The A-to-Z Guide for Taking Care of Your Own Damn Self

Are you too hard on the man in the mirror?

March 12, 2018 9:00 am

When it comes to a man’s sense of duty and responsibility, there’s family, work and relationships.

But whither the time for número uno?

With masculinity itself in a moment of serious re-examination, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the “self-care” movement, aka improving one’s mental and emotional wellbeing as a path to a healthier life.

So we put together an A-to-Z guide to self-care, from simple destressors (baths, stretching) to  tips on reshaping the way you define and evaluate your failures and successes.

Oh, and floss. It’s really not that hard.

Ask for help when you need it
When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to forget there are others who care and want to make our lives easier. Consider how much you would do for a loved one in need, and then remember they share that same sentiment. You, sir, are not the Marlboro Man. Don’t go it alone.

Baths are a hallmark of self-care, as they combine a bit of an indulgence with a commitment to your own relaxation. If you don’t have a tub, our newsroom agreed that the next best thing is a shower beer. Also, not up for debate: the necessity of a robe.

Ever find yourself in the vitamin section on the way to the snacks aisle and think, “someday I’ll figure out how to use all this stuff.” Yeah, hasn’t worked out for us either. The folks at startup Care/Of are a one-stop, subscription-based vitamin and supplement co. that you can tailor to your needs without the fuss.

Declutter your home
This phase is as transformative as you want it to be. It can mean a simple dusting of the old hardbacks or a couple trips to Goodwill with all your stale clothes, magazines and appliances. Don’t know where to start? Refer to the proverbial bible of decluttering.

Eat well
A diet lacking important nutrition from whole foods like fruit, vegetables and healthy fats and proteins is basically like keeping your body in a constant state of hangover. Being a hedonist is fun, but not feeling like a bloated sack is arguably more fun. We like the Fresh app for an easy reference for what’s in season.

Because even though people joke that it is a harder habit to start than smoking is to quit, it’s probably the most agreed-upon medical advice of all time besides “drink water.”

Gym membership
You know, that thing that auto-debits every month you keep forgetting to cancel? Plot twist: don’t cancel it, get your ass there. You won’t regret making time for yourself if you actually do it, but discipline is the first muscle you have to build.

Health is wealth
There is a lot of emphasis on things that feel good in the world of #selfcare, but the sun in this universe is really your body, the vessel for all the things you’ll experience in life. Scoff at that if you like, but at least promise you’ll get your annual physicals and make whatever appointment it is you’ve been putting off. Or take it at home.

Invest in your own happiness
What are your long-term goals? Live a life that lets you do the things you love. This could be waking up an hour earlier to start every day with a solo walk, slowly accruing all the accoutrements of your post-retirement projects (that a zen garden back there?), or getting your ducks in a row to take an extended trip abroad. The best things in life require some planning.

Jot it down
You don’t have to start full-blown journaling, but even the mere act of writing out your thoughts as a draft on your phone can be a remarkably cathartic process. Related: lists are a godsend for a tired mind.

Kindness counts
Here’s a thought experiment that radically transformed the way your correspondent “communicates” with herself: instead of letting insecurities run amok, I imagine how I’d react if I heard someone I love speak cynically about themselves. It wouldn’t fly.

Let go of one opinion every day
It might be impossible, but the point of this exercise is to (bear with me) soften the hard edges of your mind and open yourself to new possibilities. Think “I hate romance movies” or “everything that artist does sucks.” It takes energy to care, and that energy would be better spent elsewhere. Plus, now I know I like celery and the occasional rom com.

Whatever this looks like for you. For me, it’s hour-long HIIT and yoga classes a few times a week, where my mind has to be present in a unique way. Our LA editor once adopted extreme athlete Wim Hof’s fabled breathing exercises for a month with positive results. There are also plenty of apps that offer guided meditation if a self-guided practice is still not part of your life. Ultimately it’s about bringing stillness and rest to your mind, and that’s always gonna be a journey.

Nature is a salve for the soul
Do rats race in nature? We’re guessing no. Lots of writers can paint the natural world and its effect on wellbeing with a finer brush than yours truly (on Walden Pond, no less), but allow me to remind you of that bucket list outdoor trip you’ve been dreaming of: This the year?

Yoga has the dual benefits of being strengthening for your body and mind, and puts you in touch with your breath, one of the greatest natural destressors at your disposal. If you’re a total beginner, consider taking a few classes at a studio, you’ll learn tips for carrying your practice on at home.

Pop-culture binge
We’d be remiss to give you a chill-out guide and leave out the most recent edition of Culture Hound, our monthly compendium of all the new media we’ve been unwinding with — because vegging out to TV is folk medicine at this point.

Quit making excuses
You should be content with who you are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be a better version of yourself. While we’ll cede that taking any real time for yourself in this economy can feel like a sunk cost, usually the not “having” of time is more accurately the not “making” of time. What’s your excuse?

Remember to stretch
So maybe you haven’t made time to make it to the gym in … a while. It happens. But like a nice car, you still gotta rev the engine to keep it shipshape. Which is to say, we should all be incorporating more stretching, breathing and core exercises into our workdays.

Skincare is next to godliness
Our Editor in Chief recently confessed to using face masks, including “cucumbers on [his] eyeballs and sh*t,” because it makes him feel “chill.” Way with words, that one. Seriously, though: facials or a hot-towel shave can give you a new lease on life. Get actionable tips with our Layman’s Guide to Skincare.

Take it easy on yourself, you’re only human
Juggling a career, family and love life is hard under any circumstances, but you can minimize death-by-communication-breakdown if you put in the work of learning to be patient, reflective and honest with yourself. It might mean taking a personal day from work or booking a talk therapy appointment, but remember that our thought patterns are directly linked to our moods.

You already know it’s important. If this simply isn’t an option for you, spend 10 minutes to tune up and turn off all unnecessary notifications, apps and upgrades, just for now. It can hurt your productivity and self esteem to spend too much time on social media.

Lend your time and resources to causes you care about based on your strong suits. This can be organized, like getting involved in your community (here is a resource from Patagonia that helps you find your cause), or totally off-the-cuff, like just being available as an ear to a friend going through a hard time. Helping others out is an excellent way to get perspective on your own life.

“Wholesome content”
Ever heard of it? It’s an idea closely linked to self-care and is essentially all things opposite Pepe frogs, rude memes and fiery internet rhetoric. It’s all about supporting the reader emotionally through benign memes. It may seem silly, but the thinking is simple: positive affirmations work their magic on your psyche in subtle ways.

Birds do it. Bees do it. It’s not good to be too pent up!

Your best is always good enough
“Only you know the difference between too much and not enough.” Wise words from your correspondent’s Pilates instructor. She might be talking about pushups, but the point is when you’ve worked hard and done what you know to be your best, you’ll be free of regrets and eventually have killer upper body strength.

Let us talk to you about our lord and savior, clean, linen bed sheets, and their capacity to improve your sleep routine and thus your morning routine and thus … you get the idea. Now get a good night’s rest.

Nota bene: For more in-depth reporting on the movement’s radical roots, see recent coverage on the politics and larger history of self care.

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