As either you’ve come to realize, or you will come to grips with soon, we at Villain Esteem, are unapologetically dark. We don’t really care what other people think about us. We care about helping as many people as we can. Most people hide the parts of them that the rest of society doesn’t like. That’s not us. We are here to say the hard shit, and usually that goes against the grain a little bit. That’s ok with us. We won't be everyone's cup of tea, but we will be the shot of reality when in need.
Self-care day is July 24th. Now, I’m not here to talk about the self-care you’ve been fed by marketing ploys of beauty companies. Self-Vigilance has very little to do with beauty. Set the products themselves aside, and you have a really great concept. Go back to the roots of self-maintenance and rediscover what it means to take care of yourself and treat you like the priority you are. Let’s redefine self-care back into what it was meant to be.
This isn’t permission to be selfish, that’s not what I’m getting at. Extremes in any direction are unhealthy. Let’s work on how to practice Self-Vigilance without letting it get in the way of the rest of your life.
Why Even Try?
If you’re here and reading this, you have at least a curiosity to grow as a person. That’s awesome! Being a better you, is the only thing the world can ask of you. Everything else is just semantics.
Maybe you’ve tried self-care before. You did the thing they told you to do. You got the face shit, you took a shower and put your hair up in a towel (maybe even with short hair), and slapped the mud on your face. You sat around and played Candy Crush on your phone for the exact 15 allotted minutes. The difficulty washing off the mask was enough to take back any relaxation that didn’t come your way in the first place. What’s the point anyways? You could be doing something else, right? Don’t laugh, this is my actual story, maybe yours is similar. If so, you might get a little something from this post about how to make Self-Vigilance work for you. When I learned self-care went past baths and facial masks, it was like discovering a world that was hidden in plain sight. Some had figured it out, but most really had only thought they figured it out. Once you release yourself from the confines of what you currently know about self-care, you might actually want to do it too.
Build a life you don’t want to run away from
Self-care has turned into running away from your life for a few minutes and relaxing.
Self-Vigilance is making a life you don’t want to run away from.
Like many before you, you might have gotten caught up doing too much to fit in self-maintenance. Either work gets in the way, or you want to help other people more than help yourself.
Imagine yourself 2 days from your deadline. You aren’t really sure how you’re going to pull it off, because you have 4 days worth of work left to do. Simple math says that’s a problem. You’re rushing, working as quickly as possible, which leads to more mistakes. You aren’t careful, so the errors keep piling up. Do you double down and work harder? Or do you take a break, worry about yourself for a little while, and return to work refreshed? Visualize you planned out your weekend. You have a bunch of projects you’ve been meaning to get done. You’re behind and it’s been eating away at you little by little. Thursday rolls around and you’re starting to get excited about the time you will spend checking things off your list. Your phone rings. They need help. It’s not like they ask for help all the time. It’s not like you can’t do it, it’s a fairly easy ask, it just takes time. All weekend, in fact. The time you had set aside to getting your list shaved down. Do you push your tasks out another weekend, or do you tell your friend you have plans, and you’re free next weekend? I know, I probably sound crazy to you. It’s easy to continue on the path you’ve been on. Diverting, taking the exit ramp, and changing your speed all takes effort. Sitting in your moment takes effort. Add in the worry that it won’t even work, that you will just end up stressed with even less time, and self-care seems downright unreasonable.
I have some good and some bad news for you.
The bad news: Your fears are valid. There is a chance you could spend that time, and still end up stressed.
The good news: It’s up to you. You decide how it ends up, and you are the one in control. It might take practice, but you’ve totally got this.
It’s not an easy choice. There’s a massive double standard out there that creates a stigma.
We are told to work, grind, burn the candle at both ends. But also take care of yourself. Self-care is important #selfcaresaturday. But you better not call in sick. Mental health days don’t count as sick days. You’re letting down the team. Work harder, be better. Take care of yourself so you don’t burn out. Work harder because your emails are backed up. Don’t forget about #selfcaresunday! But don’t forget to turn your paperwork in on time, especially if it’s due Monday.
Do you have whiplash? Because I’m spinning.
While all of these quotes are inspirational, and I use similar messages to motivate me in certain circumstances, it all comes back to equilibrium. You need some of a lot of things, and not too much of any of it. Carrots are great for you. They’re a good source of Vitamin A, which isn’t something your body produces on its own. Yet, if you eat too many of them, and your skin is pale enough, they will turn you orange and give you the shits.
