Y'all, I promise you that if there's one thing that I think is at the root of most of the challenges a lot of my clients have, it's that they don't have a clue what it means to put self-care into practice. If they did, they would approach work differently, they wouldn't settle in a lot of the relationships that they do and they would be in a much better space—mentally, emotionally and physically. It's like, we spend so much time making sure that others are good that we don't even take a few moments to see if we're OK as well.
That's why I came up with this list. It's a list of 15 ways that each and every woman can take better care of her entire being. While I'm pretty sure there are at least a dozen of other things that I could've added, as someone who has been putting all of these into practice for a while now, I can personally attest to the fact that the quality of my life has gotten so much better once I made these paramount in my life.
1. Have a Pampering Budget
I can't tell you how many times I've talked to a woman about the importance of pampering herself and she's replied with, "I don't even know what that means." For the record, taking bubble baths and getting your nails done is cool but technically that falls under the category of self-maintenance. Pampering is "to treat or gratify with extreme or excessive indulgence, kindness, or care" which means, yes, going a little over the top when it comes to doing things for yourself.
Pampering is doing things like buying a pair of shoes that you don't need but you know would be killin' on you or booking a room in your favorite hotel, for the weekend, just to sleep or read in. And yes, every single woman on the planet should have a budget for that.
If you're wondering where or how to start, "tithing to yourself" (setting aside 10 percent of each paycheck) is a good starting point. That way, it's in the budget and you don't have to worry about spending more than you should.
2. Set Social Media Hours
The reason why we write articles on this site like, "Social Media: How To Take Back Control Of What You're Consuming", "Why Taking A Break From Social Media Is Critical For My Self-Care Routine" and "What I Learned From My Two-Month Social Media Fast" is because, who needs to be "plugged in", consuming data and talking to people ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT long? While social media does have its benefits (such as networking, brand development and getting news as quickly as it's produced), too much of anything can work against, rather than for, you. Case in point. I've got one friend who is so addicted to her smartphone that she's basically an insomniac; her sex life with her hubby is suffering as well. While that might sound crazy to some of y'all, there are articles out in cyberspace like, "Excessive Social Media Use Comparable to Drug Addiction" that confirm it is oh so very real. Social media is cool, but you don't actually need it. All you need is food, water, air, shelter—and your faith. This means that you can totally do without it from time to time. Do your holistic health a favor and make sure that you do so by setting hours for when your notifications are on and…when they are off.
3. Use Your Bedroom “Appropriately”
It can't be said enough that bedrooms are to be used ONLY for sex and for sleeping. Not too long ago, I was talking to a fellow worker about her totally insane sleep patterns. One of the things that she mentioned was, she had a hard time falling asleep because she did most of her writing in her bedroom. Do you get how hard it is to see the place where you work as the place where you rest? Even if you're in a studio apartment, designate a corner where you do all of your "heavy lifting". While you're at it, set aside a few (more) bucks to make your bedroom a haven for calm, peace and utter tranquility (on top of being a sex den, if you're presently "occupied"). If there is one room in your house that should make you feel totally chilled out and sexy as hell at the same time, it would be your bedroom. Does it?
4. When You’re Away from Work…STAY AWAY FROM IT
The United States is the most overworked developed nation in the world. That's not my opinion; that's actually the title of an article I recently read. And don't even get me started on how many people who bust their ass are underpaid—and underappreciated—in the process. While we all need to work in order to pay the bills, it's important to remember that we have work hours (and if you're an entrepreneur, you should definitely implement some) for a reason.
Start your week or day off with to-do lists. Manage your time wisely so that you can complete what's on it. And then, when you're done for the day, BE DONE.
Thankfully, being raised to be a Seventh-Day Sabbath observer taught me that Friday sunset through Saturday sunset was a non-work option (via Exodus 20:8-11). But whatever your personal faith journey is, please make sure that you make rest a top priority. Work is supposed to support your life, not take over it. Don't feel guilty for setting limits in this area. Your mind, body and spirit need you to do just that.
5. Date Yourself
Tell the truth and shame the devil. When's the last time you took your own self out on a date? If your immediate response is "that sounds awkward as hell", if you happen to be single, ask some of the wives you know how important it is and how much they envy you that you can "kick it alone" more than they are able to now that they're married (come to think of it, when I had a blog for single women, a close friend of mine shared what she misses about being single entitled "A married lady's words to single sisters". Check it out when you get a chance).
