In the words of Agnes Wainman, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”
And folks, I’ve got some hard truth for you: we are not refueling ourselves. We are under-resourced! It happens little by little, day by day, until we’re chronically tired, overwhelmed, burned out, and spiraling.
Despite the barrage of articles with self-care ideas online (there are currently about 3,010,000,000 Google search results for the term “self-care”) self-care has all but lost its meaning.
If you’re having trouble relating to the articles about slapping on a face mask, pouring yourself a glass of wine, and watching Sex and the City (or, alternatively, articles about going on 7-day silent yoga retreats)…you’re not alone. It’s time to learn which self-care ideas actually work to improve your mood and prevent burnout.
Plus, it’s important (now more than ever) to make sure that self-care isn’t just something you do when you’re feeling totally run down. It has to be a routine part of your life in order to make an impact.
Keep reading for exactly how to use radical self care as your secret weapon to feel great and prevent burnout.
What is RADICAL self-care?
Here at Lifehack Method, we practice what we like to call Radical Self-Care.
What is it, exactly? And how does it differ from every Buzzfeed article with self-care ideas?
Radical self-care asks you to start taking better care of yourself long before burnout comes knocking at your door. It asks you to transition from defense to offense, and prevent burnout instead of having to recover from it. And it asks you to do MORE self-care than you think you need. Double it! Triple it!
Here’s another hard truth: you can’t show up in excellence for anyone else until you start showing up in excellence for yourself. You have to fill up your own cup before you can pour over into anyone else’s.
Showing up for yourself can be really hard. Many people (like moms) feel guilty about spending time on themselves. That’s because in our society self-care is viewed as a luxury, not a necessity… and that has GOT to change! The key to moving from defense to offense is reframing the idea of self-care in your mind as integral to your life.
My best advice for practicing Radical Self-Care is to go ALL IN. When you’re spending time on self-care, you can’t half-ass it! You deserve to be 100% present with yourself.
If you want to be extremely productive and have extreme breakthroughs – you have to REST extremely too.
General principles of effective, radical self-care
So, what does going all-in on radical self-care look like?
While I am about to share several radical self-care ideas, it’s important to note that this is going to look different for everyone.
I think people get caught up in the idea that integrating self-care into their lives means they have to drop everything and meditate for 3 hours every morning. When in reality, effective, sustainable self-care is a bunch of small actions done routinely everyday – regardless of what’s going on in your life.
It needs to be built into your schedule. It can’t be something you occasionally squeeze in after a long day at the office if you’re feeling sad or stressed. And it can’t be viewed as a “reward” for hard work (ex: “I’ve had the worst day at the office, I deserve to do some self-care tonight!”).
Forming healthy habits around self-care means making it non-optional. Block it off in your schedule like it’s a meeting – and protect that time block with the same vigor you would a doctor’s appointment.
In the same vein, radical self care should be structured. Scrolling through social media mindlessly for an hour isn’t going to make you feel rejuvenated. It’s just going to make you feel tired (and probably more sad or stressed). Your self-care ideas should be activity-based.
And remember – to form a solid habit, start small. You either have to replace a current habit you have, or chain your new habit after an existing cue. Creating self-care habits is no exception to this rule. Start incredibly small.
Here are a few ideas you can start with (brought to you by our awesome community):
- 5 deep breaths in the shower. Simple, powerful, a great jumping-off point for anyone who feels like they’ve got no time in their day for self-care!
- Movement. Stretching, a light workout, yoga, hiking, etc. Setting a time daily, weekly, or monthly to practice the movement you love most!
- An “unfollow spree.” Boy-oh-boy is this satisfying. Take an afternoon to methodically go through your friends list on every social media platform you’re present on and unfollow the profiles that make you feel negative in any way shape or form. (If it’s a family member you’d rather not cause waves with by unfollowing, use that beautiful little “mute” button that pretty much every platform has!
- Read an enriching book. A lot of members of our community suggest fiction in particular, because it creates space for creativity.
- Learn a new skill. Bonus points if it’s tactile – like painting, drawing, calligraphy, or playing an instrument.
- Practice positive self-talk. Talk yourself up the way you would your best friend. Do it in the mirror for 1 solid minute every morning. It might feel weird at first, but MAN is this one powerful. (This is a suggestion from Michele, a Lifehacker in our community!)
- Schedule regular spa treatments. This might sound indulgent – it’s actually incredibly restorative. The most common example is a massage! But float therapy, acupuncture, manicure/pedicures all count too. You’re worth the money and the luxury, trust us. Bonus points for scheduling recurring appointments.
- Take a walk at the end of your work day. Use it as a signal that you’re switching from “work mode” to “chill mode.”
- Get up before others in your household. (Like an hour or two before anyone else in your household.) Use this as “solitude time” to reflect, sip coffee, read, meditate. No screens!
