10 Ways to Cultivate a Self-care Mindset | TMOHP Episode 135

Have you ever thought of something that you knew would be helpful “self-care,” but you just didn’t have the energy or motivation to follow through? No one needs a longer to-do list, but the wellness industry has capitalized on self-care, creating a billion-dollar industry that could keep us busy doing “the right things” for several lifetimes. What is self-care anyway, and how do we get better at it?

This episode was strongly influenced by the work of Pooja Lakshmin, a board-certified psychiatrist and author of the NYT bestseller "Real Self-care: (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included)” who distinguishes between faux self-care and real self-care. I propose that we work on cultivating a self-care mindset instead of a long self-care to-do list. In this episode, you’ll also find some self-caring ways to help make true self-care easier and more intuitive.

In this episode:

  • Understanding real self-care: the distinction between faux self-care and real self-care.
  • Practical self-care strategies: a range of actionable suggestions to cultivate a self-care mindset, including untethering from external agendas, sprinkling joy into daily life, valuing ordinary moments, embracing beauty, prioritizing rest, setting boundaries, and practicing intentional wanting.
  • Nurturing a self-care mindset.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Real Self-care: (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included) by Pooja Lackshmin
  • The Freedom from Overeating Roadmap for Smart, Busy Women is your guide to ending overeating and emotional eating habits. Designed for multitaskers and busy women, you’ll take your power back from overeating with this free guide which includes resources for addressing the reasons you overeat and a user guide for Dr. Melissa’s most popular podcast episodes. Download your roadmap here: https://toomuchonherplate.com/map/
  • Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz. The free Hidden Hungers Quiz was designed to help you target the reason you're overeating so you can create changes that last. Take a few minutes to find out what you're really craving (that isn't food) and get your Hidden Hunger profile and customized action guide. Join over 34,000 women who have used the free quiz to get to the root of their overeating and emotional eating.
  • Your Missing Peace is my signature 6-month program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Join the Freedom from Overeating and Emotional Eating Community on Facebook
  • Private Coaching for Emotional Eating and Overeating: I have openings in my schedule to work with about twelve women a year and openings are filled as space becomes available. Private coaching meetings are scheduled via Zoom or phone and we can connect from anywhere in the world. Private coaching is customized to you and your goals and we'll work together for a minimum of six months. Learn more and apply here.
  • Visit http://toomuchonherplate.com for more tips and resources to create peace with food and overcome overeating and emotional eating

Episode Transcript

Hello, everybody and welcome to another podcast episode. Today I want to tackle self-care, what it is, what it isn't. Some places that we get tripped up with the whole idea of it and what it might look like. I have some ideas about what it might look like to cultivate a real self-care mindset. So you have a foundation of bringing self-care into your life.

So when we're just thinking about it or giving it lip service, most of us would say that self-care is critical to your wellbeing. Self-care is important. But there are also a lot of very different opinions about what self-care really means and what it is. And certainly it has become quite the buzzword and self-care, the idea of self-care, I believe has been coopted into an industry that makes a ton of money off of selling us self-care products and self-care systems. And selling us quick fixes and luxury items all in the name of improving our wellbeing and maybe even the idea of making us better people.

Self-care is not that. Self-care is not a hole that you spend your way into. And, self-care also certainly isn't a to do list of 10 million things that stress you out when you don't do them or that you're telling yourself you should be doing. And somehow you are a deficient human being because you are not doing them.

These things I feel very strongly. And so I was really excited when I heard about an author, an expert, a board certified psychiatrist named Pooja Lakshman, who is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Real Self-care. The whole title of the book is Real Self-care, Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths, Not Included. And I love that.

And I'm going to share with you in this episode some of her teaching and thoughts about self-care. I just love the way that she has refined things and the way that she conceptualizes this topic. And also some quotes from her.

One of my favorite quotes from her is "you can't meditate your way out of a 40 hour work week with no child care." There are systems and structures in place in this world, as she so eloquently points out, that lead us to be on things like productivity treadmills. Or to be stressed out or exhausted or always in reaction mode.

