Practicing What You Preach Off the Mat: Self Care 101

I am completely, totally, 100% alone right now. And man, does it feel good.

My fiancé is going on a business trip for the next few days and, while I’m usually eager to tag along for an out-of-state adventure, something in me just needed to stay put this time around. Whether I realized it or not at first, I have been craving this time alone.

I have been craving time to write and submerge myself in nothing and nobody else than myself. Time to dance around our new apartment in my underwear for the first time since we moved in. Time to watch whatever trashy reality TV show calls to me on Netflix. Time to sprawl out in bed and sleep in as late as I want. Time to eat whenever my body says it’s hungry and feed it whatever it craves in that moment. Time to take long baths and even longer walks outside by the water. Time to roll out my mat and practice yoga for however long my body wants. Time to meditate. Time to journal. Time to just be…me.

I wish I could say that I learned this very important lesson a year ago when I was training to be a yoga teacher and started preaching the importance of self care, but that’s sadly not the case. They say that the Universe will keep sending you the same lesson over and over again until it finally sticks, and that certainly seems to be true for me when it comes to the concept of self care.

Ever since I stepped onto my mat and out of the doors of my old law firm, I have been struggling with the idea of taking care of myself. Sure, I will treat myself to the occasional spa day or pop into a yoga class once or twice a week, but I’ve always felt that anything more than that is, well…selfish.

For the life of me, I have no clue where I got this crazy idea (after all, I was one of the lucky few to have parents that recognized the importance of self care and allotted me a few “mental health days” every year all throughout middle and high school!). So when exactly did I stop believing that my own wellbeing was important?

Maybe it was the mainstream idea that law school and life as a lawyer are supposed to be tough (looking at you, The Paper Chase). Maybe it has something to do with the ways our society rewards busy schedules and condemns slower ones. Maybe it was my own ego. Whatever “it” was, if I’m being truly honest with myself, “it” has been wreaking havoc on my wellbeing for quite some time now.

I am an admittedly empathetic person. I feel all of the feels a lot of the time, cry on a regular basis (just ask my saint of a fiancé), and genuinely hurt when the people around me hurt too. I’ve always been quick to choose my family and friends over work, and will be the first person to hop on a plane or grab a cab whenever someone I love needs a hand.

So why wasn’t I being the same kind of friend towards myself?

The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple: I hate being vulnerable. No matter how many yoga classes I teach or personal articles I write, I still struggle with the idea of relinquishing control. And at its core, telling the world (or at least the people in my day-to-day life) that I need a little “me time” is admitting my dumbest and greatest fear: I’m not Super Woman.

Yep, it’s time to alert the press because it turns out that I’m just a regular ol’ human like you.

Sure, I may have developed a special knack for multitasking (what woman hasn’t, amiright?!) and my mindfulness practices have helped keep me afloat during some particularly tough situations…but sometimes there just isn’t enough Namaste-ing in the world to make up for the fact that you are putting everyone else’s needs before you own.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “well, duh.” But I’m betting that I’m far from alone in feeling this way. Whether you’re a stressed out mom that puts her kids above all else, a workaholic that’s married to your work or someone in between, I think most of us are lacking on the self care front if we’re being truly honest with ourselves.

Think about it, when was the last time you did something purely for yourself on a  regular basis? Those of us in the wellness industry have probably adopted a pretty decent lifestyle of sporadic self care…but is it ever consistent?

I want you to ask yourself something (and be honest now)…

Do you prioritize your own needs on a daily basis?

I sure don’t. Or at least I didn’t until very recently (like, two days ago). For the past two years, I have been phoning it in when it comes to taking care of myself. I’ll book the obligatory massage after a panic attack or take a bath after a rough day at work but, for the most part, these actions have almost always been reactionary. I’m never ahead of curve when it comes to my own wellbeing, always playing catch-up…

So, what sparked this newfound approach to self care? Drama. Lots and lots and lots of drama (99.9% of my own doing).

