As we close a challenging year that stretched us in ways we could never have imagined, it’s time to prepare, yet again, for the unknown. We’re excited to see the end of 2020, but the stressors of this year will not magically disappear on January 1. While we cannot predict or control the future, we can prepare ourselves to handle what comes by developing a self-care plan of protection.
Spa days, weekend getaways, nights in with friends, and selfies all have their place, but self-care is more than feel-good moments and special treats. It’s important to take a holistic approach to overall wellbeing, and that requires us to self-assess, determining what we can do to prevent negative outcomes and produce positive outcomes. In the middle of a global pandemic, we need our self-care to be as structured as our work lives. Particularly for people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and those working in the social justice space, it is critical to have a self-care plan focused on preventing crisis. Here are key steps to creating a safe, positive, protective environment for yourself.
What makes you uncomfortable? What don’t you want to do? What needs to stop in order to give you more room to take care of yourself? Get clear on these things for yourself, then clearly and firmly communicate them to others. Is your sleep compromised because people in your life call you at all hours with their “emergency” situations? Tell them you want to be there for them, but only have the capacity to help when you’re well-rested.
Set yourself up for success
If you need help enforcing boundaries, make use of automated tools that make the intervention for you. For example, if you find it hard to ignore incoming calls and messages even when you’re sleeping, enable the Do Not Disturb function. Let your family members and friends know that your phone is doing the work for you during your off hours. That way, they’ll realize this is something you’re doing for yourself, not to them.
Craft go-to lines
Do you have a hard time enforcing your boundaries or advocating for yourself? Spend some time coming up with one-liners that make your position clear and that you aren’t afraid to actually say. If you’re often the punchline in your family’s jokes, you may want to challenge them, but with the same energy. “Thirty years and zero people with an original joke. I’m over it. Why aren’t you?” If you’re always expected to take on parental responsibilities, you can say, “I almost forgot, these children have two parents.” Your lines can be earnest, funny, or biting. Craft the ones you find yourself reaching for, but can’t quite grasp in the moment, so they’ll suit your needs and your personality.
You already know what throws you off course. Come up with ways to avoid those situations or handle them in better ways. Are you often running late or stressed about time? Set alarms with helpful descriptions. “Ten minute warning” on your phone screen may be just what you need to get shoes on feet and keys in hand. Wondering how you spent so much money at the end of every month? It’s time for a budget. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet with your income, monthly expenses, savings, and spending money. Consult it every time you even think about making a financial transaction. Discipline comes with practice, and with practice comes discipline.
Talk to your employer
One of the areas we often overlook in our self-care is work and the workplace. Talk to your employer about specific needs or issues. The shift to the work-from-home environment has not been smooth for everyone. Is there an unreasonable demand of your time because you’re no longer in office? Let your employer know if endless meetings are keeping you from producing deliverables. Have you received no support to make your at-home workspace functional? It’s okay to ask your employer to provide a proper office chair, desk, or printer. You spend a lot of time at work and times are already tough, so don’t hesitate to be clear about what you need to succeed.
Spend some time during the holidays thinking about where you struggle and how things can be made easier. You deserve a break and yes, go get pampered! Just don’t forget to be proactive. You wear more layers when it’s cold and focus on your immune system during flu season. Likewise, prepare yourself for the new year by anticipating your own needs and creating systems to help you meet them in the moment. Prevention is better than cure. Prioritize and protect yourself. This is the highest form of self-care.
Written by Alicia Wallace