Remember on Parks and Recreation when Donna and Tom have a “Treat Yo Self” day?
Of course you remember because, when you saw that, you thought “oh fuck yes! Me want!”
About a month ago I was in the deepest depression I have ever experienced. Only those who are closest to me knew about it because I was getting up and going to work every day. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Then, I was coming home and sleeping for 14 hours. Dinner. Bed. Maybe some light to heavy crying. So, I decided that if I didn’t take care of myself I would be in serious trouble.
That’s when I decided to take “treat yo self” to the next level and stretch it into a “You Do You” week (actually I called it Tiff Week, but you get the idea). “You do you” is my favorite hip expression that I recently learned. I’m usually really behind when it comes to hip expressions. I still say “raise the roof”. A lot. But, this one resonated with me because I’ve always been a super authentic person. I clap and say “yay!” during meetings. I cry at my desk when I think about my dad. I do breathing exercises, noticeably, when I am walking down the street. So, I’ve been living “you do you” my whole life. Now, it’s a movement. Marvelous!
I wanted to share with you, dear reader, what I did and what I learned during my YDY week. I hope you’ll try it for yourself. You might be thinking, “fuck you, Tiff! I don’t have time to take a week for myself!” First of all, don’t swear at me. Second of all, if you can’t take a full week, can you take a day? Can you take an hour a day? It’s about choices and you get to make those choices, even if you have obligations and responsibilities.
The very first thing I did, even before I took my Tiff Week, was I made a decision. I decided that I was going to use a week of my vacation days to focus on myself. I was able to do that because I don’t have children and I have a job that allows me to accrue vacation time. I understand that not everyone has that freedom. I’m going to speak about my own personal experiences here, but if something resonates with you and you don’t have the freedom to take a week for yourself, I’m guessing you do have time to carve out a day here and there to try some of these things.
I thought about going away to the ocean. Taking a solo vacation. But, I decided that sleeping in my own bed, being around my mom, spending time in my cozy home (I just had my walls painted lilac) and visiting my favorite neighborhood spa was going to be more restful for me. I hate airports, I hate navigating when I don’t know where I am. I know that those things induce anxiety in me. I know tons of people who find traveling alone to be cathartic. I decided that pushing myself to take a solo vacation wasn’t the right way to relax. Me do me.
Have Zero Expectations
Thanks to anxiety, I put hard core pressure on myself. Expectations swirl in my mind constantly. I made a very conscious effort to have zero expectations of my Tiff Week. I wasn’t walking around saying to myself “oh mahgawd this week is going to be sooooooooo relaxing.” No. That’s not what a You Do You week is about. It’s about doing you. If you want to relax, relax. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to dance around your living room in your underwear, dance. If you want to sleep until noon, do it. Don’t wake up at 9am because you have so much to do during your You Do You week. None of that. I had to re-train my brain. When I woke up at 7am on some days I thought, nope. On other days, when I woke up at 7am, I felt ready to jump up and dance around my living room in my underwear. If you can’t tell, I’m very big on dancing around my living room in my underwear. Check in with yourself and see what your higher self is saying in each moment. I think the smart people call that “mindfulness”.
Make Friends with Unstructured Time
Because of my anxiety, I often freak out when I have unstructured time. But, I decided that structuring all of my time was also a source of anxiety for me. During Tiff Week, the only structured time I used was for a much needed massage, a visit to my acupuncturist, an appointment with my therapist and a first visit to a cancer grief support group at Gilda’s Club Chicago. That’s it.
When friends asked to hang out I said “I’m not committing to any plans during my Tiff Week. It’s a boundary I set for my self care this week. I’ll have to let you know.” I did see some friends, but I didn’t feel stressed about having to be social during my time off. The time I did spend with my friends felt awesome.
This is my newest Tiffpression (Tiff expression). Journey hard: because a journey isn’t meant to be easy! I don’t have to tell you, you probably read The Odyssey. Any journey worth anything has pain in it. My Tiff Week was super painful at times. When you have downtime, all of those pesky emotions you’ve been pushing down come up like food after eating bad fish. We normally just push them away by working or by distracting ourselves (I know I do). During your YDY time, allow those emotions to come up and honor them. This is a lesson my father was constantly trying to teach me when he was alive. I wasn’t ready to listen. Now, I’m ready.