Here’s the thing: If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
Something that I try to remember is you cannot pour from an empty cup. Whether it’s work, or helping other people, once your cup is empty, it’s empty. Anything that comes out of it will just be drips, leaving everyone thirsty and unsatisfied. If you take the time out for yourself, you fill up your own cup, so you have more to give others. You will work harder if you are fulfilled. You will accomplish more over time, and be generally “happier”.
Cortisol Levels on the Rise
With hard work, stress often comes along for the ride, too. While a certain level of stress has been identified as beneficial, chronic stress is a big fat no-no for your health. When people have high stress levels for long periods of time, they’re more prone to colds, increases in blood pressure, and ulcers. My partner has a stress ulcer right now! I personally get tension headaches that I work through that then turn into untreated migraines. Stress can manifest differently in anyone, but it’s rarely a beneficial symptom.
Self-Vigilance, if done correctly, signals to your body that the danger is over. You can relax. It’s called the relaxation response. It’s the opposite of the Fight or Flight response, and what comes after to regulate your systems. During this response, your blood pressure lowers, your heart goes back down to a normal pace, and your breathing returns to a slower pace. All that shit, is Kryptonite for stress.
The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficult circumstances. Who doesn’t need more of that in their lives? Life doesn’t come with a map, a recipe card, or an instruction manual. No one knows the perfect answers, because there aren’t any. Resilience comes in, when shit happens, and you need to get up, brush the dirt off your knees, and keep going. Adaptability in the face of adversity is a highly coveted skill. Building resilience isn’t a magical cure-all to prevent stress from entering your life, but instead, it is the betterment of your reactions to the circumstances that come your way. Krav Maga, a pretty well known self-defense system is a stand-out example of resilience. You react to your opponent in the most efficiently possible way to take yourself out of danger, and use your rival’s momentum against them. You can apply the same philosophy to your emotional resilience.
In case you’re one of the 2,500 annual searches for “How to not always be working.” I have a solution for you. A lovely side-effect of Self-Vigilance is improvement in boundary setting. Self-care done right helps you come to know yourself more, you have a better understanding of time management, and you know where your limits lie. Knowing all of those things about yourself, helps you set boundaries not only with yourself, but with other people. Knowing you need a day off of responsibility once a week, you can say no to plans that impose responsibility, or reschedule to a time that isn’t blocked off. Boundaries give you a level of control over your emotions, time, and energy that allow you to keep out the shit you have been building resilience for whenever possible. If you have an understanding with yourself that a particular person is a “time-limit friend”, you can then respect yourself enough to decline a weekend away in the woods with no wifi with that person.
Self-care is giving the best of you, not what’s left of you.
Areas of Self-Care
Did you know there is more than one kind of self care?! Most people don’t because the only one shoved down our throats, aka the most profitable, is the Physical. Beauty, fitness, and nutrition.
In order to get good at Self-Vigilance and maintain yourself, you need to understand the different ways you can take care of You. The secret sauce to self-care is mindfulness. I know, so overused. I hate it, but the philosophy is on point. If you put yourself in the moment when you’re taking care of yourself, it’s far more fulfilling than if you just go through the motions to check the box on your list.
Work on time management and schedule self-vigilance in. If you block out that time, you have nothing to feel guilty about when you take it.
The most obvious. The most marketed. Self-care sells dollars, because it is “in” but knowing exactly what to do about it, is lost on many. The companies take advantage and sell you into their products as the answer. There is no one answer, it's all about equilibrium, remember?
Ways to practice Physical Self-Vigilance
Try a vegetable you haven’t had in 10 years or more (or ever).
Time how long you can do a wall sit for. Tomorrow, let's beat it by 5 seconds.
Give yourself a neck and shoulder massage to work out some of that tension.
Take a hot shower. Use essential oils to help relax you.
Drink water. Almost all of us suck at it, but it really does make a difference physically and mentally.
Ever feel like you were going crazy? Slam something around when you’re upset? Shut down when you get overwhelmed? Hermit when someone gets too close? This is all tied to your psychological self-vigilance.
Ways to practice Psychological Self-Vigilance
All these techniques for a panic attack work for psychological self-vigilance, too.
Do something intellectually stimulating. Something that is challenging to you, that will make you think.
Build a calendar for yourself. Don’t schedule every minute, and allow yourself time for spontaneity as part of your self-vigilance.
