A couple of weeks ago on my blog’s Facebook page, I talked about suffering from some severe ESAD – Election Season Affective Disorder. This election season has felt even more exhausting than it normally is, and I feel this constant dichotomy of desire for it to be over and terror over what the outcome could be. Because of that, I decided that one of the best ways to combat the election blues was to focus on incorporating daily self-care into my routine for a whole week. It proved rejuvenating, and also reminded me that while I’m better at self-care than I used to be, I still have a long way to go–it should not be so hard to make a little time for myself every day!
I tried to do a different self-care activity each day of the week, though some of the ones I feature (like snuggling with Tigger) are thankfully daily occurrences for the most part. The basic rule I followed was that it had to be an activity that was actually focused on the self (so things like volunteering or doing something for someone else, while valuable and part of any healthy self-care regimen, did not count for the purposes of this exercise).
On Sunday, I started things out with a DIY stress-relief face mask. I’ve been having a lot of stress-related breakouts lately, so I figured this worked on two levels: it made my skin feel better, and forced me to sit down and relax while I waited for it to set so I could wash it off. Face masks have long been a go-to for me because they give you that spa feeling (even if you’re in a sweatshirt and penguin pajama pants in your room). Also on Sunday, I had another increase in distance while training for my half-marathon, so after a 12 mile run in the morning (plus a very fun day with Boyfriend celebrating our two year anniversary!), I was ready for some relaxation and rejuvenation.
Once the work week started, it became more difficult to find “me time” because I’m still figuring out that while work-life balance thing. So I kept things simple on Monday, and practiced my self-care by enjoying a warm, home-cooked lunch (a delicious black bean and lentil chili you can find here!)
I made sure to actually close my door and not do anything work-related for my 30 min lunch break also, because taking the time to step away from work during the day is incredibly important. Tuesday was a similar treat, as I finally got to check out Bloom Coffee and have some of their awesome Cascara tea. Granted, this happened during a work-related meeting, but choosing to have it offsite gave me a chance to work in a little mid-morning treat for myself — and get a brief change of scenery. Plus, it came in this really pretty teapot!
Also on Tuesday, I ended up at my local Urgent Care because I’ve been having issues with my left knee (again, half marathon training is kind of brutal. At this point I can’t even imagine what it must be like for a full one!). Luckily, I found out it’s just a strained tendon from some overuse (shocking, right)…but not-so-luckily, that meant modifying my run schedule on a week when I was supposed to be almost at distance. Also, that meant “listening to my body” and “not pushing too hard,” which is really difficult for someone with a one-track mind when it comes to goalsetting, and who also has a tendency to feel an extreme sense of shame around perceived failures (such as not being able to run the normal four days a week on my training schedule). The doctor gave me a strong NSAID (think amped-up ibuprofen) to get through the week, and said to come back if I was still having problems after a week.
So naturally, my first reaction on Wednesday when my knee started feeling better was to see if I could run at least a short 3-4 miles to stay somewhat on track. Most of my office mates reacted with some form of “are you crazy?” and “take care of yourself!” But I was determined… until I started on my run after work, and realized that my body probably needed more than 24 hours to adjust and rest. Instead of running those “short” 3-4 miles, I settled on a 2 1/2 mile walk, which ended up being a lot more pleasant because:
- My knee didn’t feel like it was trying to pop out of its socket
- I was still able to move and achieve some very important post-workday relaxation
- Fall colors look, on average, 15.3x better when you aren’t barreling past them, sweating and ready to be home (this figure is, of course, backed by rigorous scientific evidence)
- Making the conscious choice to walk and be kind to my body, versus running (even a shorter distance) for sake of not feeling like I was “failing” an arbitrary training schedule showed me that when I put my mind to it, I am more than capable of prioritizing my well-being than I give myself credit for
Thursdays are always one of the most difficult days for me, because you hit that not-quite-Friday end of the week slump, and I also have bell choir rehearsal in the evening. Although it’s so much fun once I get there (bell choir is something I get to do with my dad, and I love being able to continue since I have the gift of a job that’s kept me local), but sometimes getting to rehearsal can feel like such a chore and stress — going home, scarfing something fast for dinner, and then heading right back out again! Add on the fact that over the course of self-care week, I realized that the stress I’d been experiencing wasn’t just ESAD, but also garden-variety anxiety, and I was really in need of today’s self-care.
I don’t even think I had a chance to go home and eat dinner in between when I got out of work and went to rehearsal. By the time I did get home, it was dark out and I was hungry and exhausted…but then Tigger jumped up for some much-needed snuggles (purrs and all), and I found the slow down I desperately needed. The wonderful thing about having a pet is the built in check-and-balance system, because like it or not pets need attention and love — and aren’t afraid to interrupt your sometimes-seemingly-endless string of responsibilities to get it.
Friday was one of those days when nothing went according to plan or as scheduled. I was going to go to my college’s alumni gathering for the homecoming parade with Boyfriend, but — surprise — vet school got in the way and we weren’t able to meet up until much later. I left work a little early to spend time with a friend who was in town for the weekend, and we went shopping for a bit (where I tried on a dress that was way too expensive and made myself grumpy that I couldn’t justify buying it for myself), then met up with Boyfriend and some of his friends for dinner — my friend and I were both ravenous.
And then, the restaurant we met at had an hour and a half wait for a party of our size.
When everyone arrived, we decided to walk a few blocks away to somewhere else that could seat us right away, but by this time myself and my friend were both hungry, grumpy, and tired. My self-care for this day was (eventually) embracing flexibility — and ordering the pretzel bite appetizer and a caramel skillet cookie with ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately, in my utter appreciation of the moment (read: frustration/hunger/inhalation of dinner two hours after it was planned/eventual appreciation of Boyfriend’s teasing to get me to cheer up), I forgot to take a picture. But I assure you, that cookie was pure beauty. And so were my waffle fries.
Saturday morning, my friend and I got up ridiculously early to go run in the Hot Cider Hustle. I know — how could waking up at 6am on a Saturday to go run be considered self-care? Well, it was the first time I had run in almost a week, and I was excited (but nervous) to see how the painkillers would hold up. I signed up for the 10 mile run, but made the decision to switch to the 5K right before the race began to play it safe. And then I got into my running zone, enjoying the cool fall air and listening to good music, and when I came to the fork in the road my legs just kind of said “go for it.” So I ran the 10 mile, and it ended up being the best minute per mile time of my whole training period! Plus, I got hot cider and a caramel apple at the finish line, and if that’s not top-notch self-care I don’t know what is!
After the run (and of course after I showered and ate food and iced my knee), I was able to spend the day tailgating with Boyfriend and watching an (admittedly disappointing) homecoming football game. I think that counts as self-care too, because snuggling with my two favorite men — Boyfriend and Tigger — was one of the best parts of my day.
I’m always shocked by how difficult it is to make time for myself — that’s probably equal parts a character flaw and a flaw in the way society is so mobile and fast-changing. But what I learned from this week was that it just takes a little intention to make self-care part of my daily routine, and that’s really important. As I settle into work and a new day-to-day routine I’ve found stress seep into different corners of my life, reminding me that even though the anxieties of college are gone I still need to prioritize myself. That will always be a challenge for me, but I will say this: if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton never do anything else for me, the anxiety I feel from watching them duke it out has forced me to find time to unplug and focus on me.