I was drinking wine on weeknights to relax, crying in the bathroom at work, 10 pounds heavier than I’ve ever been and overwhelmed in every area of my life. I didn’t understand what was happening or know that feeling chronically fatigued, cynical, disconnected and a lack of joy was the new norm.
The prolonged stress and poor coping on my part was the perfect combination for burnout, which is now considered the newest occupational hazard. Seven out of 10 employees experience it, and it now has its own medical diagnosis.
So, there I was, 25 years old and burned out. I felt confused and alone as both my professional and personal life were unraveling. I became obsessed looking for a remedy in books, articles and podcasts while the answer was in front of me the entire time: take care of yourself first.
My entire life is different since I started doing selfcare daily 4 years ago: I am living in a new state, quit my job, built a thriving life coaching business, travel all around the world and left my toxic relationship. Taking time to listen and care for my mind, body, heart and spirit revealed to me how much I was living my life for others versus myself. Filling my cup first has brought more joy, clarity and fun into my life. Here are the 5 things I learned from doing 365 days in a row of selfcare.
Frist, selfcare is not selfish. As a woman, therapist/coach, girlfriend, aunt and employee, I put the needs of others before my own for years. I had this crazy belief that the more I gave the more value as a human I would have and grappled with guilt when I took time out for myself. I even did this in my relationship. For 8 years, I put his needs and others’ expectations before my own. I was losing myself, wasting energy, and invalidating my own feelings. And then on day 160 of doing selfcare daily, I finally had enough courage to honor my needs for what felt like the first time and leave my boyfriend. It was a difficult, confusing and scary time. But by being ‘selfish’, I felt that tension in my chest lift for the first time in years and I felt free. Selfcare has also allowed me to better serve because I am consistently taking the time daily to address and respond to my needs so that I am more present, engaged and have MORE to give.
Second, selfcare is a human need. Shauna Niequist said in her book Present Over Perfect, “Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and soul.” When we go too long giving to others and not taking care of our own needs, the effects of stress start to seep their way into all areas of our lives: work, parenting, health, relationships, and finances. And no one is immune: CEOs, lawyers, stay at home moms, plumbers, etc. If you are human, you need consistent selfcare to live a happy, healthy life.
Third, selfcare is simple. What makes it difficult is that it’s a skill that was not taught to us. Growing up, we learned the importance of daily selfcare, but only for our physical bodies (eat 3x a day, brush your teeth, take a shower, exercise regularly) We often neglect to do this for our emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies. Too many of us only think of caring for ourselves on those levels when it is already too late and the effects of self-neglect have already set in: weight gain, insonmia, decreased productivity at work, low sex drive, and depression/anxiety. I now view selfcare, after doing it daily for a year, as emotional hygiene; it is a proactive practice I do daily to keep myself healthy. And this practice looks different for everyone and will shift as you grow and your needs change.
Forth, selfcare is a shared responsibility. I felt guilty engaging in my self-care practices and unsupported by others when I tried to do it alone. I slowly began to share my needs and selfcare practices with my partner, then my family and friends, and eventually my work. I asked for support in helping me respect this priority and allowed them to be part of the selfcare plan. I realized that I couldn’t solely bear the responsibility of my well-being and that sharing it allowed me to engage in the practice more consistently and successfully. Within a few months, I was even able to advocate for self-care to be implemented on a larger level by my agency for all employees.
Fifth, selfcare is healing. I had this fear of saying no, but when I realized I was saying no to myself when I said yes to everyone and everything else, things shifted! I was taking time to do things that brought me joy again like reading books for fun, dancing, traveling, taking my lunch break outside the office, spending time in nature, and reconnecting with family/friends. Slowly but surely, I also got to know myself better. I was able to see the masks I had created to hide my unhappiness and how lost I became. As I continued to do my selfcare, I felt lighter, more present and reconnected to my authentic self. From consistently listening to my body and heart, I fostered the courage to make the changes needed to better care for myself; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Daily selfcare guided me through the most difficult year of my life professionally and personally. Most of us are on the verge of burn out and searching for fulfillment, clarity and peace, and selfcare has given me that. The best part? It is simple and you can start NOW! Take care of yourself… because you deserve it.
Jessica DeMarchis helps women experience deep healing and create lives that feel fulfilling and aligned.