Head to the movies without having to compromise on which one to watch. Sit in a coffee shop and read for hours on end without interruption. Go to the spa for a couple of hours whenever you feel like it. Take a class or attend a seminar that's related to something you've always been interested or wanted to try. Try a new restaurant. Devote a day to doing absolutely nothing but whatever the heck you want to do (even if that's staying in bed for hours on end). The options really are endless. Just remember that dating is all about getting to know someone better in a pleasant environment. Who said that person can't—or shouldn't—be yourself?
6. Forgive Yourself
Author Miguel Ángel Ruiz Macías once said, "Forgive yourself. The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you've created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows." You know what? He's 100 percent correct. You know, there are people I've come across who are so offended by how openly I can speak about things like my abortions or my past sexual history. It's not that I don't have some regrets (all regrets are is expressing remorse; remorse oftentimes brings about real change); it's just that, since I've forgiven myself for a lot of my choices and mistakes (which aren't automatically one and the same, y'all), the wounds are now scars. And, hopefully, I am able to help others with my testimony.
No matter how many things that you check off on this list, they are kinda sorta gonna be for naught if forgiving yourself isn't a consistent practice. Acknowledge your faults. Release the guilt and shame surrounding them. Find ways to do better the next time. Then rinse and repeat. It's not always an easy practice but man, is it a liberating one.
7. Treat Yourself (at Least) Once a Week
An associate professor by the name of Kristin Neff once said, "I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren't more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they'll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be." If that's a radical way of thinking to you, then it's a quote that you should print out and post up somewhere. As someone who now makes a point and purpose to treat myself, at least once a week—whether it's getting a new shade of lip gloss, ordering chicken and waffles from my favorite spot or purchasing a graphic T-shirt…just because I like it—I am here to tell you that it really does cause me to be a lot more gentle and loving with myself.
A lot of times, we're not taught to be self-indulgent because it can be confused with being selfish. But when the Golden Rule tells us to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", how can you treat others well when you're not treating yourself in the same manner? Treating yourself isn't frivolous. It's how you program your being into making yourself a priority; into doing things that make you smile, simply because you deserve to.
8. Spend Some Time Outside
Out of all of the things on this list, the one that I personally know I need to get better at is spending more time in the great outdoors. Because I write and counsel for a living (and because I actually enjoy being in cooler and darker spaces), it can easily be days before I spend any significant amount of time in the sunlight. That's not good either because there is plenty of scientific evidence that points to the fact that hanging out in nature can do everything from reduce pain and improve your vision to increase your Vitamin D intake (which is something that a lot of us are deficient in) and strengthen your immune system. Plus, if you're an avid reader, classic books like The Celestine Prophecy offer some other cool takes on how nature communicates with us (ones that I've personally experienced). Whether it's jogging in the morning, strolling after dinner or hiking on the weekends, make it a practice to get out from under your roof and into a space where you can look at the clouds—or stare at the stars.
9. “Prune” Your Relationships
Any gardener will tell you that nothing really grows right or well unless you prune it from time to time.
Pruning is about getting rid of what's old or unhealthy so that something can flourish. And yes, this definitely needs to happen in relationships just as much as it does in nature. In fact, I think that if this happened more often, a lot of relationships (especially friendships) wouldn't end…they would just transform or shift.
Something that I do with the friendships that I truly value is taking an informal assessment once a year. If everyone involved has been intentional about self-growth and personal development, we've all done some changing within 12 months' time. So, what we discuss is where we are, what we need, and how we see our relationship at the present time. What is no longer serving either one of this, we either remove it or compromise. Trust me, it's so much better than abruptly cutting someone off or resenting someone for feeling like things have to stay exactly the same when you are totally different. No doubt about it, pruning is definitely an act of self-care. Make sure that you do it from time to time.
10. Take Vacation/Personal Days
I work from home and have for many years now. For the most part, it's the complete and total bomb. The challenge is, when your bosses don't interact with you in the physical sense, you're seen more like content than an actual human being. As a result, it can be hard to get any time off. Apparently, based on an article that I recently read, folks who go into the office aren't much better. According to it, a lot of y'all are out here taking (what?!) only 2.5 sick days off PER YEAR, mostly because you feel like you can't afford to do more than that. From a got-to-pay-the-bills standpoint, I hear you but, you know what you really can't afford? Soaring medical bills due to stress-related diseases that came from not taking proper care of yourself. Vacations and personal days aren't luxuries. Sis, you've totally earned them. And while we're at it, sick days are there for a reason and a purpose. You're only going to extend how long you're not well (and potentially get others sick around you) if you don't use those too. Don't feel guilty for off-days that you have coming for a reason. Use them. That's what they are there for.
