I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past two weeks. Prior to getting sick, I had been away on a weekend trip to New Orleans for a family wedding. My morning routine and self care practices completely went out the window while I was on vacation. The combined lack of self care, indulging in Southern food, and stress of traveling with a toddler led to me getting sick as soon as we returned home. I got hit with a stomach bug immediately upon my arrival back in NJ, which then turned into a lingering cold. Feeling physically ill and low on energy started to make me feel emotionally drained as well. I spent all of last week feeling sorry for myself and struggling to get back on track with my feel-good routines. It took over a week of forcing myself to do yoga, drink lots of soup and tea, and walk to the beach for fresh air until I finally started feeling somewhat normal again. This has taught me a very important lesson: the best way to take care of myself is to be proactive about it.
There are 2 main types of self care; proactive and reactive. Proactive self care refers to anything that we do on a regular basis to keep ourselves feeling happy, healthy, and nourished. Some examples of proactive self care include going for a daily run, signing up for a weekly yoga class, or eating a nutritious breakfast everyday. These are the small things that we do consistently to make sure that we are taken care of. Reactive self care refers to the things we do to take care of ourselves when we are triggered. Some examples of reactive self care are taking 5 deep breaths before responding when you are in a heated argument, going for a walk to unwind after a stressful day at work, or calling a babysitter to watch your baby for an hour because you need a mental health break.
My recent experience with getting sick has taught me that proactive self care is the most important way I can take care of myself. By taking good care of myself on a daily basis, I keep the momentum going so that when things happen to throw me off track they don’t end up ruining weeks of my life. Think of it in terms of brushing your teeth. We brush our teeth everyday in order to take care of our oral hygiene. Imagine what would happen if you never brushed your teeth and then only went to the dentist when your teeth started to rot and fall out?! By then, it would be too late. The same theory applies to self care. If we wait until we feel sick to start taking care of ourselves, it’s too late. It’s best to take small steps to take care of ourselves regularly in order to keep our bodies and minds feeling happy and well.
Here is a simple exercise that you can do to upgrade your self care routine. Picture a typical day in your life and choose 2-3 small habits that you can incorporate into your day to help you feel good. I find it helpful to think in terms of simple practices that you can sprinkle throughout your day in the morning, midday, and evening. Then, think about a few different scenarios that could throw your day off track (for example, your babysitter calls out sick, you get a rude email from a co-worker, or have a fight with your significant other). Now, think of some reactive self care practices that you can use in these situations. (Call the backup babysitter you have on hand, go for a walk before responding to your co-worker’s email, or go to a favorite restaurant so that you can have a calm discussion with your significant other over a nice dinner). This exercise will help you to be proactive in your own self care. By incorporating these proactive and reactive self care practices into your daily life, you will feel much more capable of managing the challenges that come your way.
Take good care of yourself this week.