On a “normal” day, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life. I think we can all agree, however, that this year has been anything but “normal.” One thing we all need to keep in mind is that no matter what is going on in the world, no matter how many different ways you can think of to help other people, and no matter how many different things you perceive to be your responsibilities, self-care needs to be a priority. July 24 is International Self-Care Day, and even though self-care should be celebrated more than once a year, let this July 24 remind us of that fact.
Self-Care is Important & Unique To You
You can’t pour from an empty glass. Intellectually, that’s a concept we can understand. It’s a concept that is easy to try to explain to other people. It’s a little more difficult to really apply this idea to everyday life, though. You’re in high demand. You have a lot on your plate. But your physical and mental health are legitimate needs. Self-care is a need, not a want. It’s not something to do “when there’s time.” There won’t ever be time unless you make time.
It’s also not something to do just because someone else is doing it. Meaning, it’s super common to identify self-care using someone else’s definition. Your friend takes a bath with candles, soft music, and essential oils? That doesn’t mean baths are necessarily the best way for you to unwind. Your partner runs every morning? That doesn’t mean running is necessarily the best way for you to prepare for the day. Making self-care one more thing you don’t really want to do that you can eventually cross off your daily list is clearly counterproductive. Self-care is supposed to help ease stress and anxiety, not create it. What makes you feel relaxed? Listening to music? Walking in nature? Reading a book? Seeing a movie by yourself or with friends? Make a list of all the things that help you get your mind off of the daily grind, then make a point to do at least one relaxing thing each day. Time with family and friends, good conversations, having a good laugh—these are also simple ways that we can allow ourselves to actually enjoy ourselves.
Self-care isn’t only about doing something. Sometimes, self-care is about not doing something. This International Self-Care Day, you may want to start the day by creating a list of things you no longer want to do—things that are making it excessively difficult for you to unwind, for example. Consider turning off your phone at night or not checking emails past a certain time. Work on not feeling obligated to say “yes” to everyone who asks something of you.
Check in on Your Physical Health
Let’s not forget one of the most important ways to take care of yourself: your physical health. While you’re setting up appointments for your aging parent or your kids, or reminding your partner to see the doctor, check in with yourself about how you’re feeling also. If you’ve been extra lax on your own routine teeth cleanings, yearly physicals, annual breast exams, and regular gynecologist visits. Getting routine care back on track is incredibly valuable to your physical well-being. But in addition to those routine things, really consider how you’re actually feeling. Are your seasonal allergies under control? Might you need a new prescription for your contact lenses? How is your digestive system these days? How is your sex life? Chances are, you probably don’t have immediate answers to all of these questions. Take some time to think about them.
Take into Account Your Sex Life
Even though it may be a sensitive topic, most women value a good sex life yet relatively quickly dismiss issues as “not a big deal” or “one of those things that come with age.” These are things we tell ourselves to normalize something that isn’t normal. Healthy sex (with a partner or by yourself) is not only a fun way to spend time, but it has also been proven to significantly reduce anxiety. When sexual activities are not fun, it creates or exacerbates anxiety symptoms. Painful or uncomfortable sex, while common for many reasons, is not normal and should not be treated as such. You deserve pleasurable sex! Talk to your doctors about your symptoms, so they can get you on the track to taking back your sex life.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest vaginal dilation therapy. There are numerous reasons for painful intercourse, but if you’re free of infection or any other serious medical condition, it’s possible that vaginal dilation can get you on the road to better sex. Whether your issues are psychological, physical, or both, vaginal dilators can help retrain your body and mind into enjoying vaginal touch and pressure. Dilators are shaped like tampons and come in different sizes. You start small and gradually move up sizes as vaginal capacity and elasticity increase. They can even help stimulate natural lubrication and blood flow. Whether you’ve recently had a baby, which can weaken your pelvic floor (the supportive muscles surrounding the uterus), you’ve recently had surgery or cancer treatment, are experiencing menopausal symptoms, or anything in between, this International Self-Care Day, make a point to talk to your doctor about getting the most out of your sex life. Your needs are important—on July 24 and every day.