11. Embrace Luxury Baths
Remember how I said earlier that "regular baths" are nothing more than mere maintenance and upkeep? I totally meant that. What I'm talking about here is setting aside, at least one day a week, to be ridiculously self-indulgent. I'm talking rose petals. I'm talking soaking in chocolate (you can cop a DIY chocolate bubble bath recipe here). I'm talking a glass of wine beside you and soft music playing in the background. Since baths can calm anxiety, improve the health of your heart and even balance your hormones, it definitely deserves to be on the list of what it takes to practice true self-care, don't you think?
12. Get the Answers You Seek
Back in 2015, when I went on what I call the "Get Your Heart Pieces Back" tour, some women gave me pushback, talking about I was only further harming myself by revisiting the past. You know what's interesting about a lot of those ladies? Many of them can't seem to make a relationship work or last to save their life because they are still angry, bitter or unresolved when it comes to some of the men in their life. It's kinda crazy, but while I was out looking for my exes (whether they were ex-boyfriends or ex-sex partners), I ended up discovering even more about myself in the process. Then, once I had the conversations that I wanted to have with them, clarity, resolve, inner peace, forgiveness or closure finally came to the point that I know that I am in a good place when it comes to how I process them and my past.
I know that not everyone is going to embark upon that kind of journey; I get it. But if you've got questions, about anything, there is nothing wrong with wanting to get the answers that you seek. It can be by reading a book. It can be by going to counseling. It can be by getting a mentor. All I'm saying is knowledge (especially over assumption) can bring about so much understanding and growth. The quest for resolution is one of the greatest—and underrated—forms of self-care that there is.
12. Pray and/or Meditate
You can read articles like "Does Prayer Help or Harm Your Health?" and studies like "Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials" for proof that praying for yourself (and for others) has numerous health-related benefits, both physically and mentally. Let me tell it, it's because prayer affords us the opportunity to release what we're internalizing while finding comfort that we're not "in this thing" alone; that there is a Higher Power who totally has our back. As far as meditation goes, it does everything from reduce stress and lengthen our attention span to help us fight substance abuse addiction and make us a more empathetic human being. Know something else that meditation does? If you do it with your partner, it can give you one heck of an orgasm (check out "What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?"). So, if you're not devoting at least 30 minutes a day to prayer and/or meditation…why aren't you?
14. SET. BOUNDARIES.
There's absolutely no telling how much heartache I could've spared myself had I learned to set boundaries earlier than I actually did. You can read articles that I posted on the site like "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members", "The Relationships In Your Life That Are Desperately In Need Of Boundaries", "When It Comes To Relational Disappointments—Do You Have 'Boundaries' Or Are You 'Bitter'?" and "The Art Of Saying 'No' To Things You Don't Want To Do" if you need help getting a grasp on that fact. Not only are setting limits—which is all boundaries are at the end of the day—beneficial, but they are critical if you're serious about keeping your peace of mind and sanity and also flourishing as an individual.
A wise person once said something along the lines of, the only people who have a problem with someone else's boundaries are the folks who had no intention of keeping them in the first place. Hmph. Words to live by, sis. Words to freakin' live by.
15. Create Goals. Reach Them. Celebrate Them.
At the end of the day, all a goal is, is a reached effort. You make a plan, you put in the work to manifest said plan and you don't stop until you accomplish what you set out to do. For each and every time you do that, no matter how big or small that plan may be, you need to celebrate it! Celebrate that you cared enough to create the goal in the first place. Celebrate the fortitude that it took to make it all come together. Celebrate that you didn't quit until you got the job done.
People who celebrate themselves are exhibiting a great amount of self-care because they are exhibiting that they know self-praise is not vanity when it's all about reminding themselves of their own strength and value. All of us have things that we're put on this planet to do. Do them and then find ways to relish in the fact that you are living within your purpose and using your gifts responsibly. If those two things aren't worth celebrating, really sis…what is?
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Originally published on June 27, 2020