Similar to many other working, moving, shaking and heart-breaking women, I deal with the pressures of my daily responsibilities, bills, keeping track of life and everything else that comes along with adulting. Like millions of other adults in America, I also suffer from mental health issues that are exacerbated by stress and overwhelming situations. The one thing that has saved me from completely going bonkers is purposefully practicing self-care.
Self-care is not a buzzword. Self-care is not a suggestion. Self-care is not a trend. Self-care is an absolute must. Self-care helps to maintain physical and mental health, relieve stress, concentrate and focus on maintaining health relationships. When we take care of ourselves we are able to take better care of those around us and of the obligations of our lives. Not one of us is immune to stress or pressure. Therefore, not one of us shall be excused from taking good care of ourselves.
Self-care is for everyone. You may be a student, mother, career-driven business maven, high schooler or anything in between. If you are living, breathing person, self-care is for you. There is no certain level or threshold of stress or pressure that you have to meet to engage in caring for your mind, body and soul. Due to the many responsibilities that we take on or are put on us, it is almost impossible to avoid times of stress. Practicing self-care allows you to cope with and relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other overwhelming and energy-stealing feelings.
The 10 Self-Care Commandments
Thou Shalt Know Herself. Whether you keep a health journal or simply make mental notes, begin keeping track of the ebbs and flows of your mental, physical and spiritual health. Do you find that certain times of the year bring more stress than others? Perhaps you feel down more often right before you menstruate. Maybe you notice that certain people, places or duties trigger you. Learn your body. Begin to figure out when something mentally or physically does not feel right so that you can seek treatment if it persists. Keep a record of headaches that come when you are entering a high time at work. Know what is and is not right inside of you so that you can begin taking care of yourself right away.
Thou shall not let anyone else determine her feelings. Unlike those cool clear house phones from the 90’s, our insides are closed off to the outside world. So, while the people around you can see your facial expressions, view your output and hear your words, they cannot see what is going on inside of you. How is it, then, that they are somehow experts on your feelings, mental health and overall wellness? Oh, that’s right. They aren’t! When you are creating ways to take care of yourself, there will undoubtedly be folks all up in your business telling you what you do and don’t need; how you do or don’t feel. And yes, of course, you will have those few that love to remind you that “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” I have choice words for those types of people but I digress. Your feelings, your stress, your mind, your body; they belong to you and only you. There is not another person on this earth that has the ability to tell you how you feel. So, when they try, politely ask them to remain in their own lane, or brush them off. But, do not let anyone make you feel bad for being true to your own feelings.
Thou shall care for herself early and often. Do not slack on taking care of yourself when you need to. We often feel guilt when we take time away from work, family or friends but think of it this way: take a short reprieve now, to avoid a long breakdown later. Self-care should be so ingrained into your daily life that you are taking care of yourself even when you are not thinking about it purposefully. Remember, self-care is not just about coloring pages and yoga. Self-care includes all the things that you do to make your quality of life better: eating well, sleeping enough, exercise, etc.
Thou shall determine what works best for herself. What works for one does not always work for the other. Sometimes you have to try a bunch of different methods before you find the one, two or few that fit best for your life and personality. When you mention to someone that you are stress, overwhelmed, depressed or feeling pressure, the suggestions will flow. Well, this is my one and only suggestion: Find something that works for you and do not give up if an activity does not help, something will.
Thou shall SELF care. You do not need to include anyone else in your self-care and you certainly do not have to feel obligated to take care of anyone else while you are trying to take care of yourself. Self-care is not something that you indulge in, like a pedicure once a month. Because it is essential to ensuring your life is improved and your mind is healthy, it is important to treat it like an obligation. Like C3 says, do it often. This also means that you may have to take time away from others in order to take care of yourself. Now, I am not saying that you should run away for a couple of weeks when you know there is no one else to handle your business for you. But, I am saying that it is important to have time to yourself. Even if that only includes 15 minutes of reading a good book with the door shut before the kids wake up. Take care of yourself so that when you are taking care of others, you can do it as well as you intend to.
Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” – Deborah Day
Thou shall make self-care a habit. Build your methods of self-care into habits that you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Add it to your calendar, to-do lists and personal agenda. Make regular doctor and dentist appointments, add gym days to your schedule, pencil in face masks and manicures. Whatever it is that you are doing to maintain your care, record it so that you can hold yourself accountable. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you will forget to do it as soon as you finish saying that you are going to. When you think of self-care methods, make them as regular as teeth brushing.
Thou shall engage in health care. Your mental health is tied very closely to your physical health. If you do not take care of your mind, your body will likely suffer. Include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, even financial exercises and practices into your routine so that you are taking care of every area of your life.
