clients you have more effectively. It can become a mindset.
You probably know the battery level on your phone. Odds are, your phone doesn’t run out of juice very often. You keep it charged up, and you probably keep it in a case to protect it, too. Your phone is an investment you’ve made and a necessity to function in today’s world.
If you have a car, you probably have gas in the tank. And you fill it up every once in a while so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road with the dial on E. You need your transportation to get to work, stock up your pantry, replenish the toilet paper stock, and buy vegetables for your kids to eat.
How much more valuable are you than the tools you use? Yet why is it so hard to take care of yourself? To keep yourself running well, you need to charge up and fill up your body, emotions, and spirit. But first you need to remember how the value of this in your everyday life. Without it you’re exhausted, you’re prone to burnout, and you can end up sidelining yourself.
Instead of a to-do list of self-care each day, your first step might be to shift how you think about your day. Self-care can show up in the normal everyday things. The next time you’re washing the dishes, focus on the warmth of the water on your tired hands, the way the bubbles wrap around your wrists as gently as an embrace. These few moments of noticing and appreciating are self-care. They nourish your soul. This noticing can bring a moment of happiness to an otherwise exhausting day.
Are you feeling anxious these days? You’re not alone. Consider teaching your mind a new habit: instead of thinking “what if…” and worrying about what might happen, make a one-word shift and ask yourself, “What is…” and then focus on what’s going well today. Learning to stay present will help you stay grounded.
If you drive to work each day, consider taking an alternative route so you can take in more trees or flowers along the way. It doesn’t have to take longer. In fact, a new route might just mean driving one street over from where you usually travel. Is there a park nearby? Take your work route past, roll down your window, and breathe in some green.
The next time you eat, sit down to enjoy your food. (And not at your desk!) Savor the flavors, the textures, and the colors. Soak in the scents. A lot of people are involved in providing us with the food we eat — from growers to shippers to shelf-stockers and check-out clerks. Mealtime can be a reminder that we’re not alone in our work to help others.
Is your phone always in hand or in your pocket, just in case someone needs you? In the Advocate world, it’s assumed you’ll go above and beyond. Sweat-equity is the norm. And always being there is hard to avoid. You put on your superhero cape every single day, for hours on end. But there are times you have to take it off and trust that someone one else can pick it up for a while. Try unplugging at night. Put your phone somewhere other than your nightstand or under your pillow. As anxiety-inducing it may feel at first, you’ll soon realize that the world will carry on without you for a few hours. And you’ll breathe easier, knowing you really don’t need to respond to anyone at 2a unless you’re officially on call.
Once you shift your day-to-day mindset, and begin to recognize moments of self-care you can create in the everyday things you do, consider planning some future self-care. Take some time to make a list of simple things you can do when you don’t feel good.
- Friends to connect with
- Something you can hold
- Music that calm you
- A support number you can call — anytime
- A reminder to breathe deeply
- Some good memories to spend a moment on
Remind yourself that your self-care needs are fluid. You might do well for weeks but then have a day or two where you need some extra self-care. You might be in a streak where you need to lean into self-care more than you’re used to. Maybe right now your biggest need is to protect your evenings so you get enough sleep. Keep in tune with your body, emotions and spirit so you can adjust your self-care as your needs shift.
These boundaries on your mindset and your day-to-day actions take practice. They take time to learn. Self-care isn’t a one-and-done solution. How you practice it will shift as your needs shift. But lean into the process. Embrace the path to self-care. The reward of a healthier, happier, more empowered life is worth the effort!