One morning, I went for a lovely run/walk on the Chicago Riverwalk. By the end, I was weeping in public next to a giant deer. Did people see me? Who fucking cares? I was sad.
Let People Help You
I have a lot of people in my life who are really great at helping everyone around them, but they are shit at asking for help. I resonate with this mindset sometimes. It’s so much easier to busy myself helping and coaching everyone around me than to focus on the unpleasantness of my own shit. When we take on the caretaker role all the time, others expect that of us. If that describes you, pause for a moment and shout the following, “HELP! HELP! HELP!” It feels pretty good. Now, sit down and figure out who can help you. I have a dear, dear friend who is taking care of everyone else in her life, yet she is ill herself. I asked her recently “who is taking care of you?” and she said “I am.” Good for her but also no, no, no.
Learn to Help Yourself
On the flip side of asking for help is learning to help yourself. This isn’t a lesson I learned until my husband took off. All my life, my parents helped. My husband helped. My mentors helped. I was always shouting HELP! But, my journey has taught me to love and rely on myself first. It’s been a fucking hard thing to learn. My instinct is to grasp for help from wherever I can get it. For me, that instinct comes from years and years of not being independent. But, I’m journeying hard and learning not to always shout for help every time I need it. Help can come from within, too. What did that flight attendant teach you? Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.
Once your YDY week is over, reflect back on it. Maybe that means writing in your journal. Maybe that means telling a friend about your week. Maybe that means writing a blog post for the world to see (hi!). Remind yourself that YDY time isn’t a one-time thing. You should keep it up! Maybe around your birthday every year you commit to doing it. Maybe you schedule time each month, or each day, or each week. Maybe you don’t. It’s your choice. You do you.
I wanted to share a few things I did, specifically, during my time off that helped me immensely, in case you want to check them out.
- I You Tubed the shit out of my T.V.:
I have a smart T.V. so, I listened to my favorite upbeat songs on You Tube and danced in my underwear in my living room. This is my current favorite song to dance to in my underwear in my living room.I also used You Tube to find some great yoga. I super loved Adriene and did her Yoga for Mood Swings session. You do you, A! Check her out. She’s got tons of awesome free yoga videos and she hits me as a super authentic person.
- I worked on my body:I visited my favorite spa, Allyu, in River North. Amazing, relaxing place. I mean, look at this relaxation tent. LOOK AT IT! Beam me up!!! Linda is my go-to massage therapist.
I also visited my beloved acupuncturist, Cynthia Funai, whom I love. Honestly, the best sleep I have ever gotten is from her treatments, right on the acupuncture table. I wake myself up snoring sometimes. When she puts the needle in the middle of my forehead, it puts me to sleep almost instantly.
I took a morning to run/walk. I’m not a big exerciser, but it really does get the happy quotient up to do something physical.
- I faced my emotions:Friends, this was the hardest part of my Tiff Week. I’ve always been like “ooooooh, I’m so self-aware.” And, when I learned that my perception of my self-awareness was a load of bullshit and I had been pushing down all of my feelings, pretty much my entire life, it was a very scary realization. What goes down must come up. So, I forced myself to deal. One of the best things I did for myself was join Gilda’s Club, which is a cancer support organization. There are locations around the country but, lucky for me, there is one about 5 blocks from where I live. I joined a support group for those who have lost someone they love to cancer. I noticed my emotions as I listened to others and I shared my own story. It sucked in a really great way. The only way through pain is to deal with it. If cancer has touched your life in any way, check out Gilda’s.
- I made my space cozy:I had my home painted light purple. Yes, that’s right, the color of a baby’s nursery. It was a bold choice, but it’s the physical representation of my authenticity. Color means so much to me. Check it out.
- I did various other things that bring me joy:I had brunch with good friends. I saw my sweet and caring partner, Chris, and let him hug me for a really long time after my support group. I went to an art fair with my incredible mom. I hung out with a tiny dog!!!! It was awesome and sad, and fun, and hard.
This is the longest post I’ve ever written. Thank you for letting me Tiffsplain and for lending your support. Feel free to share this with anyone who needs to carve out some “them time”. If my journey helps you in any way, that makes me super happy.
You do you, dear reader!!!