Sit. Just sit. Think about whatever comes to your mind, and just let it go. I like to write with my eyes closed, or without really paying attention. It keeps my focus on the random thoughts, but if I can decipher everything later, it’s cool to watch my thought patterns.
How do you feel?
Pause. Actually think about how you feel, and don’t skip ahead. This is practice.
How did you respond? Was it
These are all common non-answers. Most of these are merely pleasantries, but even when being honest, they’re states of being, and not actually feelings.
The easiest way to tell if you’re being real about how you’re feeling, is whether or not you use an emotion-based word.
Ways to practice Emotional Self-Vigilance
Do something that scares you. Get the adrenaline pumping. Plan to rest after, and just experience what you experience. Write it down, or keep a note on your phone. It will be fun to reflect on later.
Vent to a trusted friend. Make sure they’ve earned what you’re about to tell them, but talking to other’s about your shit builds your emotional well-being.
Affirmations. They don’t have to be cliche. They don’t have to rhyme. It can be as simple as “I am getting shit done today.” We need reassurances in relationships with family and friends, it makes sense we need reassurance in the relationship with ourselves as well.
Think back to your spot when you were a kid. Think specifically about how you felt when you were there. Now go on a scavenger hunt for a new spot. It might not look the same, make sure to keep an open mind. My old spot was under a dam up against the cliff where the water rushed past in angry torrents. My spot now is cemeteries. There is a calm and peace about them that rings the same.
Write a letter you never intend to deliver. Say the shit you’ve always wanted to say, but knew you couldn’t for one reason or another. Write down every hateful, spiteful, cruel thought and shred it. Or burn it. Or shred it then burn it. The point is to destroy it. You got it out, and you got to be destructive after you built up all that emotion. Feels good, right?
Yes, you should be doing social self-vigilance! Didn’t know that was a thing? You’re not alone. Taking care of yourself in a social sense will help ease anxiety and create a stronger bond in your relationships.
Ways to practice Social Self-Vigilance
Gratitude Journaling. If you keep a journal of things you’re grateful for, you will have a better understanding of what makes you tick, giving you a deeper dive into your emotions.
Write a “Thank You” note. You can find some pretty ones on Amazon, or you can make one yourself. The handmade ones mean more, but if you’re not crafty, don’t worry, the printed ones are cherished too. Be genuine and don’t worry if your “Thank You” is belated. They will be elated all the same.
Reach out to someone you lost in the Covid-Shuffle. We all had shit happen, and its understandable that you haven’t reached out. They likely haven’t really reached out, either because they’re going through their own shit. Ask them about it, they might be desperate for an ear.
Be willing to say “No”. If you say yes to everything, you won’t have anything left for yourself. Know your boundaries in advance so when it comes time to set them, your have an easier job to do.
Give a gift. It doesn’t have to be a big gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or even cost anything. My mom got me a Montana rock from my favorite spot in the shape of a heart. It cost her nothing but the time to bend down and the thought behind it, but it meant the world to me. Giving thoughtful gifts not only strengthens your bond, but it also helps you feel fulfilled by surprising someone you care about with something they will really like.
One of the most looked-over aspects to self-maintenance. Professional self-care is important in its own way. It is essential you feel the balance of work and life in order to actually live your life. Work is undoubtedly high on the priority list.
Ways to practice Professional Self-Vigilance
Bring in cookies. Or carrots, depending on your company culture. Everyone likes unexpected snacks. Be mindful of allergies of course, but a well thought out party tray can do wonders for work morale.
Have a cut off. Sit with yourself and decide when you are willing to take extra work, and when you should cut yourself off to save the rest of your life. Once you know your boundary, it’s easier to set with other people.
Keep your resume up to date. Not to keep one foot out the door, but to remind yourself of your worth. Having your accomplishments memorialized and continually updated will keep your successes on the forefront of your mind. This allows you to have confidence in your decisions, and know where you stand when it comes to conflict. Also, if you ever needed it, it would be ready.
Take time to organize. It feels like a waste of time when you only have so much and a list that’s longer than time itself. Trust me, taking the time and taking care of yourself is worth it. You will save so much time in the backend you will want to work regularly organizing in. It's a great coping skill in general.
