Today’s Self-care Challenge: Take a day off.
What I mean is: take a day off from “should.” I should do my laundry, I should finish that application, I should get out of the house today, I should be a perfect person brimming with “willpower” and energy and happiness with no needs of my own… Take a day, or even just a few hours, for you. That doesn’t mean you’re required to spend that day in bed napping with a cat on you, although if that sounds awesome, go for it! It means: do only those things that you want to, that don’t sound like work. If your brain keeps coming back to the idea of a leisurely walk in your neighborhood, or finally trying that awesome muffin recipe, or calling a friend, or taking down your Christmas tree, do it! Just…don’t do it because it’s a thing that you should do. Take a day to see what happens when you really give yourself permission to do only what you want to do. If that’s marathoning Ghost Whisperer on Netflix and eating dry Top Ramen, we’ve all been there (right? It’s not just me?). You might just be surprised what happens when you give yourself a day free of shoulding – no scheduled events and no expectations. I know I frequently am: when I plan to have a day full of pajamas and Highlander on Hulu, I often end up dwelling on the thought of grocery shopping, a trip to Goodwill to get frames for art I’d like to hang in my room, or a craft project I’ve been putting off because I don’t have the energy. Our hearts don’t like should, they like may. Giving yourself permission, and crucially freeing ourselves from expectations and their attached shaming (which is inherent in should – if you don’t do what you should then you should feel bad about yourself) can open up an amazing amount of space for creativity, productivity, and self-care.
Even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Don’t should yourself about not shoulding yourself (i.e. I’m not going to should myself, so I should have a creative and productive day!). Plan to spend your day doing the least productive things you have ever done. Don’t make appointments, don’t tell your friends you’ll definitely be available for things, don’t write down anything in your planner, and don’t set up a list of chores. Tell yourself “I am spending the entirety of [DAY] in my pajamas, with fuzzy socks on, in bed with Cheetos and a novel with no redeeming qualities. That is The Plan.” When [DAY] actually comes, consciously looks for thoughts that contain should and reject those things. Look for thoughts that show up with could – as in “I could get out my origami book!” that float up repeatedly while you are reading your irredeemable novel. Pay attention to those thoughts, and if they sound pleasant, go for it!
I explicitly planned to spend today in bed reading young adult fantasy novels from my adolescence. My brain says going to Goodwill to get frames for art sounds like fun and will make me feel good, so I’m going for it! I may put fresh sheets on my bed later, and I could finish my thank-you notes for Whatevermas gifts, or I may finish the third season of the original Star Trek and I could reread Lackey’s Winds of Fate. I’m not putting any shoulds on myself, just maintaining an awareness of the possibilities.
(I didn’t even make my bed today, which I always do as part of the Unfuck Your Habitat method, because I didn’t feel like it. So go for it, be a rebel, toss your shoulds out the window. There’s time enough for them to return tomorrow.)