Self-care is a semi-trendy phrase lately, especially in internet feminist circles (See: Tumblr). It’s a broad term for a pretty straightforward idea: taking care of yourself. But just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean it’s easy, particularly if you haven’t been taking care of yourself in a long time and don’t really know what it feels like or where to start.
For me, a lack of self-care means that I feel like I run through my week feeling constantly one step behind, dealing with problems (work, financial, personal/interpersonal) only as they come up.
Until recently, I thought the solution was treats: getting nails done, buying new clothes, and eating comforting takeout while watching Netflix and skipping the gym. Those indulgences would clean out my wallet, leave me behind on my chores, and make me feel gross about my food choices (my food issues: a whole other column), which would leave me starting my week stressed all over again. AKA: not true self-care.
If this sounds at all like something you experience, I offer a realistic and fun (OK, kind of fun) solution that has helped me a great deal: a weekly self-care self-date.
No spa treatments, but a lot of type A-style organizing that sets you up for a successful week. Essentially, it’s an appointment with yourself to review what’s going on with you and your week ahead. I’ve found that I’m more on top of things, more aware of upcoming expenses, commitments and stresses, and I sleep like a goddamn baby since I’m not worrying about tomorrow (as much).
Here is your self-date guide:
- Set a weekly time and keep it. I sit down with a coffee or tea, my calendar (see above), and my iPhone the Sunday afternoon before the week gets started. How do you make sure you keep it? See #2.
- Buy a planner and write your self-date in it every week. A planner combines two things I like: spending money on something new and shiny and high levels of organization. If your phone’s calendar app works for you, by all means, stick to it. But I highly recommend treating yourself to a hard copy (with a cute cover that makes you happy!). There’s something about pulling it out and checking it that makes “Aww, sorry, I can’t make your thing” seem that much more legit. Visually, it’s a great way to see that your week is getting full and you need to keep Tuesday free so you can stay in and deep chill.
- Use your planner to foresee your financial needs for the month. Rent, bills due, Ventra reload, gym membership withdrawal — all these fixed expenses can be planned for so you know what weeks you want to pack lunch instead of buying. This will save you from making that withdrawal from your precious savings or from begging mom and dad later on (Oh, that’s just me? OK, cool).
- Use your planner to plug in days/times for errands and chores. Never again will you do five loads of laundry after three weeks or avoiding it. If you open up your planner and see that tonight is laundry and Netflix night, you can avoid that post-work happy hour and use the time to get things done and get to bed on time, leaving you feeling productive and well-rested. Also, setting a weekly-biweekly schedule for things like taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom and tidying up means those are 15-minute chores, not hour-long gross-out sessions with 20 cleaning products.
- Use the same planner to put in your recurring and one-time commitments, from a weekly therapist appointment to a Grammy-watching party with a friend. Yes, the original purpose of a planner. But I swear, it’s removed the stress of realizing I told three different people we could hang on Saturday. I’m popular, OK?
- Use your planner (sense a theme here?) to set goals for the month, like “deposit 5% of paycheck into savings,” “go to Friday yoga,” “find a new primary care doctor,” or “finish taxes.” Then set dates to get them done! If they’re the kind that need to be broken down into steps, set a date for each step and be realistic, so they don’t loom over you all month.
- Start your week feeling like a boss, with your new BFF planner in hand. Watch yourself take on life and watch people look at you in awe. Yes! You’re one of those people who has their shit together!
- My one caveat: stress still happens. Getting unexpectedly wine drunk on the occasional Sunday with your best friend still happens and should happen. Crippling anxiety and depression that keep you from doing anything, let alone planning your week out, happen. The self-date with your planner isn’t mean to turn you into Perfect Do It All Super Person, something a lot of women feel pressure to be. It’s there to be a tool in the process of caring for you and removing stress from your life. If it feels toxic, lose it. You know yourself.
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