Self-Care Month: 8 Experts Offer Self-Care & Inspirational Improvement Tips So You Can Strive for Your Best You by Krista Nerestant
2020 was a stressful year, and 2021 hasn’t been much better. But September is both Self-Care Month and Self-Improvement Month. It’s a time of encouraging people to be kinder to themselves and to strive toward becoming the best version of themselves. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s essential. No one can operate efficiently or achieve their own goals and greatness if they aren’t taking care of themselves first.
There’s no such thing as an “expert” in self-care because everyone should care for themselves in their own unique and loving ways – but we’ve compiled eight diverse thought leaders for commentary and tips to get you thinking about the best ways to care for yourself. A Netflix star and public speaker, a martial artist, a professional performing musician, an immigration attorney who finally turned into her own butterfly, a Hollywood writer turned rancher, a woman leading the charge for women’s sexual health, a youth counselor who started her life over in Paris, and a nationally recognized pastor have all offered their thoughts on self-care and self-improvement as well as how to approach it and ways to begin.
Here’s what they said:
- "Sometimes it’s best to do nothing. There are times when we get anxious, uncomfortable or afraid, and we allow our minds to race, convincing us we aren’t strong enough or we can’t. We either act hastily on these thoughts or we get in the habit of dismissing or numbing our discomforts and fears. Sometimes the best action is no action. Sometimes we need to just sit in our discomfort – the fear, the pain as it is – rather than dismiss it or try to escape. We become stronger when we learn to sit in discomfort, feel it and breathe – realizing we are strong enough to endure it."
- "Preparation does not equal perfection! We don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. There is a fine line between planning and over-planning, obsessing. Over-planning causes us to freeze because we never feel ready to start. Part of preparation is just figuring out how to keep moving forward and acting on what is known while faking what is not. In all preparation, there is a component of “fake it ’til you make it!” We will never have it ALL figured out, but it doesn’t mean we are stuck! Keep moving!"
- "Self-care can be its own form of self-improvement. Rather than picking up a new activity, try this: Choose to let go of what no longer serves you. Sometimes destructive habits, thoughts, and behaviors masquerade as coping mechanisms. We may feel relief in the short term, but what good long-term purpose do they serve? For many years, I used eating disorder behaviors to 'cope' with stress. Self-care quickly became self-harm. In recovery, I’ve learned to let go of actions and thought patterns that don’t serve my health, my self-respect or my ability to enjoy life. Letting go of what doesn’t serve me has freed me up to be more present in my life, feel more joy and be open to more opportunities."
3. Matt Wilson, author of Hooks: Lessons on Performance, Business and Life From a Working Musician
- "Play one song at a time and calmly ignore unwanted thoughts. Think about the good stuff! Choosing not to resist the unwanted thoughts and purposely injecting a positive thought will make the worry fade away. No matter your endeavor, stay in the moment. Think of your efforts as singing a song. Connect with the thoughts and words you are singing. Feel the spaces in between the notes. Give 'now' the same amount of respect and focus you know 'later' will require."
- "Knowing that you have a choice can be more important than the choice you make. From the mildly inconsequential (You mean, I didn’t have to get fries as my side?) to the life-changing (I can make decisions about my life, and I’m not a victim of my circumstances), people encounter not knowing they have a choice every day. Just because you don’t feel like you have a choice, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. We all make poor choices. However, knowing we can control the choices is far more hopeful than living a life decided by circumstance and fate. A brighter outlook suggests that we have the ability to make choices that will be right and good. I’m not saying that everything in life offers a choice. I am saying that most things do."
- "Practicing daily positive affirmations can be just the tool to recalibrate the neural pathways in your brain and to help settle your nervous system. When you make saying a daily positive affirmation a habit, taking full and deep breaths in between, you calm your nervous system down and over time can minimize stress. Try this one to start: I am excited that something wonderful is always about to happen. And, then pay attention and see what unfolds for your day."
- "Leave. Walk out the front door and drive across town. Get on your bike and go 'adventuring.' Walk somewhere you've never been. We all need time and space to clear our heads. A fresh perspective, a new angle on a situation. To be more dramatic (OK, pricey) I find everything changes for me when I get on a plane and take off. I'm leaving 'all that' behind. For the moment anyway. Usually, it's enough to 'clean the cache' and get the do-over I need. And it might even end up being cheaper than a therapist!"
- "Treat. It's all about YOU! Be good to yourself. Real good – you deserve it! Spend some quality time at a museum, a botanical garden, the library, a good book store. Go to the mall or some happening part of town and sit and watch people. Wear dark glasses if you have to – really study them. What's their story? Who would they be in your epic novel, poem, play, screenplay, etc., that's evolving in your head? Take yourself out for a good lunch, dinner. Just you. Don't you deserve to be treated? Who cares if you're dining alone? Work it! Be a mystery. Take it all in, scribble notes – whatever pops in your head. Remember, EVERYTHING IS COPY! (Thank you Nora Ephron.)"
- “Sex is a skill requiring practice – and patience. And like learning anything else, it takes time to achieve the results you want. Whether alone or with a partner, explore what you need to feel more fulfilled in the bedroom. Be open to trying new experiences, without judgment or preconceptions. Arousal is very personal and no two people are alike. This also means there is no one right way to be intimate, so experiment until you find what’s right for you. It’s worth the effort.”
- “When intimacy problems creep into a relationship, it often follows timid bedroom communication. But don’t be shy! If you’re having underwhelming sexual experiences, speak up. Tell your partner what you need to feel more fulfilled – but always do so with care and compassion. Your partner may be unaware that you’ve been unsatisfied, or may be unsure how to please you. Guide them forward by taking a more active role, and you’ll be able to achieve shared intimate experiences that satisfy both of you.”
- "Take one day away from social media every week. If possible, have a totally screen-free day! For me, taking one day away from social media has helped me to realign with myself and to stop comparing my life with people I follow. When we are surrounded by social media, it’s hard to see the negative impact it can have on our mental health."
- Use the screen-time feature on your phone! All of my apps automatically turn off from 10 p.m. to 7:45 a.m. This helps me to spend the first and last part of each day checking in with myself instead of checking my phone. I have found that I look forward to these screen-free mornings and evenings. They are a perfect way to bookend my day! I also limit all of my social media apps to keep myself from mindlessly scrolling. Find out whatever works best for you!"
- "Know who you aren't. Often, our fatigue comes from spending so much time with the weight of the world squarely on our shoulders. If you're an empathetic human being, it can be tempting to feel obligated to change and fix every situation you become aware of, to saddle yourself with unrealistic expectations that you can't and aren't required to meet. Yes, you are a once-in-history creation with an unprecedented arrangement of gifts that no one else has ever had or will have. But you're not invincible and you're not unlimited in your physical and emotional resources. Learn when to put down the superhero costume and be mortal for a while. Have the wisdom and humility to do what you can and know when to rest in what you can't."
- "Share the load. One of the greatest sources of exhaustion, is the feeling that we are alone here: that no one else cares about what we care about or is fighting for what we're fighting for. This is almost never true, but the more time we spend by ourselves, the easier it is to believe that. Community is medicinal. When we share our life and work with like-hearted people in meaningful, interdependent relationships, we are far less likely to burn out quickly, which is the goal. This isn't about you expiring early, it's about a lifestyle of sustainable compassion that will allow you not only to care deeply, but to be here a long time while you do. Finding your tribe will make this far easier. Don't go it alone."
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