How to Become a 'Self-Care Activist' During Tough Times
April 12, 2019
Times are tough right now. I’ll save you from all the stressful specifics, but politically, socially, and psychologically, it’s clear that we’re facing new extremes as a human race.
To flourish in the midst of these challenging times, we need to become self-care activists.
This means we put ourselves first and we acknowledge we need to change. We combat selfishness with self-compassion and dishonesty with authenticity. We do what it takes to make better choices about our self-care, psychological health, and emotional wellbeing.
Here are four ways to get your self-care activism on.
1. Manage Your Boundaries
Managing your boundaries is the first and most important step to becoming a self-care activist.
It means putting you first.
Don’t confuse this with being selfish or narcissistic. It means being really clear about where you “stop” and other people “start.” Boundaries keep us safe, and how they do that differs based on our level of confidence and emotional wellbeing.
Here are three types of boundaries you can try implementing:
●︎ The Moat: This type of boundary is like a deep moat around an impenetrable castle. The moat is designed to keep people out or at a distance; it also keeps us physically and emotionally distant from others.
●︎ The Doorway: This boundary acts like a door. We can control how “open” we are to the outside world. Most of the time, we welcome people into our world. We are emotionally available and own our experience. There are times, however, when we have to ask people to leave or close the door in order to assert our needs.
●︎ The Rubber Fence: The final type of boundary is the rubber fence. Like rubber, this boundary flexes and shifts to accommodate other people's wants and wishes, regardless of what you might really want or need. Think of this boundary as one that can shift and sway easily. When it comes to setting boundaries, don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. Managing your boundaries is a lifelong process; there will be times in your life when you pull-up the drawbridge and shut yourself in your castle, and others where you have a rubber fence. It’s all about listening to and knowing what you need. ---
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2. Say No to Toxic Relationships
Relationships define and shape us. They help us grow, and they can stifle our potential.
Look at your relationships and ask yourself: Who are the radiators and who are the drains? Who excites and energizes you and who feels like a vampire, sucking the life out of you? Toxic relationship are insidious and debilitating. Here are a few common examples:
●︎ Parents With Sky-High Standards: A parent may be overly critical or continue to see us as children even as we grow into adulthood. No matter what we do or who we bring home, we and they are never enough. Ever heard the line, “I only want what's best for you”? Yep, that's often a sign you're in a toxic parental relationship.
●︎ Friends Who Love a Guilt Trip: Do you often find yourself “giving in” to what someone else wants? Do friends make you feel small and insignificant by making decisions for you (and often in their best interest)? These are examples of toxic friendships.
●︎ Partners Who Steal Your Self-Worth: Does he, she, or they really bring the best out in you? Do you constantly find yourself compromising, just going along to get along? If so, take notice—these types of relationships can poison your self-worth.
If you have any toxic relationships—with a friend, lover, boss or colleague—talk to them and share how they make you feel and what you expect from the relationship.
If they can’t or won't see you differently, or are unwilling to make a change, maybe it’s time to make the hard decision and remove them from your life. It might be short-term pain, but there will be longer term emotional gain.
3. Question Your Self-Talk
Self-talk can be our coach or it can be a massive critic—we often choose the latter. We dwell on that one mistake in a presentation or berate ourselves for not being perfect.
To become a self-care activist, you must become your own inner ally and manage the words you use to describe yourself and your life. Watch out for these words and make an effort to remove them from your self-talk vocabulary.
●︎ Should: As in, I should have done better. “I should” or “should’ve” is a guilt inducing statement.
●︎ Always and Never: As in, this “always” happens to me or I “never” get a break. These two words create a mindset of defeatism and pessimism.
4. Own Your Experience
The final step in becoming a self-care activist is to own your experience. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, our experience is a wonderful teacher, but only if you are fully present and resilient.
The healthiest way to deal with our experience: own it. Owning our experience means we consciously acknowledge and accept what is happening or what has happened. Learning how to own our experience allows us to remain grounded and confident, regardless of whether the experience was positive or negative.
And there are three dysfunctional ways to manage our experience—keep your eye out for these.
●︎ Avoid: We avoid situations that threaten our self-esteem. Conflict? I'm out of here! Standing up for what I want? Not for me! Avoidance allows us to manage our fear of becoming emotionally overwhelmed by an experience.
●︎ Diminish: By diminishing, we minimize or distort our experience; we find it safer to give an experience less weight or value. A classic example of diminishing is rationalizing an experience. This usually involves making an excuse. For example: I didn’t get that job but I didn’t really want it anyway. Diminishing is a way of defending ourselves from the truth of an experience.
●︎ Pose: Many of us “pose” through life, pretending to be someone we are not in order to fit-in and be accepted. One result of posing is feeling like an impostor waiting to be found out. Posing means we never truly enjoy our experience because we can never truly be part of our experience.
Becoming a self-care activist isn’t easy—and it won’t stop the new extremes we’re all facing. But it will allow you to live your life to the fullest and make the most of every experience.
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