The past few years have marked the third iteration of the self-care era. In the 1990s and 2000s, the name of the game was hard work. Self-care meant casting aside your inclinations and grinding to make time for those whims and more in the future. The 2010s, in contrast, did away with glamorising working your life away — and self-care turned into a maxim touting unbridled consumption. From chips to vacations, self-care permits one to splurge.
Now, the 2020s have given self-care yet another evolution, this time striking the balance between all in and all out to come to a more holistic approach: living life to the fullest by tending to one’s mental health. From healing your inner child to seeking addiction treatment, the past few decades have shifted self-care from an investment in the outer world to an investment in the inner world.
Address Your Health First
Sometimes, life feels dampened like there’s more than the day-to-day trudge. Before you can ditch your soul-crushing 9-to-5 job or move to a new city to start fresh, reigniting your spark requires resolving any internal conflicts that can’t be as easily abandoned as a city or workplace. While packing your bags for a new life might sound easier, if you don’t address your inner world first, the real obstacles between you and happiness will likely follow you wherever you try to run.
According to the nonprofit Alcohol Change UK, “Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health, and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages.” For those dependent on substances, seeking holistic, evidence-based addiction treatment can be one of the most impactful acts of self-care available.
Set Intentions to Live More in the Moment
After addressing your health, identifying what you want from life becomes the foundational step to living more intentionally. Instead of saying, “I want to be happier,” get specific about the things that make you happy. In that vein, if you’re able to pinpoint the ingredients of your own happiness, the recipe becomes a lot easier to follow. Once you nail down the specifics, start small by intending to incorporate more into daily life. Maybe that means planning regularly scheduled long walks each week, setting an alarm at bedtime, and/or dedicating the last portion of your day to being more present. Whatever you decide, know that small and achievable intentions can develop into significant changes.
Remember That Self-Care Is About Balance
They say developing new habits and success in general is all about consistency. But if you’re depleted of energy, you can throw consistency out the window. Willpower is a limited resource, and trying to push through old habits on determination alone won’t do you any favors. At best, the disappointment that will inevitably come will only discourage you from pushing forward. At worst, you can develop dangerous black-and-white thinking that leads to all-in, all-out thinking.
For long-term success, it’s essential to keep in mind that staying flexible can help keep your eyes on the end goal and not get caught up in details that hinder more than they help. Whether your dream life involves running a marathon, adopting a vegetarian diet, or seeking addiction treatment, remember to give yourself grace.
Ultimately, Know That Change Doesn’t Come Overnight
Changing your life for the better is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Life rolls onward, and willpower can only hold out for so long. Hiccoughs will be inevitable, but being flexible makes room for the bumps in the road. Instead of letting them derail you, expect the rough patches and travel prepared to take pit stops for refueling along the way.