What do I mean by self-care?
I mean giving yourself whatever it is you need to feel refreshed, relaxed and more like your best self.
For some of us, that may involve setting aside an entire afternoon for an outdoor adventure like running, biking or rock climbing.
For others, self-care may take the form of getting a massage or curling up on the couch to watch a movie with a loved one.
And when times are really rough, minimum self-care can involve an early bedtime, a much needed shower or a healthful meal. Sometimes these basic needs can pay dividends when you're super stressed.
A helpful way to think about self-care is what you need more or less of in your life in order to restore a sense of balance.
Balance is the key component here -- we all intuitively know there’s a difference between giving ourselves what we need and overindulging.
Enjoying some down time with a movie and popcorn? Check. Binge watching an entire season of House of Cards on Netflix while eating nothing but Cool Ranch Doritos? Probably not the best. (Even though, OMG, that show is the bee's knees.)
Let me be clear that I’m not saying you shouldn’t indulge yourself when the situation calls for it. What I’m talking about here are those specific times when you’re feeling off and looking for a way to get back to your best, balanced self. In those instances, overindulgence will only make you feel worse.
Here's an easy two-step self-care diagnosis to get you started:
1. What feeling am I trying to achieve?
Maybe you’re looking to relax after a stressful day. Burn off some steam after being your boss’s punching bag this week. Reward yourself for meeting one of your goals. Or pamper yourself after putting your needs behind everyone else’s for too long.
Really tune into how you want to feel after you’ve cared for yourself.
Blissed out? Satisfied? Well-rested? Envigorated? You’ll need to get clear on that feeling before going onto the next step.
2. What is going to help me feel that way?
So let’s say opposing counsel has been a royal jerk to you lately, and you just need to discharge all of that extra negativity to feel lighter and more positive. For some people, this can be achieved by a high-intensity workout. Others would benefit from a visit to the acupuncturist. Or a peaceful journalling session.
Perhaps you’ve been killing yourself on a big project and need to decompress or you’ll never get it finished. Maybe an off-line weekend is just what you need. Or a long romp in the park with your best doggy friend. It could even be something as basic as a nap.
Everyone is different, so you’ll need to be a bit introspective and honest with yourself as you figure out your self-care activities.
And there’s nothing that says self-care is only a once in a while thing. If you find that your day is noticeably better when you do 15 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning, by all means make that a daily self-care ritual!
A Friendly Reminder
Keep balance in your sights. There’s nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine to capture your bliss for the day. But if those couple glasses turn into an empty bottle with you passed out in your work clothes, we’ve left the land of self-care.
The goal is to feel as close to your best self as possible, not to end up needing even more self-care.
Self-care is non-negotiable.
Even when you’re at your busiest and feel like you have absolutely no time for yourself, that’s when you need self-care more than ever. If you let yourself get run into the ground, you won’t be operating anywhere near your best self and could even find yourself heading down the path to burnout.
So do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Not only have you earned it, but you absolutely deserve it.
What are your go-to self-care remedies? What are your self-care rituals that you have or want to create? Share in the comments!
This post first appeared on Ms. JD as part of my year-long column as a Writer in Residence, "The JD's Life Coach". Ms. JD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.