In their book called “Peak Performance”, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness explore the secrets of success and good performance by associating their impressions from their meetings with successful experts in various fields with their own lives. It is quite interesting that these people focus on their failures and feelings of burnout rather than cliché and unrealistic suggestions such as “The secret of success is hard work. You have to wake up at 5 am every day.” The formula they came up with is actually quite simple: Stress + Rest = Success.
No matter how experienced and successful we are at working hard and challenging ourselves, most of us fall short when it comes to rest. When we do not get enough rest, we run out of resources in the face of the stress and fatigue caused by hard work, and we may find ourselves giving up and not reaching our goals. At this point, it is inevitable that we will enter a vicious circle that will consume us even more if we fall into the mistake that we can achieve by working even harder. On the contrary, we need to give ourselves time to rest and refresh as much as the effort we put forth.
As in most issues, we realize the importance of rest in concurrence with the effect of its lack on us. It is not possible to realize that we are exhausted while our days are jam-packed. We all know the feeling of tiredness that arises suddenly once we come home at the end of a hard day and throw ourselves onto the couch: Only when we pause for a while, we realize our need for rest. You, too, maybe unconsciously ignoring your need for rest. Don’t wait to get tired in order to rest. You can still take these breaks before you run out. In fact, you should take such breaks before you run out so that it will be easier for you to return to your responsibilities with more balanced energy, and pleasant breaks will take more place in your life.
An expression we say to each other when saying goodbye to someone: “Take care of yourself.” This expression, which has penetrated into most of our daily speech, comes out of our mouth by the force of habit. However, beyond daily conversation, wishing someone to take care of themselves is one of the most beautiful and profound expressions we can say to them. We sincerely want our loved ones to take good care of themselves, yet we are not so generous when it comes to ourselves. We may feel selfish when we do something for ourselves while encouraging the behavior of self-sacrifice for others. However, it is the most essential thing that we take care of ourselves and our own well-being. The first condition for loving others is to love yourself. In the same way, you should start with yourself in order to be kind to your environment, make them happy or relieve their pain.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”. In other words, self-care can be defined as the support we provide for our mental and physical health, the steps we take for our own well-being.
Just as the children take over the seat symbolically on April 23, let the child within you sit in that decision-making chair on one day you choose. This day you have chosen will be a day of self-care for you. You can try to spend that day as if it’s your own birthday. Give yourself presents, tell yourself “I will do whatever you want today.” as if you are saying it to a loved one. Make an effort to check in with yourself every once in a while that day, to listen to how you’re feeling and what you need.
You can dedicate one or two days a week to this. You may have a flexible life. Whenever you need it and whenever you can create this space, take such a day for yourself. Sometimes you may not be able to dedicate a full day to yourself. Even if it’s not a whole day, whatever you can do is enough. You can sprinkle self-care moments into your life as you wish. A few hours a day on a weekend or at the end of a weekday will also suffice.
As you get closer to this time interval you’ve just set aside for yourself, first ask yourself: Out of the things you can do, what would you do first if you were allowed to do it right now?
Sometimes we internalize the rules of society extremely. We set numerous rules for ourselves and turn even our pleasant moments into responsibilities. While walking outdoors is an activity where you can stay calm as you are moving your body, it may not give you the same pleasure when it becomes a duty. Saying “I must walk for half an hour every day.” can overshadow the enjoyment that walking gives you.
I can hear you say “There is so much work to be done, I can’t just leave them and do nothing!” There will always be responsibilities waiting for you. Your work doesn’t have to be over to take care of yourself. On the contrary, when tied up in the midst of all your busyness, you need to first listen to yourself and take care of yourself. If you’re not “well”, who will do all the work? Our energy has a capacity and we cannot catch up on everything with all our power and will. How much of our energy we allocate for ourselves is our responsibility. This self-care day will nurture and strengthen you so that you will be more productive, more rested, and more focused in countless moments of your life. This day, which you will devote to rest and replenish your resources, will help you regain your energy and distribute it more evenly in your life. If you think about it from this perspective, taking time for yourself is actually not a waste of time at all.
