Written by Writer’s Corps member Amanda Phillips
Despite what we may see as we scroll through social media, we all start to run on empty at times. Still, it’s not realistic to expect your partner to drop everything because you need them, and that’s okay! Sure your partner can rearrange their schedule to be there for you sometimes, but they cannot be your sole source of emotional support all the time.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of things that can help you find balance when you need to recenter. My favorite one, as a therapist and mental health activist, is the practice of self-care. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “A bubble bath doesn’t always fix it,” – and you’re right! Self-care isn’t the same day-to-day, or person-to-person; it’s not always a nap, and you owe it to yourself to learn what works best for you depending on the situation. Once you figure out your best self-care moves and add them to your routine, you’ll be surprised by how much your relationship improve.
Let’s Break Down Self-Care:
There are a couple of different ways to practice self-care, but I like to keep it simple and think about it in three basic categories: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Physical Self-Care is…
…the act of taking care of your actual body (and not acting like Taco Bell is a food group). It can be things like:
- pampering + good hygiene + spa time
Now, I didn’t say anything about going on Whole 30 (but if that’s your vibe, go for it) or scheduling weekly massages you can’t afford. Physical self-care is all about doing the things that make your body feel good and make you feel loved and respected and repeating them in a way that is sustainable.
As someone who travels a lot and is always on the go, this means stuff like having my meals prepped instead of relying on fast food and heading to the sports chiropractor once a week to recover from all the cycle classes I teach. Even if I can’t feel a difference in that one day of eating well and going to the sports chiropractor, I know what I need to do to maintain long-term physical balance, and I can tell a difference between that and when I’m constantly laying in bed and eating something from the drive-through.
Emotional Self-Care is…
…the act of taking care of your thoughts, emotions and headspace and allowing yourself to actually feel your feelings (and not judging yourself for it). You can practice this by:
- giving yourself permission to feel down, or have an off day
- take some deep breaths, or download an app like Headspace
This is the one that gets me. As a mental health advocate, I believe it is so crucial to give yourself permission to feel your feelings, because if you stuff them or rush your way through processing, they’re still gonna be in there somewhere, and they’ll come out somehow.
So when you start to feel yourself spinning with anxiety or whatever it is, and start to get lost in questions or insecurities, think about what you need and how you can ask for it. Trust your instincts; you know when calling your mom will help, and when it won’t. That same thing is true for taking a nap – sometimes it helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. It may not be the same day-to-day, and that’s okay, too.
Spiritual Self-Care is…
…making sure that you stay connected to the things that make you feel rooted and close to your purpose and calling.
- volunteering for a cause you care about
This is a huge one and is crucial when there is a lot of stuff going on in the world or in your personal life that makes you question your path or purpose. And so when the world around me starts to make my head spin, I like to unplug and go back to the basics. I get off of Instagram; I stop scrolling and get outside. I take a friend out to lunch who may be going through something tough because what helps me most when I feel “off” is to remember that even though negativity exists in the world, I can usually find a way to put some good back into it by being there for a friend. Whatever it is that gives you that breath of fresh air, literally or figuratively, go after it.
Taking Good Care of Yourself
I love to take cycle classes with my friends, and I can be competitive, but I broke my arm recently and can’t always work as hard as I’d like to. If I have a class where I feel insecure or like I don’t measure up, I might be tempted to stay late and keep working out – but that’s not self-care in that situation, that’s me fixing an emotional problem with a physical solution. Instead, good emotional self-care might be me chatting with those friends, who can remind me of how far I’ve come since I got out of my bright red arm cast.
All this to say, you probably know what you need better than anyone when it comes to times of stress, and we’re all guilty of running ourselves into the ground — but you have so many options to help yourself feel balanced again. It’s never your job to try and help others when you’re at a deficit, and it’s not your partner’s either. It’s just your job to take ridiculously good care of yourself.
Create A Self-Care Plan
First, make a list of twenty things that make you happy, fill you back up, or get your feet back on the ground when you’re feeling a little floaty.
Then, sort those things into the categories up above – physical, emotional, and spiritual (and some can be more than one!)
Post your lists somewhere you’ll see them, write them out in your planner, or stick them in your phone. Your list will serve as a daily reminder to do something for yourself every day so that you can actually schedule them into your day! I’ve even color-coded my iCal to have a special section JUST for self-care. It’s that important for my life balance.