Yesterday my husband said to me, “I just need to go home and forget the world exists for awhile.” I realized how much I also felt like this, and reflecting on that made me think about how I really feel like I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. This really got me thinking about the importance of self care, AND bonus points – May is Mental Health Awareness month! If the last year has taught me anything, it’s learning to prioritize taking care of yourself. I used to never feel comfortable taking time off work for doctor’s appointments, I looked at exercise and diet as something that I did because I didn’t feel good about myself or my body, and I hesitated to book vacations because I was always worried about money (still do, TBH). All of these things are just examples of the many many ways you can pour into yourself and really prioritize your own wellbeing. I’m not suggesting that you ignore the emotions and needs of those around you, but when you are going through something as significant as a cancer diagnosis, you need to learn to prioritize your health and happiness.
A few of my favorite ways to practice self care include…
Exercise: for one, as a Physical Therapist, I need to practice what I preach! But two, exercise really does provide me with an outlet to focus on how I feel and challenge my strength and endurance. I now view exercise as something I do because I LOVE my body and I’m grateful for everything it’s done for me in the last year. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon – maybe it just means setting aside a few minutes each day to stretch and gently move your body. Being a member of Recovery on Water (ROW) has given me the super fun opportunity to get active within a support group setting – I love moving with women that “get it”.
At home spa time: as much as I love getting a massage and having use of a spa – that stuff is EXPENSIVE, and there are tons of ways to get a relaxed vibe going at home. My favorites – a bath bomb, face mask, and lightly scented candle (and sometimes a glass of wine). Every now and then I do treat myself to a massage (or my mom does – thanks mama) or a mani-pedi, but for the most part, I try to just do little things at home to recreate that relaxing spa environment.
A good book and a cup of coffee: sometimes it’s nice to just curl up on the couch with a book and a warm drink and let your imagination run free. As much as I’m a believer in confronting issues head-on, sometimes it’s necessary and totally OKAY to get out of your own mind and think about something else for awhile.
Seeing a professional: I really cannot say enough good things about seeing a therapist, psychologist, or other mental health professional. Even if you don’t think you “need” therapy, believe me, there is so much value in having a third-party to talk to. Having someone that is not directly involved in your day to day life and doesn’t have a personal opinion about you or your situation is just so grounding. My husband and I saw a psychologist towards the end of my chemotherapy and after my surgery, and she was really great at helping us develop coping mechanisms to strengthen us individually and as a couple.
Lastly, being okay with saying “yes”, but also with saying “no”: it is so important to be able to say “yes” to things that bring you joy and happiness, but I’ve also learned that even if something sparks that joy, sometimes you do need to say “no”. For example – rowing brings me so much happiness and it is something that I really feel facilitates my health and self care, but there are just some days where I am so busy that adding that to my schedule stresses me out more than it helps me, and those are the days where saying “no” is in the better interest of my sanity. Balance is key – I think we learn to critically evaluate opportunities that come up and start to weigh whether or not they will bring us sanity and happiness, but also what is the potential cost of accepting that opportunity. Sometimes the benefit outweighs the cost, and sometimes it doesn’t, but that allows you to make educated decisions about your life, and having that sense of control is invaluable. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a thing, but sometimes so is JOMO (joy of missing out)!
What are your favorite ways to practice self care? Do you have trouble saying yes, or saying no? I’d love to hear from you!