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3 Steps to Sustainable Self-Care: Invest, Outsource, and Enforce

By TULA Contributor, Lizzie Locker

We all know there’s a difference between preventative medicine and curative medicine - you wouldn’t take a vitamin to cure an illness, and you wouldn’t take an antibiotic to prevent sickness. Likewise, there’s a difference between self-soothing and self-care. A big glass of wine after a long day is an act of self-soothing, a reward that instantly gratifies; but taking five minutes to balance your checkbook is an act of self-care, offering greater long-term benefits. 

For the working woman, it can feel impossible to make space for sustainable, ongoing self-care. (And let me be clear: all women who do labor of any kind - lawyers and homemakers alike - are working women.) We’re usually pulling double or triple duty already, catering to others. Finding space for ourselves can not only be difficult, but something from which society actively discourages us.

Yet, labor is labor. No matter how undervalued or underpaid, you deserve to prioritize your rest and spiritual health in your own ways. Here are three steps to help you begin building a sustainable self-care plan that serves you.

1. INVEST in accessible luxury.

What is your favorite simple luxury? Massages? Fresh-cut flowers? Artisanal cupcakes? Books? Take a moment to pinpoint one thing that makes you feel extra special. Stick with something relatively simple and accessible, and 100% harmless (avoid alcohol/drugs/risky behaviors, etc.) For example, my indulgence is tea - black, green, oolong, herbal, I can’t get enough.

Now, sit down and brainstorm a plan to feasibly incorporate that indulgence into your daily life as often as you can. Reframe the indulgence as an investment. Treat it as a practical, essential part of your life from here on out. Keep it in mind when you write out your schedule or your budget, and plan for it in every way you can. Allow it to become necessary, expected.

For me, this looks like basic permission: I am allowed to buy tea whenever I want. Even if it seems overpriced or excessive, tea will nearly always be affordable for my budget; thus, when my favorite shops drop new blends, or I discover a previously unknown variety, I’m Ariana Grande - “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.” That freedom, that lack of guilty restriction, makes every single cup into a wildly decadent experience.

2. OUTSOURCE tasks as often as possible.

There honestly aren’t enough hours in the day for the working woman. No, truly - the expectation of working 40 hours per week on top of caring for a household and/or family isn’t very realistic anymore. Childcare, lawn care, house cleaning - each of those can be a separate career on its own. 

But that’s the key: they are careers! You can pay someone else to do them!

Now, not every task can be delegated away - only mommy’s kisses will fix a boo-boo, after all. But if you think about it, you’ll find that there are plenty of tasks you can hand off to others - and a multitude of trustworthy personal assistant services to help you do that. (*hint hint*)

Trust me, I know how frivolous it can feel to pay someone else to do your laundry or wash your car, especially if you’re barely scraping by. But sometimes, that “convenience tax” is well worth the extra free time. Outsourcing is a powerful tool in your arsenal, whenever you need to use it.

You're not limited to expensive professionals, either. Do you know any students looking to make extra cash? Is your bestie bored out of her mind after getting laid off? Ask around! There may be less expensive, equally reliable help in your own backyard.

3. ENFORCE your boundaries.

At home and in the office, women are often taken advantage of in ways that have become normalized. It’s not uncommon for women to feel more pressured to work longer and harder than their peers. It’s also common for us to feel that a “yes” answer is constantly expected from us.

That’s why, sometimes, the most powerful step we can take towards sustainable self-care is simply saying no. No, I will not take on one more project right now. No, I will not come to your party. No, I do not want to answer that email right away.

No does not hurt anyone; no does not make you bad, negative, lazy, or any of the unpleasant things which, as a woman, you’ve been taught it does. No simply means you will not do something you do not wish to do. Practicing saying no - to our bosses, our partners, our friends, and our kids - is not easy, but it is the simplest way to begin finding space for sustainable self-care.

Be gentle with yourself as you practice this, too! You’re allowed to change your mind or be persuaded - that doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t mean your work on enforcing boundaries has failed.

I hope these steps get you started off on the right foot! Let me know how they work for you in the comments ;)