There are reasons that at the end of the day, we feel so depleted. And there are also reasons that you might not have the bandwidth for all the self-care. All the things that you have accumulated knowledge of over the years and that you know, and that you tell yourself you should be doing.

Pooja Lakshman talks about the difference between what she calls faux self-care and real self-care, which is the title of her book.

Faux self-care is that list of things. Things that you do, bubble baths, essential oils, cleanses, crystals. And what she says is that you can differentiate faux self-care because it is something that keeps you looking outward. It, it creates a comparison. So you're comparing yourself with other people, or you're trying to get to some kind of perfection with your self-care. There's a standard of self-care.

Real self-care is not a to-do list and it is not something that you can get perfect or that you can get graded on. Real self-care. And I'm giving you some of the language that Pooja Lakshman uses. She talks about it being an internal decision process. It's not coming from the outside. Or you looking outside for how do you take care of yourself?

Real self-care is an internal decision making process that is embedded in your life. That shows up everywhere. And she says, you know, there's not one set of things that you do. It's flexible and it's going to change as your life changes. It is a way of responding to yourself, a way of taking care of yourself.

And what she does in her book, Pooja Lakshman, is that she breaks down self-care into these different areas. She says that self-care includes boundaries and compassion and values and also your power. And I think this makes so much sense.

So my understanding of how she writes about this is that faux self-care. The bubble baths, the oils, the yoga, the tea, all those kinds of things. Those are tools. Those are things that you do. And there's nothing wrong with them, but they're not foundational.

Whereas real self-care, Real self-care is a set of principles. Real self-care is timeless. It's nonspecific. It is kind of your outlook on the world. And again, it includes boundaries and compassion and values and your sense of power.

I'm definitely going to put a link to her book in the show notes. I think what she has to say is brilliant and so important. And after taking my thoughts about self-care and listening and learning from her. I feel really clear that one of the places we get into problems talking about self-care is by just talking about faux self-care, right? These lists of things that you might do to indulge yourself or soothe yourself or take care of yourself.

I really believe that self-care is more of a mindset. It is a mindset. And there's nothing wrong with acquiring or accumulating a list of tools. Sometimes it is very useful to have a list like that. There's nothing wrong with that. But without the right mindset, without a real deep self-care mindset, we can drive ourselves up a perfectionist wall with the best tool for self-care that there is.

I mean, think about somebody who takes up running for their mental health and then becomes completely type A and obsessive about it. We do this in all sorts of different areas. It happens with fitness. It happens with yoga. It happens with meditation. And oh my God, it happens with morning routines. I mean, how many articles have you read about the million and one things you're supposed to get up three hours early to be able to do?

So self-care, I believe really begins with a mindset. But here's the problem. I do believe that self-care is rooted in a mindset. And at the same time, shifting to a self-care valuing mindset sounds so out there and vague that it, I think, can feel really impossible to figure out, okay, how do I do that? It is much easier to just go to that list of things, 10 things that are self-care and do those things. Okay. I'll take a bubble bath. Oh, I'll go for a walk. Oh, I'll take a nap.

That question of how do I really nurture and strengthen a self-care mindset, something more permanent and enduring that's going to serve me over my life. Is much harder to answer. I do have some ideas of how you might be able to work in both directions. With the tools and strengthening your mindset.

And I want to share some ideas about how you might nourish yourself and apply some self-care tools while at the same time, strengthening or growing the value of self-care and a self-care mindset. That includes those things that Pooja Lakshman identifies. That are timeless, boundaries, compassion, values, your sense of power.

So what I'm going to share with you are some ideas as I go through these. Some of them are tools. Some of these are things to do. Some of these are ways of being. I want you to consider which ones might be helpful to you. What might feel good, what might feel like leave you feeling more cared for? And what might also help you anchor in those values and boundaries and compassion and your own sense of power that Pooja Lakshman has so expertly clarified as the roots of self-care? Because I think she's right. I pretty much know she's right. Okay.