The detail that makes this process effective, relaxing, and most importantly, special to you, will be the occasional check-in with yourself. In a warm, gentle and caring tone, you can ask yourself once in a while, “How are you, how are you doing?” as if calling out to a close friend. Voices such as “I haven’t accomplished that much, nor am I the best person in the world. What have I done to deserve this cherishment?” may be resonating in your mind right now. When you don’t feel worthy to enjoy life and be aware of your self-worth, remember this: Your mere existence, you as a human and a living being is valuable. Your mistakes, failures, jealousies, anger, unwillingness… Every part of you deserves to be heard, indulged and forgiven at least once in a while, including the features you don’t want to see.
I don’t need to know who you are, what you can do and what you can’t do in order to say this: You already deserve this break.
Learning something new has plenty of positive effects on our minds, such as enhancing memory and contributing to well-being. When was the last time you learned something new?
It could be riding a bike, swimming, learning how to read and write, learning a new language, or something else. What matters here is not mastering them. Of course, acquiring talent in such a short time may not be possible and easy. The important thing is to find the childish excitement we experience when learning something new as a novice. As we get older, we may lose that childlike curiosity and enthusiasm that learning awakens within us. In fact, how enjoyable it is to learn something from scratch, make mistakes and try again. If you are enjoying the game, you don’t even realize that you are tired. When you fall, you get up and get back on playing without realizing your pain. What would you say to giving a chance to a brand new activity that will make you lose track of your time and tiredness, just like in your childhood?
A few suggestions for you:
For most of us, the way to the heart is through the stomach. We celebrate special days with a nice meal, blow out the candles on the most delicious cakes on our birthdays and make wishes. Food should have a place on this day you set aside for yourself.
If you haven’t had the time to spend time in the kitchen and cook for yourself, you can have a nice feast by cooking a meal you want on your self-care day. Decide what you crave, check out some recipes. You can go to a nearby grocery store to get the missing ingredients. It will be much more fun to buy groceries for only one meal and for this feast that you will be preparing yourself, than the groceries you get to strick out of your weekly shopping list. Afterward, you can prepare your meal slowly and savor it by listening to music or podcasts.
If you’ve been cooking for a while and you’re tired of it, don’t cook on your self-care day. You can go out and dine at a nice cafe or order your favorite dish.
You can choose to set a beautiful and elegant table for the meal prepared for you, or you can simply grab your food and sink into the armchair and fill your stomach and soul with your favorite TV series. You are the star of that day, there are no rules. However you like is the what is right.
According to the World Health Organization, physical activity has a huge impact on our overall health and well-being. You can have a fun time away from stress while bringing your energy and mood up by moving your body.
You have lots of options for physical activity. Finding the activity that really gives you pleasure will both increase the positive effects of this activity on you and make it easier to turn it into a regular habit.
You can try these physical self-care activities:
We humans, as social creatures, enjoy spending time with those people around whom we feel safe and happy. When we meet with a loved one after a long and stressful day, all the exhaustion goes away. A problem that we think we can’t handle alone doesn’t seem that big when we have someone else by our side. According to the findings of a study, participants in the presence of an audience perform better at a physical activity and report that the activity was easier than those who perform alone in a room. As the findings of the research support, sharing can be an empowering and relaxing resource for us in this sense.
It will make you feel good to meet with family members and friends with whom you enjoy being. You can meet with people you haven’t seen for a long time, you can have a deep conversation together and ease the pain of the apart days away.
What you might want to pay attention to here is to notice if you need to be around people because you’re avoiding being on your own. If you tend to talk to others because the idea of being alone bothers you, this behavior may not do you good in the long run.
You can spare time for self-care activities that you have neglected for a while during this time period that you have reserved only for yourself. You will feel the difference of doing the basic steps that we all do to shake off your tiredness, renew and cleanse, with mindfulness and pleasure. Try to repeat these activities that you do every day out of habit, slowly and by seizing its effects.