- Go on a trip alone. Take a weekend trip a couple hours away. Bring lots of books, your favorite blanket and pajamas, and double down on spending quality time with yourself.
- And lastly, SLEEP! This is a big one. So many people in our community mentioned sleep as their #1 self-care hack. (We’ll talk more about sleep in just a bit)
Why vacations (or staycations) are KEY to your self-care
For most of my life, I felt like I didn’t deserve to go on vacation. I was chronically tired, constantly stressed and overwhelmed, and generally just felt like I’d only “deserve” a break once I pushed through all of those feelings.
The irony is, I was never going to reach any of the magical breakthroughs or “aha” moments that I so desperately craved because I was under-resourcing myself. It was only once I started prioritizing breaks that I realized how backwards that thinking was.
I have my BEST ideas (both for my business and my life) on Day 3 of a holiday.
Day 1: All the pent up tension and stress from your “normal” life gets expelled on Day 1. You drink good wine, stay up late having fun, and start to really unplug.
Day 2: Day 2 is profoundly relaxing! Prioritize restorative activities – coffee with a view, a deep tissue massage, etc. And get restful sleep.
Day 3: Welcome the breakthroughs! This is when your mind starts to munch on all the stuff it’s felt too overwhelmed to chomp on in your normal life. Just go with it! I’ve had incredible breakthroughs for our business while sitting poolside reading a book on Day 3.
A couple notes on creating a magical vacation for yourself:
- A staycation TOTALLY counts! Especially in COVID times. If you can’t sneak away to a beautiful tropical island or cabin in the woods, staying close to home (or literally at home) works just as well. It’s the holiday mindset that creates the magic.
- Your break needs to be at least seven days. Trust me. 7 days gives you time to release pent up tension, have FUN, and fully relax. Keyword: fully.
Self-care ideas for COVID
Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we?
We’re living through an unprecedented moment in our lifetime thanks to COVID-19. And when something is unprecedented, it’s completely uncharted territory.
We’ve been FLOODED with new information – important, potentially life-altering, stressful information – pretty much daily for the last year. And these headlines have forced us to figure things out on the fly, which is incredibly counterintuitive. No wonder we’re fatigued!
And to top that all off, many of us suddenly had a lot of free time that we didn’t have before. For some people, that much unbridled “me” time felt extremely overwhelming. That’s a lot of time to spend alone, especially if you never intentionally did that in a more “normal” world.
Anxiety and depression are both completely natural and acceptable responses to everything that is happening. The most important act of self-care that you can ever do is prioritizing your mental health. Start by talking to a therapist! And accept the fact that we all need to be more gentle with ourselves.
Isolation might force you to be alone, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Learning how to cope with loneliness in itself is an act of self-care. There are a million ways to connect with your loved ones in virtual ways that can actually be fun. Coming to terms with our reality and learning to have fun with it will do wonders.
Here’s how one of the amazing Lifehackers in our community, Rosa, practices self-care during the pandemic:
In pandemic times, this is my self-care practice: I choose a relaxing soundtrack to play, make some delicious coffee or tea in a special way, and I sit in my kitchen (once it is clean and organised so my mind doesn’t wander)… I just let my mind wander about my dreams and things I want to do – whether it is a new place to visit, something new to try, or a loved one I want to contact. It is a moment to connect to positivity and be worry-free.
Data tracking your self-care
Let’s nerd out for a moment.
Activity tracking can be helpful for a myriad of reasons – from water intake, to counting your steps, to sleep tracking. And all of these might be having an effect on your mental health. There are a variety of activity trackers to choose from, including the FitBit, Apple Watch, and Oura Ring.
Data is the most powerful tool at your disposal so that you have real facts on which to base decisions. It’s easier than ever to collect data on yourself that directly correlates to your well-being. And it’s no secret that how much movement and sleep you get directly affects how you feel tomorrow.
My favorite thing to track is my SLEEP. Most people are chronically underslept, and not getting anywhere near the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep (with ~90 minutes of REM). Being underslept can have an effect on so many different parts of your life, from hormonal imbalances to your productivity. Aiming to get enough sleep every night is an act of self-care with such a high ROI, it’s a total no-brainer!
Whether you’re new to the practice of self-care or are a seasoned vet… it’s time to get RADICAL!
Think of this article as a jumping-off point – transitioning from defense to offense is going to take some work. But it is SO worth it.
We wanted to leave you with some of our favorite self-care resources. If we left your favorite off of this list, let us know in the comments and we’ll add yours!
Headspace meditation app
Calm meditation app
Balance meditation app (a suggestion from a Lifehacker in the community – thanks Brent!)
Betterhelp talk therapy
Talkspace talk therapy
Yoga For Beginners workout app
An article all about the best sleep trackers on the market
Oura ring sleep/health tracker
Fitbit sleep/health tracker