Skin. Money. Drinks.
Self care is a big topic of conversation these days. I’ve seen many quotes that go something like, self care isn’t always manicures and bubble baths, sometimes it’s forcing yourself out of bed and taking a shower. I think that’s the God’s honest truth and I want to talk a little bit more about that.
There’s a social science theory that says to turn our aspirations into habits, whether it’s a lifestyle goal or consistently practicing self care, you have to turn the ‘shoulds’ into ‘enjoyable wants’. Meaning you need to teach yourself that what you should do isn’t a chore. Rather, you have to learn how to enjoy what you should do so you remain constantly motivated.
It’s through this little theory I learned how to practice self care dutifully and joyfully. And I promise it isn’t always luxurious.
Let me begin by telling you about my former bad habits: Skincare, finances, and alcohol.
Since I was probably 13 years old I have been wearing makeup religiously (Yet, I’m still no pro). I wish I could say that since I was 13, I’ve had a skincare ritual too. But, that’s not the case. I couldn’t even begin to count how many nights I went to bed without washing my makeup off thoroughly. Rest in peace to all the pillow cases I ruined along the way.
I think it’s important to note that skincare wasn’t as popular when I was in high school as it is now. With the rise of YouTube, Instagram, and tons of makeup tutorials, I think a lot more people—especially young girls—are more informed that moisturizing and cleansing is critical (on top of never wearing blue eye shadow).
It wasn’t until I was about 22 years old—college had got the best of me and I was officially in the working world—I feel like I literally woke up one day with eye wrinkles. Rather than taking the responsibility for my bad habits, I blamed my ‘wrinkles’ on all the other external factors listed above: age, school, work, stress, etc.
Regardless, the barely there wrinkles were my first motivator to start taking care of my skin. I confided in my mom about wanting to try some creams and better cleansers. She swore up and down that all the women she knew with the best skin had entrusted Dove as a facial cleanser and Olay as a moisturizer. She bought me my first bundle of skin creams that day. I haven’t stopped using those products since.
Here’s the caveat, it’s not the wrinkles that have helped me keep this habit. That would be very superficial advice: look at what’s physically wrong with you and use that as a motivator to do the things you should do. No, that’s not my take away message here.
Something happened after the first couple nights of lining up my cleanser, my moisturizers, a plush washcloths and following a relaxed routine.
I started ruining washcloths instead of pillowcases. Ha, but seriously something big happened.
I began loving what it felt like to devote time for myself: having a dedicated half hour plus where no one can bother me, a time where I could be with my thoughts before my head hit the pillow—eliminating the time I would lay restless in bed with racing thoughts.
I began noticing the difference it made to go to sleep with a clean face: I felt like my skin could breathe better, I slept more comfortably, and I woke up not feeling gross like before. The positive side effects of what it’s done for my skin is just an added bonus at this point.
Before I begin on this topic, it’s important to understand that for professional financial guidance you should seek an adviser. I am not at liberty to give expert financial or money management advice. And I have to say this so you don’t sue me. Okay, moving on…
Maybe you don’t agree that handling finances is self care, but it’s one the leading causes of stress in the United States so I’ll beg to differ with you on that. I believe if we consistently attempt to manage our money, we can ease our minds even if it’s just for a moment.
I’m not saying perfect your money. I’m not saying become rich. I’m not even suggesting you stop spending. Like I said, I’m no finance guru. Far from it actually.
I’ll spare the details, but let me tell you a little bit about the rabbit hole I got myself into.
I accidentally opened up a Victoria’s Secret credit card for a discount when I was too young to understand what credit was. The joke was on me because the discount definitely wasn’t worth the damage done down the line.
By the time I was in college I had a few too many credit cards and spending issues out the wazoo. Simultaneously though, I found myself in a credit and finance workshop due to a volunteer service I was apart of. I can’t really put my finger on what those classes did to me, but I became absolutely obsessed with learning how improve my credit, income, and overall finances.
