In today’s busy world, taking the time to pause, breathe, and do something purely because it is relaxing and enjoyable is often seen as a luxury - a guilty pleasure. Why take a bath when you can take a shower? Why go to a 60 minute spin class when you can tire yourself out in 30? Why do X when you can do Y and be 3x more productive?
I would like to introduce a radical idea - productivity isn’t everything. This is something that’s hard for me to swallow. In what might later become its own blog post, I think I’ve decided that I am a workaholic. Sometimes it feels like my life is run by the little voice constantly asking if I’m using my time in the best way possible. If I ever find myself off-task at school, even if I’m laughing and having memorable conversations, that little voice is still there, no matter how quiet, reminding me that if I got to work I would have less homework, more time for blogging, more sleep, etc. Even relaxation is difficult unless it is scheduled and planned.
Now I’m definitely not saying that planning (I write a LOT about planning) and working hard and being efficient are bad things. They free up time for the things you love! The problem arises when that voice creeps into every aspect of your life. Once in a while, you have to tell that voice to please kindly shut up.
The best way to do that is through self-care.
According to Psych Central, self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
What self-care means to me is putting my happiness first, ahead of productivity, expectations, goals, etc. Since happiness is an ever-changing idea, the self-care we need is also constantly shifting. Which is why it’s helpful to have a nice list of ideas for when we’re feeling overwhelmed, stuck, and just not our true selves.
Write all of these ideas and your own on pieces of paper, then put them in a self-care jar. Obviously, a self-care jar should be glittery.
1. Watch TV
TV can get a bad rap for its tendency to suck you in. However, I think it can be enjoyed totally guilt-free by setting an episode limit for yourself. It’ll take some self-discipline, but it also makes the TV watching more satisfying. You’ll hit that sweet spot between watching enough to relax you and not watching so much that it’s the middle of the night and you’re depriving yourself of sleep, movement, socialization, etc. It can be a fine line but the best way to stay on the right side of it is to set intentions before you start watching.
Find a show you love, really really really love. Like, you want to live and breathe the show and you love the actors so much and you want everyone in the world to watch the show (I definitely do not have anything specific in mind) It can transport you into another world, give you something to think about, something gush about to friends.
2. Listen to music, just listen to music
You probably listen to music when you work out, when you drive, maybe when you cook, study, clean, etc. But how rare is it to do nothing but listen to music? Make some playlists or have Spotify make you a station. Revel in the joy of discovering new music and in the nostalgia of playing old favorites. Or just dance around your room to Christmas songs. All's fair game.
3. Read for pleasure
A lot of times the little voice will tell me that I shouldn’t waste time reading fiction - opt for self-improvement books, books about health and nutrition. Those are all great and enjoyable to read, but sometimes you just need to mentally leave the world you’re in and enter a magical, make-believe one.
You must know by now that adult coloring books are all the rage (or is that so “beginning-of-2017”? I’m not a trend expert!). You probably have one laying around somewhere. Bust it out, scrounge up some markers and colored pencils, and get to work. This was the best part of kindergarten, and it can still be the best part of your day, whether you’re 6 or 16 or 60.
5. Go for a slow walk
Resist the temptation to start power-walking or running. Just go for a stroll. I like that word, stroll. Synonyms include: saunter, amble, wander, walk, turn, promenade. Perfect. Maybe listen to a podcast, or bring a friend.
6. Sit in a sauna
I do this every Sunday evening and it chills me out like nothing else. Haha, get it, chills. It’s funny because it’s a sauna. It’s hot… okay, moving on.
Your only task is literally to sit and sweat like a pig. Or if you’d prefer to depict yourself as a more graceful animal, go ahead. But you get the idea. The subsequent lowering of the body’s temperature when you take a cool shower afterward puts your body into sleep mode, AKA bliss mode. And that's what we're all about here at The Bliss Bean.
Plus, sauna-ing it up actually has lots of health benefits in addition to being relaxing. I've got a post all about that and some tips to make the most of your sauna experience, if you're interested.
