Proactive Selfcare

Over the years I’ve come to realize there’s a major difference between selfcare as an emergency service and proactive selfcare. When I’m at my best, I’m caring for myself before I need to. When I’m at my worst I’m depleted, and I find life very difficult—which certainly includes selfcare. At my worst, I procrastinate caring for myself and tend to engage in negative behaviors like the ones I previously wrote about https://betterbertie.com/2020/09/17/selfcare-basics/.

I define proactive selfcare as caring for one’s self as a habit, it’s something that’s folded into each day. I have many hobbies, for lack of a better word, that help fill my soul. If I don’t engage in these hobbies enough, I become irritable. Overtime I’ve learned to view feelings of irritation and frustration as a sign that I need to care for myself. Typically, if I’m feeling irritated, I haven’t taken the time to proactively care for myself and I’m in a state of depletion. As a way to mitigate this I try to proactively care for myself with the 10 habits below.

10 Ways I proactively care for myself

Gym
For a long time, I hated working out because I would force myself to do yoga, run long distances, or engage in a circuit workout—all of which I’m not a fan of. When I found lifting everything changed. Lifting alleviated anger and frustration and gave me a specify focus for channeling those feelings. I am particularly fond of going to the gym when there are experienced lifters there, which tends to be after work. Seeing different people’s routines and their intensity forces me to give my all. I find the gym to be restorative and it helps with my mental health. 

Walk
I walk every day. I love to walk, and my dog loves it too. In some of the most difficult moments of my life I’ve gone for walks that have helped me channel my energy. I can’t exactly explain why I need to walk, but I know mentally and emotionally I’m not complete unless I’ve dedicated some part of my day to it. I come home feeling restored and centered.

Hike
Hiking is a hobby that I tend to engage in a once or twice a month. It is a spiritual practice that draws me closer to God. When I’m in nature everything in the world seems beautiful and full of surprises. It has taught me to depend on my body and to push myself mentally. By hiking a few times a month, I’m reminded of all that I can do and the beauty that surrounds me.

Write
What a love-hate relationship. I love to write, but sometimes it becomes chore-like. If I don’t write enough, I become less creative, less interesting, and less interested in the world around me. Writing helps me see the potential in everything, every person, every moment. It has forced me to grow emotionally and to see the gaps in my growth.

Enjoying Food
I love food and I’m always gonna love food. For a long time, I felt a lot of guilt for eating food I labeled “junk.” I found myself in a cycle of restricting “junk” food and then binging because I had restricted. Slowly with time I’ve stopped restricting food and have made it a priority to enjoy the food I eat. Taking care of my body is a very important part of taking care of my mind.

Watching Good Movies
Can anyone say horror? It’s my favorite. I love watching good horror movies, in fact, I love watching bad horror movies. Watching movies has become a big part of my life. They keep me creative and show me the beauty in the world and some of the ugly parts too. I love being able to slip into someone’s mind for 90 minutes. Horror movies have allowed me to experience my fears in a safe space which has helped me overcome a lot of my greatest fears.

Present Who I Am to the World on My Own Terms
This is not a catchy subheading but it’s to the point. Somedays I love to wear makeup and somedays I don’t want to wear any. Some days I like tight fitting clothes and other days, not so much.  Some months my hair is purple and some months my hair is blonde. The only thing that really matters to me is that I choose it because that’s what I wanted for the day. Each day has a different feel for me, with a different purpose, and it’s important to me to dress for that energy. Doing what I want with my appearance allows me to be creative and to feel at home in my own body. If I don’t take care of myself in this way, I find myself becoming bored and I suffer from low self-esteem.

Church
I used to have major qualms with saying I went to church and I believed in God. I thought somehow this made me less scientific or less open to people from different backgrounds. I was wrong. Church is an integral part of managing my whole self. Listening to a sermon that forces me to grow and look inward has been integral to my self-acceptance. If I miss church, I lose track of who I am and the find myself feeling lost. Church allows me to recenter myself before the start of each week.  