Here are my ideas in no particular order of things that it's like going to the self-care gym. These might strengthen your muscles so that knowing that you are important and keeping yourself on your radar and paying attention to what you need and all those foundational pieces of self-care start to become more natural and more intuitive and more sustained for you.

My first idea is admittedly kind of a tough one. What if you were to practice untethering yourself from other people's agendas? Here's what I'm envisioning that might look like. What if you were to commit to 30 minutes every day with no screens, no electronics, no streaming sound, no input, no other people's agendas?

You could sit in the sun. You could sink back in your chair. You could close your eyes if you want to. Maybe you would doze off because you needed to. You would breathe and you would just be.

And what if you did that and you notice what it's like not to have your senses pulled in multiple directions at once all the time? What if you practiced Being in your body? Settling into your body. What if you practice doing this so that you were also practicing noticing what's important to you instead of being tethered to the demands and the messages and the agendas of everybody else?

For a lot of us, engaging in this practice, seeing what gets stronger could be very, very valuable. So consider experimenting with that.


Okay. Here's another idea. What if you played with the idea of sprinkling in joy and growing your joy muscle? And that could be very simple. Doing something fun that makes you smile or laugh. Watching a funny video. Skipping around your kitchen. Pulling a prank. Making faces at a baby on the train or in the grocery store until she bursts into a grin.

It doesn't have to take more than a few minutes. And this clear intention to sprinkle a little bit more play and fun into your life. But what could that grow in you? What could that nurture? Could that help you strengthen a self-valuing self-care mindset? Something to play with.

Alright, here's another idea I have. What would it be like for you to play with making the ordinary special, or, I guess you could reverse it, what if you started valuing making the special ordinary? I think this one plays a bit with the idea of compassion and self-compassion, and also empowering yourself.

And here's what I mean by making the special ordinary. What if you were to wear the jewelry that you don't usually bother with? Or wear the jewelry around the house even though it's nothing special that you're doing? What if you were to drink your tea from your good mug or your good china if you have some? What are you saving it for? What if you were to buy fresh flowers just for you, even if nobody else could see them?

What if you practiced making the ordinary special? You dressed up for yourself, you upgraded your bath products? Or maybe you use the bath products that you already have that you're saving for some God knows what special occasion? Right?

What if you bought the things that really delight you if you have a habit of shopping around everybody else's preferences? You use the good sheets. You use the good stuff. You spend the gift cards that you've been saving. What if you practiced with making the ordinary special or making special an ordinary part of your life?

It does not have to cost a lot of money. So what I want you to think about is what kind of muscle would that strengthen for you? What would you, what would change if you worked at shifting your mindset around when you get to do special things? Or when you show up in a special way? Or when you wear your special clothes or your special jewelry? What would that be like for you?

I think there's something about a self-care mindset that includes allowing yourself to be given to, and also allowing yourself to really receive the gifts and let them sink in and absorb them and accept them and not apologize for them or minimize them. Right? Allow yourself to be given to.

So another place you might play with that is giving yourself beauty. Again, it doesn't have to be a huge expensive thing. Just consider what easy things you could do to add more beauty to your life. Maybe it's spending more time outdoors in beautiful places. Maybe it's changing the location of where you go for your walk. Maybe it's paying different attention to your indoor space.

Just take inventory of where you spend your time and ask yourself, are there some simple ways I could add or take away from my surroundings that would make me happy? That would add more beauty? That I would like to receive?

Okay. Here is something I absolutely know. And that is that if you have a hidden hunger for rest, if you are exhausted, everything is going to be harder. Everything is going to feel like rolling a boulder uphill. And so one of the things on my list for cultivating a self-care mindset and also strengthening your self-care muscles and also feeling better is to practice Resting and resting easier.

So a question I like to ask is to think about how you would approach something if it was your only mission on earth. Let's talk about rest. What would change if your sole objective was to end up in bed at a reasonable hour, relaxed and primed and kind of optimized to drift off to sleep? What would you change?

If you don't already have a bedtime routine that paves the way to this, what would change if you committed to doing just one thing this week that will help you rest and sleep more soundly?