Thou shall be proactive and reactive. If you are not currently stressed out or anxious, I am quite sure you can recall a time when your mind was rife with anxiety. Do not wait to dive into self-care practices. Do it regularly so that when high stress times come, you will be prepared. Think of it as supplementary health insurance. On the other hand, stress may creep up on you when you least expect it. When that happens, be armed with methods of care that will help you to get over the hump. Make a note to record what methods work or don’t work for different types of pressures you face so that you can reference it if those times return.
Thou shall reach out. When you are most in need of self-care, what do you do? Do you retreat or do you go out and get active or social? If you’re anything like me, you hermit up like a recluse in a dark cave. While this may feel good for a while, it may also worsen your feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. During those times where you are most in need of relief, reach out to someone else. Perhaps you have a girl’s night or your make an appointment with that therapist that you’ve been meaning to call for the last six months. Maybe you invite your lover over for movie night or hang out with your family for the weekend. Either way, get around other people.
Thou shall not believe she is burdensome. When you are feeling stressed, stretched or depressed, it is easy to feel like talking to other people may cause you to be a burden. But, if your friends or family truly care for you, you will find that they are willing and able to handle what you throw at them. Then again, you may find that the people closest to you do not understand or are not able to give you the level of help that you need. In these cases, contact a doctor, counselor, therapist or spiritual counselor who is trained to assist you with these matters. Remember that the things bringing your mind pain and pressure may be symptoms of more serious mental or physical health issues that require professional assistance and treatment.
If you or anyone that you know is dealing with mental health issues and is in need of help, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 800-950-6264
If it’s an emergency in which you or someone you know is suicidal, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.
The Jasmine's record their first week of the fitness journey. For one Jasmine, the journey was a struggle and then a fail. For the other Jasmine, things seemed to go pretty well. Can you guess who did well this week!?!?! Do you have any tips, tricks or motivation for either Jasmine!? Leave something in the comments for us!
M. Lauren: My plan was to meal prep last night and then get up this morning and go to the gym. But, life got in the way. I had an event last night and I was exhausted yesterday so I’ll do my meal prep tonight! I did have the chance to make lunch though! I went to bed super early (like 930pm) but I didn’t fall right asleep and I woke up a couple of hours later. I tossed and turned all night long. So, the time that I should’ve been getting up to go to the gym, I was falling back asleep. I would’ve been no good at the gym or work had I done both, so I had to pick one.
My aunt told me about a Cherry-Vanilla smoothie that helped her fall and stay asleep. I am going to try it this week to see if it helps me. Tart cherry juice is said to contain melatonin, which is a supplement I’ve taken in the past, so hopefully the smoothie will do me some good. I am sick and tired of always being tired.
I sort of skipped breakfast but not on purpose, I got to work and started working and never took time out to go make my oatmeal. So, I have to start prepping breakfast early. Everything requires me waking up earlier and earlier and I am not about that life! #prayforme
Anywho, I am going to meal prep tonight and try to get some good rest so that I can get to the gym for boot camp in the morning!
Jas: Today I felt motivated to start this thing strong. I am on day 2 of 2 of a juice cleanse and I ate healthy all day yesterday. This morning I went to a 7 am HIIT class at the gym and I felt great (because of my fitness supplements giving me amazing energy) so my usual struggle wasn’t so bad. I had a healthy after breakfast meal so I felt good about that too. I need to meal prep. Meal prep keeps me on track and its very affordable. If I go out and buy food I am not going to buy healthy food or know how it was prepared and I am going to spend a lot of money. I am also starting a food journal for personal accountability. I am really honest with it and I don’t want to have to report that I ate the soft batch chocolate chip cookies that having been staring me down in the break room all morning. So I won’t eat it. Its just another form of motivation. Hopefully I keep this up. I know it gets easier with time and this is day one.
M. Lauren: Today was a much better day! I was able to do my meal prep and try the cherry-vanilla smoothie last night. The tart cherry juice put me right to sleep! I slept all night! I went to the cardio abs class this morning and my eating was on point!! I had time to pack multiple breakfasts and lunches (lol) before work so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat something sweet and calorie wasting. I had brussel sprouts, they’re terrible. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself, smh! Other than that, I have no complaints.I am now setting my alarm for 4:30 am everyday so that I can get into the habit of getting up whether I’m going to the gym or not. This is going to be a hell of a challenge. I hate mornings! Oh well, I’ll just have to thug it out until I get used to it.
Jas: I finally meal prepped. YAY ME! Seriously though, meal prep works for me like a dream. My issue is when I get hungry I lose all common sense and I go for the tastiest option. Usually it isn’t the best one though. If I meal prep I won’t waste the food I made, I make it tasty, and it’s always there for me. So I won’t cheat myself with snacks. I am happy. However I already forgot to use my food journal.
