On Sunday night, I went to bed at my normal time, around 10. I was hoping I’d be able to fall asleep quickly, and wake up well-rested for work this week.
By 2 a.m., I’d given up on my hopes and dreams of good sleep. I was ready to settle for any sleep at all.
I don’t know exactly when I fell unconscious from exhaustion, but when the alarm started blaring at 5 a.m., I was not ready to commit to a full day of being awake. I was groggy, I was cranky, and I was ready to call it quits for the day already.
Out of some archaic and mildly militaristic sense of duty, I dragged myself to work and slogged through my daily tasks, blinking excessively and going for drawn-out walks to the coffee machine to keep myself from having a rather embarrassing nap at my desk.
That experience got me thinking.
Months ago, I wrote down “self-care” as a potential future idea for my blog. I’ve looked back at it a few times since then, always feeling like I should write something about it and never really knowing what to say because I’ve always felt that it was silly that there’s a whole movement out there dedicated to reminding people to take care of themselves.
Sunday night gave me a good reason to talk about it.
My battle with sleep deprivation is an ongoing one. It’s been dominating my life for the last few months, very literally keeping me up at night and at times making me wonder if I should get checked for insomnia. The signs are there; I can never fall asleep, I wake up just as tired as I was when I went to bed, I can’t remember even the littlest things, I can’t focus long enough to write anything that makes half an ounce of sense.
Lying awake on Sunday night, I started to realize just how much of it comes from anxiety.
That anxiety comes from all kinds of things—bills, cleaning, maintaining a career—and in all honesty, it gets compounded by the fact that I never really take time for myself. I feel like I have to be on the go at all times, or risk drowning in everything I need to do.
That’s where self-care needs to come in.
We millennials get a bad rap for being focused on ourselves, but sometimes, I think we need to be. We’re so busy as a generation that the only way for us to get any time for ourselves is to fight for it, to make a movement and stand up for it.
I know I’m terrible for that. I’m always working on something, and even if I stop to do something for me, I’m still working. I’m grinding through dungeons in FFXIV, working on big projects, or busily putting together plans and drafts for things to come.
So today, none of that. Instead, I’m sharing what I’ve learned lately about self-care, and why it’s important.
1. It’s not silly to make time for yourself.
When I was starting out in the working world, my dad used to tell me that “no one will ever ask you to work less.” Obviously, as a teenager, I didn’t listen, and right from the start I pushed myself to do more. Every time a boss handed me something new, I was the first to say I could do it, even if I wasn’t sure how I’d get it done.
It took me ten years to figure out just how right my dad was.
Eventually you reach a critical point where you physically and mentally can’t handle any more, and that’s a dangerous place to be. When I reached that point, I felt like I couldn’t push back for fear of disappointing people. I’d locked myself into an exhausting cycle of always saying yes.
In today’s busy world, we’re the ones who need to set boundaries, and establish when we are and are not willing to work harder.
Because if we don’t set those boundaries for ourselves, no one else will. And that’s what will keep us up at night with stress, anxiety, and eventually, burnout.
2. Don’t wait for time to happen.
This ties in with my previous point. If there’s one thing I learned from constantly taking on more and more, it’s that time doesn’t just happen. It’s not sitting there, waiting for you to decide you want to do something for yourself; it’s a bullet train, and if you miss it, you’re out of luck.
If there’s something you want, you have to be willing to make the time—and potentially fend off other demands on your time so you can do what you want.
I’ve always had a hard time putting myself first, and it used to be a rare occasion for me to say no to a social outing because I’d rather sit in my pajamas and jot down ideas for my blog. But I’ve found that those occasions run parallel to the amount of stress I experience, and the more people ask me to do other things, the more likely I am to say no.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
3. Figure out what actually helps you unwind.
My first real experience with the self-care movement happened when a dear friend of mine started sending me Snapchats of bath bombs and other beauty products she’d picked up for herself. That’s what the movement stands for, after all—taking the time to pamper yourself.
I loved the idea of it, but I always thought games were more relaxing for me than taking a hot bath with a pile of lovely-smelling glitter.
I’m sure in some scenarios that’s true, but at least with some games, I put enough pressure on myself to accomplish certain things that they end up being just as stressful as whatever I’m trying to unwind from. Others are perfectly fine; for example, I’m lucky if I make it two days into Harvest Moon without getting comfortably drowsy.
So now, I’ve got a set of bath bombs and masks at home, I’ve charged my Switch, and I am ready to try unwinding like the girly geek I know I am.