Take time to learn. No one likes a has-been. You can learn every day of your life and still, you won’t know it all. Learning keeps you rounded, humble, and sharp. Our brains are a muscle, and just like your abs, if you don’t use it, it diminishes over time. Pinterest isn’t just for women. My brother is an avid Pinterest user with no shame in the game.
The environment isn’t something everyone thinks about, let alone all the time. I am one of those weird “hippy” ladies who cares about recycling, how many squares of toilet paper I use, and what kind of chemicals I clean with. It genuinely makes me happy to know I can reuse something for a better purpose and keep it out of the landfill. Ever since those horrid commercials when I was a child about turtles in pop can rings, and otters in oil, I have been a bleeding heart. (The start of Cause Marketing, which is where you buy a product to support a cause, they got me!)
You don’t have to care as much as I do on the macro level to practice environmental self-care in a way that makes a difference for you. Your direct environment can make a massive impact as well. Where do you sleep? Is it an environment conducive for sleeping? If you cleaned up the pile of laundry that scares the bejesus out of you every night because you think it’s a demon, do you think you might sleep a little better?
This is the part of self-care deviating from beauty that trips people up. Self-vigilance can actually look more like work. *Gasp.
Ways to practice Environmental Self-Vigilance
Purge the shit you haven’t used in over a year. If it has made it all 4 seasons and you haven’t touched it, do you really need it? What if someone else really does and you holding onto it is keeping them from having the thing they need? The extra space will do wonders and having control of your life will be...well...life changing.
Maintain your car. Nothing spells B.A.D D.A.Y like a broken down car.
Clean off a horizontal surface. Even if it’s going to get dirty and full again in a day, it will feel good to have it done, and it won’t become a mountain this way.
Reconnect with nature. There's no better way to understand and respect your environment than to literally get back to your roots.
Paint a wall, or reorganize. Change and effort are hard sometimes but you will be surprised at how refreshing it feels.
If you’re an atheist, this is a good resource for you.
Spirituality isn’t about religion. It is about stepping outside of the worldly objects and reaching for your soul. Religion is about structure, belief systems, and often rules to live by. Spirituality is about your sense of purpose and peace.
Spiritual self-care is any ritual or practice that we do to further our connection with our higher self by definition. Your higher self is who you truly are as an individual, the real you. Who are you deep inside where no one else can see? Your higher self is you that is disassociated from, and not influenced by, the ego or fear.
Ways to practice Spiritual Self-Vigilance even if you’re atheist
Meditate. I know, so cliche. What's tried and proven is worth a shot though, right? I’ve heard many say that meditation is boring. There are ways around that.
Take a walk, but don’t look at anything. By not looking at anything directly, you’re forced to look inside. Follow your thought path and see where it takes you.
Use a smudge stick. You burn them, and walk around the room. They clear “energies” if you believe in that sort of thing, but scientifically sage cleans the air of bacterias as well. The smoke, when not directly inhaled, is grounding in nature.
Keep an observation journal. Just little things you notice. They don’t have to “mean” anything. Maybe eventually, you will see a pattern.
Do something creative. Make something new!
Likely one of the most impactful areas of self-care. Whether ignored or paid special attention to, the financial area is one people definitely don’t like to talk about. If your finances aren’t in order, it makes everything else more impactful. Having poor finances reduces resilience and usually confidence.
What problems in your life would be solved if you got an extra $20,000 given to you randomly?
Ways to practice Financial Self-Vigilance
Get on a budget. Seems so simple. Yet, are you on one? When was it last updated? Mint.com is a good resource for anyone who struggles with budgets. If you have some extra cash, or some massive debt that warrants the extra cash, get Dave Ramsey, his philosophy has changed my life as well as many others. He does have a Christian lean, but his money points are stellar.
Reflect on how you feel about money. Are you a spender? Is retail-therapy a thing for you? Are you a saver and your reassurance comes in commas? Knowing who you are and what makes you feel at ease will give you insight to what you need to do next for financial self-vigilance.
Talk about it. Shame keeps us in the dark and alone. Find someone you trust and talk to them about your situation. They might have invaluable insights you might have missed because you’re so close to the situation, or have ideas you previously thought were out of reach.
Find something to save for. Something worth it to you. Some people are motivated by small wins, and some are motivated by large rewards. Set your goal according to what will motivate you the most.
Build an emergency fund. Start by building up to $1,000 then keep going until you have 3-6 months worth of expenses in your savings. Don’t use it for anything but emergencies! You will be surprised how much financial strain just having it there will lift.
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