Finding Fulfillment: A Guide to Self-Care

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Photo: Courtesy of Jared Rice

In 2018, self-care means more than simply taking the time to pamper yourself or running a hot bath. It’s arguably become one of the biggest wellness trends of the past few of years, and for good reason. In a world where we are constantly “switched on”, it’s easy to understand why we’ve collectively been craving more ways to just pause and recharge. There’s a reason why memes about JOMO (Joy of Missing Out, in case you didn’t already know) are so relatable that they’ve boomed in popularity. But what does self-care actually mean? And how do we reconnect with ourselves in an age when we’re constantly connected elsewhere?

Although a spot of pampering after a grueling month at work is always welcome, it’s in the simple daily practices that self-care can become more meaningful. Small tweaks to your everyday routine, or even a subtle shift in mindset, can have an enormous impact and cause positive ripples throughout the rest of your life. Much like eating healthy should be a long-term lifestyle choice rather than a quick fix for genuine results, beating burnout feels less insurmountable when it’s approached in small doses.

Self-care is all about putting yourself first – and understanding that it’s not always selfish to do so. Just like you’re advised to put an oxygen mask on yourself before helping others in an emergency situation on an airplane, looking after yourself doesn’t mean that your concern for your own wellbeing has to come at the expense of others – and if you’re in a good place, you’re much more likely to be able to positively impact or look after others as well.

Setting boundaries is a great way to make this clear. Rather than just learning how to say “no” more often, it’s about defining what truly nourishes you and what doesn’t. Once you’ve learned to let go of the guilt that can often be associated with honoring your thoughts, feelings, and wants and needs, it’s much easier to be true to yourself and what you really want. Being honest with yourself helps you to stop doing things you don’t really want to do, and frees up more time – and physical and mental energy – for what you really want. This doesn’t mean never doing things that you aren’t 200 percent inclined to do, but be clear about your reasons: Are you doing this simply to make others happy, with a kickback that will breed some level of resentment? Or are you doing it because you know how much it would mean to someone you care about, who would do the same for you, and because doing this for them would make you feel happier and more fulfilled?

You’ll also learn to draw the lines between what relationships in your life are worthwhile (for both sides) and which ones are actually toxic and need to be let go of. Here’s a hint to get you started: Those who truly care for you will accept the real you, with no judgment, and support your quest for happiness even if it doesn’t necessarily align with what they hoped, wanted, or expected of you.

We would be remiss to talk about life in 2018 without tackling the topic of social media, which – like most things – has its advantages and disadvantages. If it’s making you feel low and constantly compare yourself to others, or if it’s beginning to feel like an addiction, then it’s probably time to cool it off a little bit. If you don’t want to take a break, why not consider unfollowing accounts that you know are breeding unhealthy mindsets or behavior? If it’s not someone you’d want to spend time with in real life, ask yourself why you’re following them on social media. Be a little bit more selective about who you follow, or make use of Instagram’s magical new function: mute.

Being honest with yourself is often easier said than done, so we’ve put together a few ways to help you find the balance and really “do you”.

Listen to Your Body

When we’re feeling especially burnt out, our bodies and mind give us signs. We forget our keys, become a little more reckless when driving, or find ourselves constantly making plans while already knowing we’re going to cancel them. Learn to pay attention to and understand your body. It might be trying to tell you that you need a break or that a situation is taxing you in ways that come at too high an expense in other aspects of life.

Be Kind to Yourself

Do you treat yourself the same way you would treat your loved ones? Being harder on yourself than you need to be, or than you would on others, can eat away at your self-confidence, self-worth, and faith in your abilities. Try being your own cheerleader, banishing negative self-talk, or forgiving yourself for mistakes the same way you would forgive people you care about, and you’ll never be without one of your most essential support systems: yourself.

Be Accountable for Your Actions

Recognizing what we do – both the good and the bad – and how we feel about it or why we do it is a key part of understanding our true desires and, in doing so, being honest with ourselves. Personal accountability can teach us how to stop misplacing blame or finding excuses, as well as allow us to build greater self-esteem, find self-empowerment in our choices, and improve everything from our relationships – with others and ourselves – to our drive and motivation.

Stop Trying to Be Perfect

In this day and age, we all know that there’s no singular definition for “perfect”. It means something different to each one of us and, by putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Remember that it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as we see them as great opportunities to learn from, and that everyone struggles with different things at times. It’s all part of finding our balance in life.

Spend Quality Time With Yourself

You’d never bail on a friend who really needed some face time with you, right? So don’t do the same to yourself. Finding some “me” time is one of the best ways to truly switch off and honor yourself and should be treated as a necessity – not a luxury. Go to the gym, not to achieve the ideal body for social media, but because it makes you stronger and feel good. Eat healthy, not because it’s the latest trend, but because, by doing so, you’re respecting the body you live in. Spend some time outdoors and reconnect with nature on a regular basis, spend some quality time with animals, get enough sleep, laugh at a comedy show, watch a good movie (without distractions), or book yourself that spa day. Life is for living, not just existing. Through these subtle — yet profound — changes, we can find fulfillment in everything that we do.