As a millennial, “self-care” is a concept I’ve never been able to avoid. Everywhere I went, I was told to take a break and pamper myself. Frankly, I kind of thought it was a bunch of new age BS. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how wrong I was when I had a breakdown.
There’s a big difference between millennial workload and our parents’. Seriously — they got raises, were actually able to afford homes, and had no problem with saving money. We don’t even know if we’ll even be able to retire. Financially, it’s a whole different ballgame, so I need to remind myself of that. My parents had their own stresses, for sure, but things were just a little easier when it came to the work/life balance.
I realized I didn’t prioritize basic needs. Before I full-on had a breakdown, I didn’t get a haircut for a year and a half. I told myself it was fine and actually figured it could make it to two years without being problematic. Haircuts cost time, which I didn’t have, and money, which was probably better spent elsewhere. But haircuts aren’t just for appearance. They also make you feel good about yourself and allow you a few minutes to de-stress and focus on you. When you’re burned out, that shampoo feels really good.
I had a breakdown since I literally put myself last every chance I could get. Everyone’s wants and needs came before mine—my boss, my parents, my friends, everyone. It was so hard putting myself first that I got out of practice. It’s tough trying to emotionally balance home life while other people’s issues are on your shoulders. I wasn’t able to tell people I needed a break and ended up paying the ultimate price.
Luckily, I rebounded quickly. Breakdowns happen in all shapes and sizes. For me, it was endless sobbing and feeling like a complete failure since I missed a deadline that my boss wasn’t even all that concerned over. But in my mind, I felt like I let everyone down and couldn’t be convinced otherwise. It took some time to regain a little bit of confidence both in myself and my work. I’m not all the way there yet but at least I have better methods to handle the pressure.
I booked a vacation. Solo. Know what the scariest thing in the world is? Booking a vacation by yourself. Suddenly I was forced to figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. It was all about me for the first time in years, but walking into that spa day I planned knowing the day was dedicated to decompressing my mind and body? Worth it.
I realized that these little breaks are really important in order to keep yourself in check. I had to remind myself that trying to be a perfectionist was actively hurting me. Yes, I’ll always try to do the right thing and be the best I can, but I also need to realistically look at my workload and be honest if something is just too much. A monthly massage or a week where I sip on decaf green tea instead of soda at night would really help.
Never forget that you’re worth it. Even if you had a crappy month or didn’t bring in as much money as you could have, it doesn’t mean you should skip out on self-care. In fact, you probably need it now more than ever. Obviously, it’s important not to go overboard, but eliminating it altogether is a big mistake. Everyone’s worthy of a little TLC every once in a while.
If anyone makes you feel bad about taking breaks, learn not to take it personally. Only you know what’s best for you. It may be hard to carve out time for yourself, and even harder if you’re facing pressure from someone who says, “Didn’t you just get a manicure?” You’ve got one life to live, and if you spend yours constantly doing the physical and emotional labor for a household, serving as the entire department at work, or at home watching kids without leaving the house all week, you’re going to have a breakdown as well. You’re a human, not a robot.