The stages of falling in love can feel crazy—both like a slow-motion, pastel-colored dream and a sped-up music video at the same time. So much so that it becomes hard to maintain routine and, often, your needs can fall to the wayside in favor of long, drawn-out dinners and tipsy kitchen dance parties.
As someone who's managed to maintain somewhat of a perma-single status (I have relationships, but very rarely does it manifest long-term), I've found my self-care practices have remained on the forefront of my brain. I have more time to commit to myself because I'm not busy committing to anyone else. This realization struck me when two of my co-workers ended serious relationships. One of whom mentioned she was looking forward to taking time for herself, going to yoga, taking up meditating, and really focusing on herself as a person rather than just a partner.
Faith, a 20-something editor and recently single person explains, "I don't want to say that being in a relationship made me complacent, but there is a certain level of cozy comfort that comes with it. I feel like my previous (very lovely) relationship was like a warm, happy cocoon; my singledom feels a bit like being pushed out of a nest and forced to stay afloat in the murky unknown. You have no choice but to rely on yourself to navigate and fly—so why not take the time to do things that better yourself and help you feel really amazing?"
I have more time to commit to myself because I'm not busy committing to anyone else.
According to Vivian Diller, Ph.D., "Self-care often requires maintaining a routine and taking time for oneself, which no doubt is easier when not in a relationship. The chemicals flowing through our brains when we fall in love can make us feel giddy and out of control—the opposite of what is needed to be disciplined and keep to scheduled self-care. We stay up late. We eat and drink more than we typically do when alone. We skip workouts. Love is a powerful aphrodisiac."
Aemilia, another co-worker, agrees: "Going through a tough breakup required me to take a step back and think about ways that I could do a better job of taking care of myself. Whether it be scheduling in workouts I love or taking a night to myself complete with face mask and candles, being single has allowed me to be selfish in a positive and productive way."
Keep reading for the four self-care practices that have resulted from my relationship status.
I'm More Active
When I'm in a relationship, there's no way I'm pulling myself out of my warm bed (it's like a cloud) on Saturday morning. I love to snooze. I love to be cozy. I love doing that with another person next to me. But it's so much easier to make it to my morning yoga class when it's just me in bed. My practice helps soothe anxiety, allows for a deeper mind-body connection, and is the only real exercise I get all week. Focusing my attention inward allows for real, necessary introspection each Saturday morning, and when I'm seeing someone, for better or for worse, I'm so much less likely to make it there.
"I noticed an extreme shift in two things after my breakup: the amount of angsty music I listened to on Spotify and my workout and self-care habits," says Faith. "After the initial tidal wave of sadness settled, I found myself signing up for ClassPass and going to yoga again for the first time in months. I realized this was stereotypical post-breakup behavior, but even then, I couldn't deny the feeling of empowerment I experienced; I've been keeping up the habit ever since."
I Eat Healthier
"I find that men and women in relationships need to be more flexible when it comes to eating, sleeping, and working out, in part because they have to consider another person's agenda," notes Diller. "When we only have our own fridge to stock, alarm to set, and workout schedule to keep, we tend to remain more disciplined. When relationships are new, often discipline goes out the window."
That's for sure. For me personally, there's nothing fun about ordering a salad on a date. I realize not everyone will agree with me on that, but, I'd so much rather hit up a fun dim sum spot or get a great burger than worry about keeping to a healthy eating schedule while I'm trying to flirt. It's just more fun that way. When I'm making or ordering food for just myself, though, I find I stick to the plan without as many hesitations or cravings.
I Have More Time to Sit and Talk
Naturally, maintaining your relationships with friends and family still happens when you're in a committed relationship. By no means am I bashing falling in love. But I find when I have an S.O., I fall into the habit of sending them every funny meme I come across, telling them every random thought, and doing those things with others a little bit less.
However, it's imperative to maintain those relationships, and give them time and attention. In fact, results from a large literature review revealed an absence of friends can be as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking cigarettes.
When relationships are new, often discipline goes out the window.
I Feel Good When I'm Alone
Being "alone" often has a negative connotation, like that time feels empty and sad. And while of course I've felt that way, my consistent single status has taught me how to stand on my own with strength. I time spent by myself, and I'm independent in a way I haven't been in the past. I love being with people, too, but it feels empowering to wake up and spend an entire day doing things just to make me happy. No compromises, no arguments, just uninterrupted bliss.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015;10(2):227‐237. doi:10.1177/1745691614568352