After a long bath, you can get dressed with pleasure and without the stress of getting to somewhere, lie down for a while and enjoy doing nothing. If it’s been on your mind for a while, you can get a haircut or shave that day. You can cut your nails and moisturize your hands and feet. Sometimes we underestimate the effects of these simple steps. However, even just a quick shower can be enough to relax us and offer a fresh perspective. A clean body will both increase your self-esteem and help clarify your mind as well as your body.
At some point in our lives, we can fall apart both physically and mentally. When you look at your living space and your mind after a long and stressful period, an inner voice may be saying: “Everything is all over the place!” This is pretty normal and something we all experience. I am sure that it will help you to tidy up the things that have been piling up for some time and wearing you down on this day when you prioritize taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or tired, you can tidy up the house without tiring yourself to just shake off and lighten up. You can remove the dishes piled up on the kitchen counter or put the scattered items into their place. It usually feels good to not have too many messy items and to have everything in its place, but it may be even better for you to let it be rather than do it out of a sense of obligation. Instead of saying “I already have free time.” and doing it reluctantly, let it stay messy. Today is your day, remember. You can do whatever you want, and choose not to do what you don’t want.
Taking time for yourself and turning it into something fun makes it easier to be alone with yourself. Being alone may not be our first choice. When we are alone, our long-suppressed needs and emotions that we have difficulty coping with can be challenging for us. Therefore, when we are alone, we cannot even see that calm and relaxing space with ourselves under the weight of some emotions and thoughts that flock to us. However, when you reshape these moments in your mind as a necessary opportunity for care and refreshment, that space gradually becomes more spacious, so your needs become more clearly visible.
You can keep a diary or meditate so that you can hear yourself better and ultimately enjoy your time alone.
In addition to these, being able to say no to plans that you do not want to be involved in can also be considered as self-care. Setting boundaries is not easy for everyone. In order to be polite or not break any hearts, you can politely decline those activities in which you do not wish to participate and give yourself the space you deserve. Not being in contact with anyone is also a form of self-care.
Let today’s suggestion be being without any plans. In life, we are tired of responsibilities, checking out the items on our list and running our errands, as well as planning them and feeling the pressure of future responsibilities in the meantime.
Your plans may change during the day, don’t let this discourage you. When you make plans in the morning, your assumptions of the upcoming plans for the evening may not give you the same pleasure in the evening. Then when you realize this, ask yourself: Why is this not giving me any pleasure right now? What would bring me joy right now?
We are in constant change. Things don’t always go as we planned. It’s almost impossible to predict what you will feel or think within the next hour. Then why would you plan this day of pleasure that is reserved just for you, from beginning to end, with precise lines? If it doesn’t go your way, you have the patience, stamina, and understanding to deal with it. Let’s see what will happen to you today? Let your childlike curiosity on what not only the outside but also the inside world will bring you today bloom.
You don’t need to do a special activity for this day you set aside for yourself, to accomplish them all and be productive. It’s more precious to do what you’re going to do just because it comes from within, not just because it’s productive or because you’ve been putting it off for a while, and “you better do it while you’re at it”. Remember, self-care can sometimes be doing nothing. If you need to stop, notice it and stop. Stopping and slowing down is sometimes more difficult than pacing up. It requires more awareness and patience. It requires accepting to do less. It’s easy to ignore our need to stop and slow down. You can allocate this day for yourself to be idle with peace in mind. While it may feel bad at times, you can gently remind yourself that pause is part of life, and allow calmness to spread through your mind.
You are free to do whichever of the above suggestions you want, and not to do the ones that do not give you pleasure. This is your day. All I can advise you is to enjoy it. The rest is up to you only. We welcome your ideas in the comments!
You can listen to the playlist called To Dear Myself, prepared by Meditopia for your day of self care!
Translator: Ebru Peközer