M. Lauren: My focus for the middle of this week is healthy eating. I didn’t eat breakfast until almost 10am which is a super fail for me because I wake up somewhere in the 6’o’clock hour. I had a banana and a salad! Yet again, I see the effects of failing to wake up early enough to eat breakfast at home. I guess I’ll have to add this to my list of things to improve upon. I also did not eat dinner last night. I had coffee cake around 5pm and I never ate after that. I need to stop skipping meals as well.
I am also thinking of a coffee alternative. I LOVE coffee but I really can’t handle all the caffeine. I also love tea but in the morning, I don’t want to drink green tea.
I am beginning to realize how boring it is talking about kale and calories all day. I want to nosh ice cream and cinnamon rolls but I don’t have any.
Ooh! I have cake, though!! Jesus be a fence.
Jas: Today’s workout was HARD!!! I did a HIIT workout and boy let me tell you that is a hard 30 minutes to complete. I’m telling you guys check out Fit Body Boot Camp in Beachwood! it is seriously worth the money, drive, and effort. I ate well. I made a green smoothie for breakfast. I love them. They fill me up and are packed with the stuff I need. I ate well too. I am hoping to lose a few pounds by the end of next week.
M. Lauren: I ate cake. A lot of cake. And a lot of other sugary snacks. I also was too sleepy to go to the gym. I see this all going downhill fast!
Jas: Today’s workout was the hardest workout I have ever done since starting Fit Body Boot Camp. I did a 45 minute cardio abs session taught by Travis. I did not expect for it to be such a challenge. Even though its cardio and abs you get a full body workout. I accidentally missed breakfast so that probably added to the difficulty. I demolished a banana after wards in the car and went home and ate immediately. Another thing I have been doing is committing myself to only drinking water. I even cut out coffee and wine (pray for me saints). I put lemon and lime slices in it because I hear its good for detoxing. Its tasty. I fell really good and hydrated. I lost like 3 pounds so I feel on top of the world. (also I am jealous M.L. had cake today)
M. Lauren: I had more cake. I had more sugar. I didn’t work out. I decided to spend 4 hours after work at Starbucks where I had my fave: caramel macchiato. It was great. There were some cute guys at Starbucks too… just a sidenote. I knew after Thursday it was all going downhill and I was right… But I started each day off right with healthy breakfasts and lunches. Only to go rogue after one taste of sweetness. I might have an addiction.
Jas: Today I had drill (Army stuff) so I didn’t get to work out. I am proud though, that I didn’t go out to lunch with my soldiers and I ate the meal I brought with me instead. I didn’t want to. I would have loved to go out to eat but afterward I had no feelings of guilt for cheating which totally made up for it. I am hoping to have time for the gym tomorrow after we get off.
M. Lauren: Listen… I woke up and enjoyed a green smoothie. I mean, it was chock full of spinach and kale. I felt good about myself. I snacked on blueberries. I was living the good and healthy life. But then, I went to Chick-Fil-A. Jesus be a fence around my tastebuds. I LOVE Chick-Fil-A. It was so delicious. And I eat it in the worst way… I love mayo on my fries. But, at least I got the light mayo, right? Anyway, Saturday was my brother’s baby shower so I went to celebrate the forthcoming life of my new niece. It was at Applebee’s. Everything was fried. I had cassada cake. That’s my favorite cake. I am still thinking about that cake. I love cake. Oh.. then I went and got Thai food. So, basically, my eating was terrible. But, delicious!
Jas: I got to go to the gym!!!! I ran (which I suck at) and almost died. So I am adding in at least 4 days of running a week. I really don’t care to but the military makes me run two miles for time and I can’t afford to fail that test. So run it is. I did have a small cheat meal. I had a turkey burger and fries at Bar Louie. It was so good y’all. I inhaled that thing in less than 10 seconds. I still only drank water though so yay for not drinking alcohol.
M. Lauren: I slept A LOT. I must’ve needed to catch up on sleep because I slept off and on for most of the day which means that I ate next to nothing. And by nothing I mean four banana bread muffins. Why are they so good?! Why do I love banana bread!? So, I ate those and a sandwich with a bunch of chips. And then I had Brio, my fave. I have a lot of favorites. All this to say, I started off good and I ended horribly.
Lessons I learned this week: 1. Preparation is everything. If I don’t prepare beforehand, I’ll eat like crap. 2. Sacrifices must be made for the glitter and booty shorts. I’m going to have to get up earlier to workout and stop skipping so often.
Jas: So this morning I went to breakfast and I did so good. I got egg whites, turkey sausage, and multi grain pancakes (i didn’t even finish them because I was like I don’t need these carbs these carbs need me). So go me for that small victory. I ate healthy the rest of the day but because I was driving back to Cleveland I missed the gym. I will be back tomorrow and I am looking forward to next week’s workouts. I am seeing progress in my body. So I am motivated to keep this thing going.