I’ve already shared that 2018 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for me so far, but what I didn’t realize was that my lack of self care was taking an arguably difficult time and blowing it up into World War III. Turns out that burnout and exhaustion really are a thing after all…

For the past few months, I have been a ticking time bomb of emotions. I’ve snapped at my loved ones, spent a good chunk of my time in tears, and was neglecting writing deadlines like it was an Olympic sport. Why?

Because I stopped caring for myself. 

Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that giving and giving and giving to every single project, assignment, person, and task was more important than myself. And I’ve truly paid the price in the months since.

It took two panic attacks in one week for me to finally wake up and realize that all of this drama, all of this pain and fear and worry was completely avoidable so long as I took care of myself. And not just with a standing mani/pedi appointment every week…with a total mind shift.

This is the literal definition of a work in progress, but here’s what I’m doing now to move myself up a few notches on the good ol’ daily to-do list:

  • Alone time. I’m an only child and I like being alone. There, I said it. There are very few humans I can stand on a weekly, let alone daily basis and I am at my calmest when I’m chillin’ as a party of one. This doesn’t make me some weird, anti-social reincarnation of Stoop Kid, it just means that I need some down time to, as the kids these days say, “do me.” (side note: if you didn’t grow up watching Hey Arnold! and are otherwise unfamiliar with the gloriousness that is the episode about Stoop Kid, watch here).
  • Yoga. Every. Single. Day. I’ve been incorporating my yogic lifestyle into my daily routine for a while now, but it’s just not the same thing as rolling out my mat and practicing. I used to find all sorts of excuses for skipping my asana practice for the day, but that’s just not the case anymore. Whether it’s 10 minutes of restorative or a couples hours of vigorous flow, I roll out my mat every day. No matter what.
  • Just say “no.” I’m in the business of helping other folks learn how to say no, but haven’t exactly done the same for myself. I’m quick to take on a new project because the extra money will help my family or to accept a coffee date when really all I want to do is stay at home and write. This has been and will be the hardest thing for me to incorporate into my life, but I am trying to say no from time to time.
  • Respecting my work. As a freelance writer, I have a certain amount of flexibility in my schedule (which I love). That said, it’s a lot easier to push things aside than in a typical 9-5. My new mindset is to respect my work (because it is important and I do love it) and stick to a somewhat regular writing schedule that goes something like this: “the exact hours may vary, but this week I want to devote X hours every day to my work.” So far, so good.
  • Reading before bed. Reading for pleasure is self care. Sleep is self care. Reading before bed is a way to get better sleep so, you guessed it…it’s self care!
  • Practicing compassion towards myself. This is a biggie: be my own best friend. I, like many of you, am very quick to judge myself or beat myself up when I make a mistake. Mistakes are part of being human (which, we’ve established I apparently am) and I’m going to mess up this new self care plan. Probably a lot. But instead of being my own bully, I’m choosing to be my own best friend and extend a little kindness towards myself.
  • Go outside. I love the water, always have always will, and I’m blessed to live exactly one block away from the Hudson River. So answer me this, why don’t I hang out by the water every day?! Because my nonsense ego told me to stay inside and work, that’s why. Well thanks to the advent of portable WiFi and a battery pack for my laptop, that’s no longer a valid argument (sorry, ego).

Well guys, that’s my plan and I’m stickin’ to it! I’m sure this new self care plan will evolve and change naturally over time, but I’m proud to say that today alone I said “no” to several things, rolled out my mat, and ate a jello cup at 10am for breakfast purely because I wanted to. There once was a time when I would be scared to be by myself for these few days, a time when I would dread this sort of alone time. Now, I’m realizing it is a gift. A gift that allows me to be the best possible spouse, daughter, writer, and yogi I can be.

And with that, I’m off to the water.

Namaste (and take good care!),

The Yogi Lawyer

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