By Mehr Gupta
Face masks, yoga and treating yourself to a shopping spree or delicious UberEats –– these are what you may define as self-cafe, but taking care of yourself goes far beyond that.
I’ve learned — the hard way — that self-care is not easy. Treating and pampering yourself may alleviate stress momentarily, but effective, long-term self-care delves deeper: it is understanding and accepting your downfalls and actively making the decision to change.
If you’re truly ready to better yourself and make changes to your life and wellbeing, here are some steps you can take:
- Be accountable
Despite years of therapy, not until now have I noticed change. At first, I used my sessions to vent, complain and feel validated for my feelings. That definitely helped and is certainly needed, but there comes a point where we need to be accountable for the way we feel. We must ask, “How can I improve?”
Accountability means no longer blaming the past, people or the environment for why we are the way we are, but accepting reality for what it is and moving on. We can’t always control what surrounds us, and we can’t undo the past, but we can transform ourselves by dropping bad habits, developing new skills and working toward a better self.
- Forgive yourself
Sometimes accountability isn’t easy. Perhaps you’ve hurt someone you care about, and there’s no hope of things ever being the same. This can place you in a spiral of guilt and shame, but at the end of the day, you are human, and no one is perfect. It’s important to balance accepting your imperfections while continuing to work on them and grow.
Recovery and improvement aren’t linear processes. It’s OK to have bad days, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You are who you are at the end of the day, and you need to be kind to yourself before you can expect kindness from anybody else.
- Take action
We’ve all heard the common phrase, “actions speak louder than words,” but it truly does hold value. We can tell ourselves and others we will get better, but we won’t see improvements until we practice what we preach.
Taking action is not simple and won’t play out overnight, but results will come with consistency. This may be a series of small changes — making sure to eat breakfast, cleaning your room, spending less time on your phone or larger commitments.
For me, I’ve taken action by no longer using therapy as a Band-Aid, only useful when I’m at a breaking point, but instead as a weekly job to which I must dedicate time and effort.
- If you need help, seek it
Realizing how difficult taking care of yourself can be may make you feel drained, but you aren’t alone. Sometimes you can’t make changes by yourself, so always remember there are resources and people out there to help you. This could be a parent, friend, mental health professional or anyone you trust who is willing to listen. Your decision to improve is a brave one, and those who matter will appreciate and encourage you on your journey to become the best you.
If you are struggling, you are not alone.
Boston University Behavioral Medicine: (617) 353-3575
Samaritans Hope: (877) 870-4673
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255