Self-care advice for single women when the going gets tough.

The state of being single has many facets besides simply the absence of a life-partner. It means you support yourself, you do the housework and the maintenance, you decorate your home the way you like it, you run all the errands and buy the groceries you like, and you make all the decisions on your own – from how to invest for your retirement to what to watch on Netflix. If you are a single mother, you are often parenting alone as well. Although being single can be a wonderful adventure in independence, it can also be a heavy burden. 

You will have days when it all seems too much and you long for someone to share it with more than anything, and you will need some solid strategies for getting through those days with a strong mind and body. 

As a relationship counselor, I work with single women and men from all walks of life and have watched as they confront the challenges and rewards of being single and looking for love.

Being a single woman has not always been a comfortable place to be in our society. Finding a husband right out of the gate at 17 was once the goal for every young woman and the longer you sat on the shelf, the closer to the dreaded spinsterhood you got. This was, in many ways, an economic necessity in a world where women were allowed to be wives, nuns, or prostitutes, and where brides were traded as part of political settlements, family alliances, and even business transactions. A single woman in this environment was suspect, often pushed to the margins of society, dependent on others for her very survival, and generally lived with very few choices to steer her own happiness.

Over the centuries, conditions for women have slowly improved as the barriers to a woman’s independence have been torn down, with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears shed by many of our brave grandmothers. Don’t get the idea that the work is all done, but we are fortunate to live in a time and place where women can have careers and have a chance to realize their true potential, where we may choose our own mates in our own good time, where we may own property and keep custody of our own children. America in the twenty-first century is a pretty good place to be a girl, historically speaking.

But all that independence and self-destiny gets lonely sometimes, and it can be hard to find ways to combat those single girl blues. Sometimes you have to stop and assess your position. Figure out what activities make you happy, what foods make you feel good, what makes you relax, and plan for time to make those things a part of your life.

If you are a single DIVA who is starting to feel a bit depressed as she watches her friends frolicking through their summer flings while she puts in more overtime at work, I understand your pain. You haven’t even had time to go on a date in weeks, much less connect with anyone. Worse, all the overtime has wrought havoc on your diet, so the cute summer outfits are looking a bit snug. Then, your air-conditioner goes on the blink, and you just feel the weight of the world bearing down on you. You know you are supposed to stay positive, but really, sometimes it’s all too much.

Your first instinct may be to buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and curl up in a fetal position on the couch and binge watch Sex in the City. Again. This could, conceivably, fall into the self-care category, but it’s short term rewards at best and isn’t going to make your work pants fit any better.

Depending on your wherewithal in the moment, you may have just enough gumption to grab a salad instead of the ice cream. This will make you feel better a little longer. If you can manage a bit more, take a walk and just breathe for a while before you return to face the piled-up problems. The mindful pause will help you get a better perspective. Maybe make yourself a nice healthy meal to keep the body on track, and as you shop and cook, be sure to allow a moment of gratitude for the food and the pleasure of preparing it just the way you like it. Escalate from there, create regular rituals that make you slow down, enjoy the simple things, and find fulfillment in your own company. 

Taking it a step further, try turning outside of yourself even more. Find ways to commit small acts of kindness for others. You will find that dropping a coin in a street musician’s can, holding open a door for someone, picking up a dropped glove, paying for the coffee of the person behind you has disproportionate rewards. You will feel a glow, I promise. You will remember that it isn’t all about you, and the act of serving others will make you feel better. You can take this idea as far as you want, and if you are called to do something extraordinary, like volunteer as a UN refugee camp worker, you are free to follow your heart in a way that a person with a partner may not be able to. Most of us can make a real difference by picking a cause and working steadily for it from within our own communities. 

Incidentally, my DIVAs, a nice side effect is that there are some great guys working to make the world a better place, and working side-by-side with a guy for something you both believe in is a great foundation for a relationship. 

Creating something is another great way to positively redirect your mind away from your problems. Whether you like to refurbish thrift-store furniture or prefer to knit socks for everyone in your family, find an art or craft that engages you. A bonus effect will be that you then have the opportunity to interact with other folks who enjoy doing the same thing, like the other fiber girls at the yarn store. 

Everyone has cause to sing the blues sometimes, and when you are single, it can seem like you’re singing them to yourself. There’s nothing wrong with letting yourself feel whatever emotions come, but when you’re done with a brief pity-party, there are lots of great ways for you to pull yourself out of the doldrums. Start small, cherish yourself, love the people around you, and find a passion outside of work, and most importantly, take the time to be in a place of gratitude for all the blessings of this time and place and for the wondrousness that is you.

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