This article first appeared on SHESAID and has been republished with permission.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those things — I love a good pedicure, don’t get me wrong — but in these politically scary times (the United States electing a sexual predator as president, children being gassed to death in Syria) it seems to me that we need to re-think our attitude toward self-care. If we’re going to keep up our energy for worldwide protests and not become overwhelmed with exhaustion and despair, our self-care style needs to be a little more tough love than self-indulgence.
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On that note, here are nine ways to take good care of yourself these days, when it feels like the world is falling apart…
1. Turn off your phone.
It seems like there’s new research every day saying that social media and our culture of constant connection is making us anxious and miserable. Unplugging might feel bad or scary at first, but it’s ultimately one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Set aside a couple of hours each day (besides sleep time!) when you don’t look at or touch your phone at all.
2. Get some exercise.
Exercise isn’t a punishment. It’ll get your endorphins flowing and make you feel better, guaranteed. Find something you don’t hate — spinning, Zumba, dancing, something — and go break a sweat.
3. Don’t engage in negative self-talk.
We all do this, probably so much that we’re not even aware of it. Next time you catch yourself thinking anything that starts off with, ‘why didn’t I…’ or ‘I really should have…’ or ‘I’m so…’ knock it off. You’re great. You’re doing fine. End of story.
4. Say ‘no’ more often.
Sure, there’s value in saying ‘yes’ a lot of the time. But when you’re burnt out, you’re burnt out. It’s okay to say no to going out clubbing, or that freelance project you don’t have time for, or taking on that volunteer position with the human rights nonprofit agency.
5. Go on a secret date with yourself.
This doesn’t have to cost anything, or involve beauty treatments. I mean, it can — but it doesn’t have to. The point is just to get away and have some time completely to yourself. There’s a little community garden in the middle of the city that I like to disappear into for a few hours sometimes in the summer; I pack a little picnic and a book and don’t tell anyone where I’m going. I highly recommend it.
6. Adopt a rescue pet.
We volunteered to foster a sick kitten from the local shelter a few days after the last presidential election, when we were still crying every day. Who are they kidding with that ‘foster’ business? We adopted her, and our lives have never been sweeter. Just remember: cats are much easier to take care of than dogs. Plus, they purr.
7. Write it out.
“Words are the way to survive a life.” Poet and writer Pádraig Ó Tuama said that in the unedited version of his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, and I couldn’t agree more. Writing is the best way I know to sort out my thoughts and come to grips with whatever is happening in my life. If you don’t journal, start. It helps.
8. Go to bed early.
When I was little, staying up late felt like a treat. Now, going to bed early feels like a decadent thing to do. Seriously — getting more sleep is good for your mental and your physical health. Do yourself a favor and push your bedtime up an hour.
9. Forgive yourself.
As women, we hold ourselves to impossible standards. We want to be successful in our careers, but we also want to be good partners, good mothers, good friends, and good daughters. We want to do it all, and we can’t, and then we feel like failures when we can’t even get self-care right.
It’s okay if you can’t do everything — or anything — on this list. Forgive yourself, and try again tomorrow.
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