A set of Flex-approved challenges to help you build self-care into your routine
The world is a crazy place right now. It’s an election year, we’re stuck inside because of a global pandemic, 40 million people are unemployed, and we’re in the middle of changing the world in favor of equality — because Black Lives Matter.
It can be exhausting just to get through a regular day, and right now the heaviness of the world can make it very easy to slip into autopilot, neglecting ourselves because we’re just drained. But we’re here to tell you that self-care is more important now than ever before.
Whether you’re out protesting or are at home trying to eat healthy, work hard, and not binge the entire new season of Queer Eye in one sitting, self-care is important.
The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your plants, fur babies, friends, loved ones, and planet. And because the world needs you, we need you to take care of yourself, too (ESPECIALLY during your period).
It can feel unnatural for some of us to practice self-care, so as a way to hold ourselves accountable and help you prioritize self-care too, we’re starting a weekly Flex Self-Care Challenge.
The idea behind this is that you 1) make it a habit to incorporate self-care into your normal daily routine, and 2) try out some new self-care-y things that you may not have known would work for you.
So go ahead and give it a shot for the first week. If it’s not for you, all good! No pressure. But hopefully you’ll find yourself a bit more in tune with your feelings and your needs, and a bit more compassionate with yourself.
Ready for week one?
Day 1: Breathe
Self-care can be as easy as breathing. And that’s not even a metaphor, it’s the whole thing. If you’re stressed, your body is likely holding tension in a lot of places, and your thoughts may feel like they’re reeling.
The easiest way to take down the intensity of all of that, if even for a few minutes, is to breathe.
My favorite way to do this is with a long guided meditation, but I know meditation just doesn’t work for some people and honestly, it can feel kind of like a chore if you’re not used to it.
To hold myself accountable and make breathing an easy addition to my day, I like to use the iBreathe app.
There are a ton of apps available with similar features, but the basics you need are the option to add reminders in your phone and a nice, simple visual to help you time your breathing.
Set yourself some notifications (I like to do it three times a day but you can start with one) and wait. Once you get that little popup, open the app and… breathe.
The entire exercise is usually just one minute (!) but you’ll probably be surprised at how hard it is to not do anything but breathe. Giving your body and your brain time away from scrolling, working, self-doubting, and really anything other than breathing will give you a welcome break throughout the day, and your notifications will keep you accountable.
Do this at least once a day for this first week’s challenge and see how much perspective you gain.
Day 2: Create
Does that word make you recoil? Does it recall images of Pinterest disasters past? Well, I too tried and failed to make cauliflower pizza crust, which is why this second challenge is to create something with the understanding that it can fail and that is okay.
What you create for this challenge is totally up to you. You can experiment with a new recipe, get crafty, try a YouTube makeup tutorial, or do something as simple as coloring in a coloring book. Whatever you do, do your best to go into it with the goal of enjoying the process, not just the end result.
If you end up with a masterpiece, amazing! But if you just take time to get a little messy and let your mind relax, that’s just as awesome.
Try this at least once this week and see what you can make.
Day 3: Connect
Especially during this weird, COVID-y time, connection can be really hard. But interacting with other people is critical for our wellbeing, even for the most introverted among us. This week’s Connect challenge is to reach out to someone who you haven’t talked to in awhile (or ever).
The thought behind this is that you’re doing good for yourself while doing good for someone else, which is a damn good win-win.
If you are a stereotypical millennial like me, you may not dig the idea of calling someone on the phone that you haven’t talked to in awhile and saying “how the hell are ya?” No problem! Do it old school and write a handwritten letter – or even an email. Or a heartfelt FB message.
Old school snail mail, though, can be such a wonderful thing to receive – and it’s also cathartic to write. If you don’t know of anyone to write to, check out the Write On Campaign where you can find lots of people who’d love to receive your note.
Open yourself up to a little vulnerability and connect with at least one person this week.
Day 4: Pamper
One of my least favorite things about the common concept of self-care is that it’s all charcoal masks and bubble baths. While both of those things are amazing and are very valid forms of self-care, it doesn’t even have to be that involved. The simplest forms of self-care can be avoiding cutting corners when it comes to everyday things.
Treat yourself to freshly-washed sheets and a perfectly-made bed so going to sleep feels like heaven. Put on music you haven’t listened to in forever (Spotify’s #ThrowbackThursday playlist is great for this) and enjoy it without distractions.
Instead of slapping on your sunscreen and running out the door, use it to give yourself a super relaxing facial massage. Whatever you’d do for yourself if you had all the time in the world, do that this week.
Day 5: Cleanse
I’m no Marie Kondo, but I know having junk around your house that doesn’t feel true-to-you can weigh you down. You can make this as easy or as challenging as you want, but this week you should get rid of five things that aren’t serving you anymore.
These can be emotionally-charged items or just junk you haven’t had time to get rid of. Here’s what’s on my list:
- College bar t-shirts
- Empty shampoo/conditioner/body wash bottles that have been in the shower for like 6 months
- Expired stuff in the fridge
- Holiday cards on the fridge
I can guarantee you that you’ll feel both accomplished and relieved by getting rid of some stuff, and your space will feel more like home because of it.
Day 6: Rest
Rest is a big deal. For Day 6’s challenge, I want you to give yourself a break from things that stress you out just for an hour. If this falls on a work day, feel free to change it to your day off, and if an hour feels impossible (kids, amirite?), try 30 minutes. Here’s what I plan on doing for my hour of rest:
- Turning my phone alllll the way off
- Turning my TV off
- Turning off any unnecessary lights and hanging out outside or near windows for natural light
- Removing uncomfy clothes (bye, bra)
- Telling myself that, for this hour, I don’t have to accomplish anything
And once those stressful things are temporarily turned off, do whatever the hell you want. Take a nap, make yourself something delicious, or drink a cup of tea without any distractions. Take the time to make this hour all about intentional rest, and go back to your regular life with a recharged battery.
Day 7: Reflect
I can be really skeptical of overly-cheerful, forced gratitude practices. But one that has worked well for me is, right before bed, I try to think of three good things that happened that day. They don’t have to be something huge or something I accomplished (because I can get caught up in that). Just three good things.
Here’s an example of one of my lists:
- I found out one of my friends is having a baby (!)
- I tried a new recipe and it actually turned out pretty decent
- The weather was amazing
See? Nothing too crazy. And by reflecting on good things that happened each day, you’re training yourself to be on the lookout for the good in your life, making you more receptive to all the goodness out there in general. And that’s something we can all use more of right now.
Check out the other Flex self-care challenges:
Self-care challenge #2: Tackling trauma