This summer I made a promise to myself to focus on me. The last year has been really tough: moving to a new city, starting a really technical job, living alone, meeting new friends, fully supporting myself financially for the first time. It’s been a lot.
I’m a firm believer in self care. I think it’s important to know yourself well enough to know what you need and do what you can to get it. So, when things started to feel like too much I knew I needed to focus on myself and get a self care game plan together.
I wanted to share a few things I did this summer to help me work through all these changes and to talk about my strategies for being kind and honest with myself. But remember, it’s different for everyone – you know yourself best!
I started writing every morning.
After numerous recommendations, I started The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a week-by-week program of self-reflection and building your confidence as an artist. One of it’s main tenants is what Cameron calls Morning Pages: the first thing you do every morning is write 3 handwritten pages about absolutely anything. I actually love it.
I’ve tried other morning routines over the past year (timed writing, working out, meditation) and none of them have stuck. I’m going on month 3 of morning pages, though, and I actually look forward to them every day! I’ll do a whole review of the book once I’m done, but this part at least I’ve really enjoyed.
I set a workout schedule.
For me, working out and taking care of my body is a big part of self care. I think sometimes people misinterpret self care as letting yourself do whatever you want, but I think it’s almost the opposite – you have to be your own advocate and part of that is doing what’s best, not necessarily what’s fun.
I used to only workout when I felt like it – when I was upset or couldn’t sleep or wanted to get outside. But I’ve started getting into a regular schedule and it’s made me so much happier: hot yoga on Tuesday and Saturday, HIIT class on Wednesday, and a long run on Sunday. I’ve stopped feeling bad for not working out because I find myself going so much more consistently. Of course I’m not always psyched to go, but it’s easier to get motivated when it’s a habit.
I also set a goal for the end of the summer: I’m running a half marathon in September! I haven’t run one in a couple of years so I’m excited to get back out there. I’m up to my 8-mile run (in case you missed my Eminem related insta story) and it’s actually going really well! It’s nice to have a reason to get outside even when the weather is starting to get cold. I’ll keep you guys updated!
I stopped traveling.
This spring I was all over the place – literally. I was in Florida in March, Dublin in April, Japan in May, and bouncing back and forth from Madison to Chicago every other weekend. I went 2 months without spending a single weekend in Madison. I love traveling, but it was too much. So, once things slowed down I told myself I was going to stay put for the summer and I’m so glad I did.
Madison rocks in the summer. The weather is gorgeous, there are always events going on, everyone is out and about – it’s just total Midwest summer bliss. I got to settle into my apartment and get into a routine, which made the introvert part of me really happy. I hung out with friends, hosted family, and took on personal projects – it’s amazing the time you have when you’re note spending up to 10 hours in a car every weekend. It was totally the right decision for my sanity.
I made fun plans during the week.
In case I haven’t talked to you in a while, full disclosure: I’m not crazy about my job. It’s pretty technical (especially as arts major) and with entrepreneurs for parents I’m not a great fit for corporate culture. All this to say – getting through the week can be tough. I’ve never understood the phrase Thank God It’s Friday quite like I do now.
So, to make the work week a little more pleasant I started doing fun stuff on week nights. Nothing crazy – I’m at least a responsible corporate drone – but I started injecting small doses of joy into my otherwise dull nights. I became a regular at a local bar that showed The Bachelorette every Monday night and recruited some friends to join me. We ended up getting super into it, especially because the fan favorite was from Madison (#TeamPeter), and it was such a fun, goofy way to start the week.
I’ve gone to outdoor concerts alone, dragged friends to local feminist group meetups, and treated myself to after work drinks at restaurants I’ve been meaning to try. It’s felt good to reclaim my weeknight time and remember that fun doesn’t only exist on the weekend.
I got help.
This is the piece of the puzzle that I think made the most difference for me: I got a therapist. I’m a big advocate for therapy – I saw a therapist for years in college and I credit that experience for so many important breakthroughs in my outlook and behavior. For me, talking through things with someone who is focused on helping me create actionable, positive change in my life is so helpful.
I know for many therapy is a luxury – it can be expensive and inaccessible – but if you are struggling, see what your options are. I’m really lucky and my health insurance actually covers mental health services (so unusual, unfortunately) and I started seeing a therapist earlier this year. She’s the best and has helped me to work through this huge adjustment period in my life.
I always try to be really transparent with people about my experience with therapy because I think it can help so many people. Whether it’s work stress or relationship problems or something more serious, there’s no bad or silly reason to talk to somebody. I know when I’m in a bad place and therapy has always been that first step to feeling better. And it’s at least worth a shot, right? 🙂
It’s felt really good to check in with myself again after all the craziness of the last year. I know I won’t always have the luxury of totally focusing on myself and my own needs so I’m glad I can appreciate it while it’s right in front of me. This time has helped my think about what’s next for me in my life and I’m starting to get a game plan together, which is really exciting and empowering.
It’s honestly kind of fun to get to know myself as an adult and I have to say, I’m pretty proud of who I am! I’ve made some difficult decisions in the last year and have come out strong on the other side. I actively make joy in my own life, even when it’s hard. I have agency and push myself to keep doing what’s best for me – and that’s what self care is all about.