I actually think it all came down to the workshop leader explaining how much money the average American wastes on buying coffee out. I can’t recall the statistics obviously, but I know when she did the math on how much money we could save if we put those $3 dollars straight into our savings every time we were tempted to buy a coffee, we’d be doing pretty good for the average college student.
As much as the workshop moved me and educated me, to this day I sometimes spend too much and still have credit card debt. But, I have this habit that helps me be less stressed about it all.
It’s difficult to look our finances in the eyes and say, one day I’m going to do more than mange you—I’m going to enjoy doing it. Managing my finances is something that may always intimidate me, which is natural. But, I’ve learned to enjoy the power of organizing everything in a spreadsheet.
I literally document every bill that comes out of my paycheck, what impacts my credit score, all my impulse buys, my transfers, and so on. Although every month when it comes time to do it all my stomach gets tied in knots, I always feel so much better when I feel like I have a handle on it all.
Like I said, this self care stuff isn’t always luxurious. It’s messy, scary, and sometimes embarrassing.
Speaking of embarrassing let’s talk about blacking out. Just kidding! I do have the occasional drink though. I try to do so tastefully and socially for the sake of self care and overall health. It took some time to get here, though.
Let me tell you about someone who inspired me to reevaluate our drinking culture.
I used to hang around a girl who never would drink with us. She was inspiringly outgoing, always attended our parties, and was just an overall social butterfly. She just didn’t drink. I was absolutely amazed at how comfortable she was with her choices. I eventually got the guts to ask her what was up. How did she handle social anxiety? How did she put up with being the sober one? How come she didn’t even drink fruity mixed drinks?
She responded with so much grace and love, so believe me when I say I’m not doing her justice as I misquote her words and tone: She said something along the lines of she realized that no matter how weird you think you are you’re never going to look as silly as the people who are drunk around you. She said even if you are as weird as someone who’s drunk, no one even notices when the drinks are flowing. It taught her how to be herself and let her guard down while our bottoms were up. Additionally, drinking just didn’t appeal to her.
That inspired me to no end. There’s always been parts of me that just aren’t happy when I’m drinking too much. I hate feeling foggy, I enjoy waking up very early, I love hitting the gym, I don’t get a good night’s rest when I drink—it’s all self care things. I sound like an old lady, but all these things have a lot to do with my overall my happiness and feeling like I’m living up to my full potential.
Plus, I hate being dehydrated.
I’ve had a running joke since high school that dehydration is at the root of everyone’s problems. Have a cold? You’re probably dehydrated. Hair frizzing? Try drinking water. Being a bitch? Drink some water and apologize damn it.
There’s some science that goes into hangovers, but I know a main factor is straight up dehydration and I don’t get down with that anymore. I have a skin care routine that I take pride in. So I’ll be damned if I wake up with a zit because my water intake is low AND because I was too tired to wash off my makeup. Committing to my skin makes it easier to say: maybe I’ll just have one tonight, guys. See how it’s all coming full circle?
While I’m on this hydration kick you should know I actually ordered a pitcher of water out at a bar the other night while everyone ordered a round of bud lights. The look on everyone’s faces was epic. It was something memorable. It made everyone laugh. Truth be told, the sillier side of me comes out more now when I’m sober, which makes it fun to cut back.
Then there’s finances. Let’s not get started on the money I’ve began to save to as I’ve learned to stay in more or just not order a ton of drinks while I’m out. As a result, I also order less (expensive and greasy) food while I’m out. My financial spreadsheets are thanking the heavens I’m starting to get it together.
But you see, opting to not drink as much doesn’t mean eliminating my social life.
I can still attend a happy hour on a Thursday, go out on a Friday, have guests over on a Saturday, or brunch hard on Sundays. I still enjoy sipping mimosas, spending money, and laughing at what I look like the morning after sleeping with my eye makeup on.
Self care is equally about enjoying your newfound habits as it is about balance. Like I said, it’s not always luxurious, lavish, or easy. But learning to enjoy self care is what makes it well worth it.
These are just some of the many self care practices no one is talking about. But, maybe if we did, we’d feel a lot more healthy and happy.