Having healthy boundaries concerning self-care is critical. You cannot practice fulfilling self-care without possessing healthy boundaries.
Healthy boundaries can look a little different to everyone. For me, I have a few healthy boundaries that I have no problem enforcing. If I need to take a nap, I will take that nap. If I do not have the energy to go to an event, I will not go. But there a few people in my life that I have a problem saying no to, and it comes at the expense of myself.
So how do you create healthy boundaries to get the most out of your self-care days or moments?
1. Emotional Self-Care – This one might take a conscious effort on your part. It is important to schedule “me time.” Think of your cell phone, when the battery begins to drain, you pay attention to the percentage left, right? And once it gets to a certain point (depending on how fast your phone is prone to dying), you charge it. Put yourself in place of that cell phone, your batteries (mind and soul) need a recharge, too. We are so focused on “grinding” until we drop that we forget to take care of ourselves. While there are many hidden self-care moments in the things we do every day, we still need time for ourselves to relax and unplug from information overload.
So how do you make sure you get that “me time?” Say “no” to unnecessary requests and things that will not serve you well. Do you need to go to the mall with your friend? Or is your body telling you to take that nap? Do you want to go to that party, or do you feel obligated to because someone asked? Make sure you are doing things because you want to and allow yourself to control how your time is spent. Some days you want to cuddle with your pet, and that is okay if it is what you want to do, do it.
2. Physical Self-Care – This is a huge one. Throughout my treatment of my mental illness, I can say that there are things I genuinely fail to do for myself physically. Mentally? I am spot on, from keeping notes to changes in my behavior to noticing when a medication I am on no longer has its efficacy – I am on it. But physically? I drag my feet on going to the dentist, for that physical, or a well-woman visit, I will avoid going in, until I am sick.
Physical self-care also looks like scheduling time for you to exercise or relax. I am not huge on exercising, I even bought an elliptical that I used twice in the year and some change that I have had it, but I do not neglect relaxing. Light a candle, put on your favorite show, or take that nap but take those moments to breathe and recharge.
When it comes to work and home life, you must allow yourself to take a break. I know you are thinking, take a break at home? Yes! Just finished cooking a big meal for the family? Try asking your partner if they can do the dishes. Cooking is a lot of work. For work, take your fifteen-minute break. Allow your mind an opportunity to focus on something less stressful; sit outside of your office or go for a brief walk, anything to decompress, and come back to your desk with a fresh and clear mind. Do not forget to take time off, too. I have had several days recently, where I needed a mental health day after a stressful day at work. Unfortunately, I cannot do so right now, but a few days are on my radar once work calms down.
3. Social Self-Care – This is just as important as the last one but might require a conscious effort as well. When I was younger, I always used to say “yes” to going out on a Friday night, sometimes even being pressured into it when I did not have the energy to do so.
Social self-care looks like defining your complicated relationships on your terms. Maybe you need to limit the amount of contact with a person. Unless it is a co-worker you cannot get away from (I have had that problem), it is okay not to answer that text or phone call right away. Protect your mind as much as you can. Unless it is an emergency, your friends will understand that you needed some time to yourself. You should also establish your availability and expectations and communicate that. My friends understand doing anything after work is a hard “no.” After work, I need the time alone to kind of shut my brain off and recharge for the next workday. I do not like to push myself beyond my means because while I love my friends, I do need my job, and I need to perform at it well.
That brings me to allowing yourself to say “no” to things you do not want to do. That happy hour with your co-workers might sound tempting, but if you do not want to, say “no.” It is okay to go home and spend time with your family after a long day, and no one should make you feel guilty about that. You are also prioritizing your social obligations in this practice. No matter what type of work you do, some days are harder than others. It is okay to change your mind about going to that dinner to conserve your energy because your child has an event, or changing your mind about going to see that new movie because your body is telling you to rest.
The important thing about practicing fulfilling self-care is to have those healthy boundaries and to communicate them to our loved ones. We all deserve some time to rest and recharge so that we can be our best, not just for ourselves, but for our families, too.