It is amazing how we will resist doing the things to shut things down to get better rest. And it is also amazing how much better we feel when we do it. And I think when we're in a push pull like that, it's often a sign that, okay, there is something here I need to, to strengthen. That it would, it would be really interesting to see what this would be like if I worked this muscle.

So what would it take to rest easier? And what could you experiment with? Maybe you close things down earlier. Right? The I'm off duty. Maybe you ban electronics and screens from your bedroom. Ah, yes, you can do that. It'll make a huge difference. What if you experiment with something relaxing that isn't a bowl of ice cream that is going to give you indigestion before you go to bed?

The payoff here has the potential to be huge and that is not an exaggeration. I know that rest is one of the most genuine acts of compassion that you can take on your own behalf. So would it strengthen some muscles, some internal self-compassion muscles to practice getting easier rest? Or putting things in place so that rest came easier or setting some boundaries so that you are more rested?

Speaking of boundaries, this is huge for self-care. What if you practice adding more padding? If boundaries are a scary word for you, let's talk about padding. Here's why. Rushing is stressful. It is also unproductive when you are cheated out of the time you need to transition. You've probably heard me talk about transitions before.

If you don't give yourself time to do that, to switch from one thing to another. To end one thing before you start another, you are more likely to use food or procrastination or something mindless, to create a poor substitute for that transition. That padding that you really need.

So here's something that you could play with. Start a practice, an experiment of placing five extra minutes between things. Five extra minutes. Plan more time to get places. You will breathe easier. Plan for five minutes in between tasks on your calendar. Leave a meeting five minutes early if you need to so that you have five minutes before the next meeting or actually put that gap in your schedule.

Building and strengthening and growing and nurturing a self-care mindset is going to mean that when you give yourself that padding, you're also going to play with resisting the urge to use that extra time to get more done or to catch up. Give yourself some padding. And then honor your very human need for transitions. This is really powerful boundary practice.

All right, I have one more idea for you, and that is to Experiment with the way that you talk to yourself. If you are like most smart, busy women, you probably say and think things all day long. Like I need to, I have to, I should, I was supposed to, I have to get to that all day long.

This is a life spent in reaction mode. And this is a life experiencing what needs to happen from outside of you instead of deciding. So here is my idea. This week, what if you experimented with practicing wanting? Don't worry about the should thoughts and the I have to and I need to thoughts. Instead focus on Practicing moving your thoughts in a different direction.

So here's what this might look like. What if you take a blank piece of paper and you finish the sentence I want I want blank as many times as you can? I want this. I want that I want this do it as many times as you can. Write them down. And then add 10 more. Just keep asking and keep answering. What do you want?

I want this, I want that. Nothing's too big, nothing's too small. Then say your wants out loud. Practice it when you're driving. Practice it in the shower. Start by writing them down. But just keep asking the question whenever you think about it. Think about your wants. Think about them in the, on the commute. Think about them when you are in the bathroom. Think about them when you go to bed.

What does this do? It wakes up that part of you that desires, that wants, that dreams. Do not go into the problem solving space about how to make these things happen. Just start lighting up your soul and your brain, your, your neural pathways by letting yourself think about what you. What you want. What inspires you? What feels good? What sounds good? What you're dreaming about. What you want.

Do not worry if it feels like sluggish and slow at the beginning, it gets easier and easier. And the more you tune into what you want, the more you are going to know about feeding your soul. The more you are going to understand where there needs to be a boundary. The clearer you are going to get on what your values are.

And this is really fun. The more that you tune into what you want, the more that you feel permission to want things, the more you practice that. The more you will feel in touch with your own power. It's really true.

So those are the tips I have for you. Are bubble baths bad? No. Are they the ultimate answer to self-care? No. Does having a list of 20 things you can do to feed your soul help you feel better? Well, sometimes. But permanently, no.

Might some of the things on this list help you cultivate some shifts in your mindset? Or in the muscles that you intuitively use in certain situations? I think it's possible.

So choose one or two or probably at most three of these ideas and start to experiment and see what happens.

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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