7. Immerse yourself in a hobby
I know it’s hard to answer the question “What are your hobbies?” (Ahhh! Too personal, too deep!), but I’m sure you have had some hobbies that you’ve loved but dropped for one reason or another. For me, it's knitting. I actually got really good at it when I was younger. I made scarves, hats, bags, even little stuffed animals. It was so satisfying. No matter how much my hands cramped up, seeing the product grow row by row felt like such an accomplishment.
8. Take a bath
Bath bombs are great for this but obviously they’re expensive so remember that it’s not necessary! You can make your own, too. The picture above is from a finals survival kit fundraiser I organized in which we made handmade 200 bath bombs... That was interesting. But all you really need is a tub and a large amount of water.
If you do have them, candles, relaxing music, books, bubbles, essential oils, face masks, etc. are all highly encouraged. But all you really need is a tub and a large amount of water.
9. Do a long workout
During the workweek, there can be a lot of pressure to make sure your fitness routine is not only consistent, but efficient. If you aren’t wearing yourself out in an hour, you’re not working out hard enough, some say. Which is fine and good advice for those busy days, but once in a while, I say take some time to just PLAY at the gym. Do a longer workout, but really focus on what you’re doing. Play around with backbends and handstands and whatever floats your boat. Finish out with some crazy satisfying foam rolling. Just think - how ridiculous is it to feel guilty for spending too MUCH time at the gym, for having too MUCH fun?
10. Yoga/stretching play
On a similar note, roll out your yoga mat and just play. Really pay attention to what muscles feel mm-mm-goood when you stretch them. Where are you tight? Work out those tight spots. Do downward dog, happy baby, and child’s pose to your heart’s content. Focus on your breath and your heartbeat. It’s a way like no other to connect to your body.
11. Bake something
Bonus points if you make it healthy! Nourish your taste buds, nourish your body, that's what I always say (that's the first time I've said that ever). The whole process of baking: measuring the ingredients, tasting the batter, the smell wafting from the hot oven, and then finally biting into the chewy brownies (or your drug of choice), EVERYTHING is so therapeutic.
12. Spend some time outside
Just like the music thing, how often do we get to just sit outside? Maybe we’re sitting outside talking to someone, or sitting outside working, or sitting outside reading. But try, even for a few minutes, to just find a comfortable spot to sit in nature. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. I would not recommend doing this in Wisconsin’s current 17 freaking degree weird dry pre-winter season. But how lovely would it be in the summer? Pay attention to what all of your senses are experiencing.
13. Use a face mask
And for even more self-care, do any of the above while you wait for a face mask to do its magic! Okay, maybe not the long workout one but you get it. You can even make a DIY mask to save money. Whatever you do, make sure that it smells lovely. What is even the point of a face mask if it doesn’t smell nice??
Now, however fluid the definition of self-care may be, and however many ways there are to do it, I do think that there are wrong ways to do it. And what's wrong for me may be right for you. Take this example:
Even though when I am stressed and overwhelmed I am tempted to pull out my phone and scroll through Instagram and Pinterest to soothe myself, I try my darned hardest to choose something else. Because I know that these things are simply instant gratification - they’ll suck me in and before I know it an hour will have gone by with little to no work OR relaxing done.
Get to know yourself and what you enjoy, because it makes absolutely no sense to do something for self-care just because someone else enjoys it. It’s literally called SELF-care!!
So today's question for you is: What does YOUR self-care look like?
To leave you with one last tip: Don’t overthink self-care. It’s such a personal concept that sometimes the best thing we can do is go with the flow and do the thing we are drawn to. Maybe you planned on taking a nice warm bath but now it’s Friday evening and you have absolutely no desire to do that. Instead, the coloring book on your shelf is calling to you. So do it. Just DO IT. I'll refrain from adding a Shia LaBeouf gif but keep that in mind.
Take care of yourself first.