I took a sick day today. The binging-mysteries-on-Netflix, napping-with-the-cat-and-heating-pad, drinking-hot-tea kind of sick day.
It was neither the flu nor the general bug that always seems to be making its way around. Instead, it was a mix of an emotional two weeks, my body adjusting to being off of a long-time medication, and the underlying anxiety of it all. In other words, I took a sick day because of life.
I’ve discovered since entering the corporate world that sick days, even vacation time, is viewed as a luxury. Explaining a missed workday without doctor’s note for the flu or a family emergency has gotten me odd looks, while coworkers have asked me how I got to take a full week’s vacation (that I had earned and saved up) when I had only been at a company for a year.
The concept of taking time for ourselves, even when most companies grant time for it, is lost on most of us.
As part of our journey into minimalism, we have set one our goals on self-care with the intention of focusing on our physical and mental health. While simple in words, undoing a habit of putting your own needs behind others’ takes time and intention. But a few, simple changes in our interactions helped us refocus our energy on our own health, putting others second and letting go of the guilt that comes with it.
Aligning your methods for self-care with your life values will also help you move toward a simpler, more intentional life.
Asking for help
One of the simplest and most beneficial things we do is ask each other for help when we need it. My partner has a condition that affects her joints; when it flares, it can be painful to walk or reach or grip. I have anxiety and OCD tendencies. Both of us occasionally struggle with daily activities.
We both used to try to do things on our own when we we’re having trouble, but we’ve learned over time that asking for each other’s help simplifies matters tremendously. And it benefits both of us. Admitting when I can’t do something by myself gains me the support I need while granting her the opportunity to support me. It strengthens our relationship while making our lives easier.
By aligning self-care with our goal to support each other, it keeps us from feeling like we are going at everything on our own while making life a little easier.
Sometimes we forget to stop and breathe. Taking time to rest is a necessity to keeping our bodies and minds at their best. When we sleep or rest, our muscles, our minds included, are able to recover from the constant running at the hamster wheel.
Too often, however, we overlook the fact that we are not actually resting our minds and bodies when we think we are taking a break. We are watching television, scrolling on social media, texting, chatting with friends. Taking a true rest means taking control of your focus and centering it on your breath and your body. Self-care means focusing on your breathing and giving your muscles a chance to take their own breaths.
Water. Water. Water.
It’s as simple as that. Few of us drink enough water to keep up with the demands we put on our minds and bodies. I didn’t understand the significance of staying hydrated until I began drinking water throughout the day at my partner’s insistence. It’s amazing what a glass of water will do for our bodies, taking care of symptoms of dehydration that we often ignore: headaches, stomach aches, foggy-headiness, sluggishness.
A regular glass of water is one of the best methods for ensuring self-care.
We get most of our nutrients from our diet, but not all bodies are made equal. At the insistence of our nutritionist, I recently took a blood test and discovered that my body does not convert B vitamins into their necessary forms. As a result, I was deficient in more than one vitamin, which had been causing at least two bothersome symptoms for the majority of my adult life. A mutlivitamin and a vitamin B supplement later, and I’m already on my way to feeling better.
Self-care requires us to stay on top of how our bodies are working. While not everyone is up to working with a nutritionist, I do recommend that even those who feel healthy have a blood test to ensure all is as it should be. It’s interesting the little things that doctors don’t think to consider when it comes to traditional medicine.
The new phrase is taking a mental health day and for good reason. Whatever it is that gives you peace of mind–reading, exercising, meditating–do that. It does no good to focus solely on our bodies when our minds do at least half the work.
Self-care includes focusing on mental health. This can be as simple as taking time for something that relieves stress to talking to someone who can teach you techniques for better mental health. By incorporating time to ensure good mental health, we find that life is a little less overwhelming and are able to focus on the good every day.
My self-care day was brought on by life and my body telling me it was time to take a break and let everything reset. But a few hours of rest, hydration, and listening to my body is all I need to get back on track because we have learned that practicing self-care is an important part of a well-centered, intentional life.
Self-care is often overlooked, but incorporating it into your daily life as a part of living honestly can make a difference in how you approach life–and how life approaches you. How we go about it is unique to our situation: how you go about it will be unique to you as well.
However you do it, practice self-care honestly and in line with your values and goals. It will do you well.