Pray
I’m in constant dialogue with God all day. If I’m in a conversation and it’s particularly difficult I’m praying about how to respond with kindness. If I’m scared or nervous, I’m praying about that. Through all points in my day I’m asking for courage or strength in some capacity. This has helped me better handle situations that honor who I’d like to be. I find myself behaving in ways I admire and responding instead of reacting. This has helped to boost my confidence and to live in accordance with my values and morals.

Hangout with friends
I have to hangout with friends at least once a week to get outside of my own head—even when I don’t wanna. If left to my own devices I will isolate which is very bad for my spirit. I’ve found that being around friends helps me laugh with ease and reminds me not to take life so seriously. Getting outside of myself is another important part to keeping my spirit healthy.

These are just 10 of the proactive habits I engage in to help me feel centered. I have lots of little micro-habits, which maybe I’ll write about later, that help me feel centered as well. Forcing myself to sit down and write what I need to do proactively to care for myself has been another step toward healing. Let me know what your habits are below so I can add them into my rotation! Thanks for reading!

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…

Anger, the catch-all emotion

I’ve spent many hours trying to understand my emotions. As a child, I learned that being angry was easier than being sad. If I was angry, I didn’t need to feel bad about myself. Anger filled me with entitlement while sadness filled me with, well, sadness.

Sadness felt like an anvil tied to my heart. With each new event that hurt me, weight was added to the anvil. There was no bottom for the anvil to hit. The weight just tugged each day at my heart, becoming heavier and heavier. Eventually it became too heavy and the weight unbearable. To save my heart I became angry. Anger felt like an internal punk rock band which was more bearable than the weight of an anvil.

Anger was so much easier, so it became a catch-all emotion. All of a sudden, the things that made me feel sad shifted to anger. I slid the anvil to the back of my heart and used it as a stage for my punk rock band. It became the root of my anger. The platform for anger to stand on. I would still add to it from time-to-time, but at least I didn’t have to consciously deal with it. At the time, it was what I needed to cope and to stay safe. This is probably not surprising, but it’s no longer helpful.

I’ve been trying to learn to break down what anger means to me. When I first started, I was so scared of my emotions that I would poke at the anger and run away. Slowly, I realized that it couldn’t harm me. It wasn’t going to attack me. I was able to calm the punk rock band down and they handed me a chisel and hammer. Over time, I’ve chipped away at the sadness. However, anger still seems to be an emotion that often fills the space of other emotions. It’s a complex emotion that means something completely different. 

For example, it could mean:

  • I’m tired
  • I’m hungry
  • I’m sad
  • I’ve had too much caffeine
  • I’ve had too much sugar
  • I haven’t had enough alone time
  • I’ve had too much alone time
  • I haven’t had enough physical activity
  • I’m lonely
  • And more…

I noticed that one thing that consistently triggered anger was lack of selfcare. If I spent too much time with someone, even if I enjoyed the time, I would become angry. I would find myself becoming easily frustrated with people I loved, but I felt so much guilt about prioritizing myself over them. I would constantly go back-and-forth between what the right decision was. I would eventually become so tired that I would just succumb to whatever decision was easiest.

I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to make decisions when it came to selfcare. So, I sat down and came up with a solution. I wrote myself a triangle to help clarify the right decision. When I’m looking at my day, week, or month I always make plans in the top two tiers first. If someone asks me to do something and I’m having difficulty saying no, I always refer back to my triangle. I consciously explain to myself that I prioritize selfcare and made that commitment to do so.

I dedicate this process to building trust with myself. It forces me to be honest. If I’m not honest with myself, my internal life becomes off kilter and I begin to feel groggy—almost as if I’m living in a haze. Life begins to move quickly and slowly at the same time. Through the use of this triangle, selfcare is no longer a choice—it’s a commitment. I’ve begun to feel less guilty about caring for myself and making the decisions that are right for me.

Instead of saying “no,” I used to find myself making excuses. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m able to say, “I’d love to, but I have plans.” Eventually, I’d like to say, “I’d love to, but today is a selfcare day.” I want to take time to normalize selfcare for those around me and for myself…so we’re all healthy and happy.

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…