Self-care used to be a completely foreign concept to me.
I didn’t grow up in a family that valued it. In fact, we would judge people who did anything remotely related to self-care, things like taking a day off, sleeping in on vacation, or heaven forbid, getting a massage. Self-care was seen as a weakness, something only pretentious, lazy people engaged in. For a family who prided themselves on hard work as much as ours, self-care was seen as a waste of time and money.
It was only after I hit a wall, a point of exhaustion that left me physically unwell and emotionally broken, that I decided to give self-care a try. I didn’t care if people thought I was pretentious and lazy anymore — all I wanted was to feel better.
4 Ways to Prioritize Self-Care This Summer
Carving out time for myself was really difficult at first. The guilt was palpable, the voices that told me I was undeserving of rest and play, that I should be doing something more productive, were loud. Yet, the more time I spent indulging in self-care, the better I felt. And the better I felt, the less guilt I carried.
If you are looking for self-care ideas, here’s my summer self-care checklist — four of my go-to self-care practices for this summer.
1. Meditate before checking social media
One of my non-negotiable forms of self-care is to meditate in the morning before checking social media. It’s a way for me to wake up feeling centered instead of already feeling behind or inadequate.
At the core, mindfulness meditation teaches you how to:
- Pay attention to present-moment experiences (i.e. not trying to change or get rid of the here and now)
- Cultivate non-judgmental awareness so we learn to accept things as they are
One of the reasons why I love meditating so much is because, according to research, mindfulness meditation can help you stop ruminating, spinning around in circles thinking about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future.
Remember, the goal of meditation isn’t to shut off your thoughts but to notice your thoughts. Better yet, notice your thoughts without judging them. One of the most effective forms of meditation to practice this non-judgmental awareness is “vipassana” meditation, also known as “zen” or “insight” meditation, from the Buddhist tradition.
2. Take a mindful shower
If you don’t have time to meditate in the morning, try practicing mindfulness in the shower. Set the intention to wash away any worries that might be gnawing at you. Notice the temperature, the water touching your skin, the water pressure, any sounds around you. This is one of my favorite quick and easy ways to weave a few minutes of mindfulness into my day. Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to your shower to create a yummy at-home spa experience!
3. Listen to yoga nidra before bed
I’ve been having intense insomnia lately, tossing and turning into the wee hours of the morning. One of the best things that has helped me is doing some yoga nidra. If you are new to yoga nidra, it’s essentially a style of meditation where someone guides you into the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. I find it very relaxing and a way to slow down my racing mind. Since it usually takes me a while to fall asleep, I search for “yoga nidra for sleep meditation” on YouTube and choose ones that are at least an hour long.
4. Move your body
I love Somatic Experiencing (SE), a body-oriented approach for trauma resolution and stress management, and have been studying SE for over six years. One of the core tenants of SE is to move your body when you are in a state of hyperarousal — when your nervous system is in overdrive and you feel anxious or stressed — to help discharge some of the energy and bring your nervous system back to a more relaxed state. You don’t need to do a whole bootcamp exercise or run five miles. Doing yoga, going on a walk, or having a dance party in your apartment can also do the trick! There are a lot of great mental health boosters we can do for free and from the comfort of our own homes.
Given everything that’s going on in the world, self-care is more important than ever now. It may seem counterintuitive — to put your needs ahead of those who need your help, or to rest when there’s so much to do — but just as you shouldn’t wait until you get sick to go to the doctor, you don’t want to wait until you are burned out to practice self-care.
If you find yourself feeling guilty for practicing self care, remember that’s just old conditioning. There is nothing selfish about self-care, we are all deserving of it.