Zara Jones is an inspiration; she is a podcast host, blogger, self-care advocate, and a published author of six books who encourages others to prioritize self-care and their mental health. Through her vulnerability, Zara inspires others to be vulnerable with themselves. The time to start taking care of yourself is now, and Zara Jones is here to guide you. As a part of our It’s OKAY! Pause, Breathe, Proceed mental wellness event, Zara shares her experiences related to bullying. Hear from Zara and other women who take wellness to a whole new level in this streaming event on Thursday, May 25 at 6:00 pm CT / 7:00 pm ET. You can register here for this free event.
“Self-care has been booming ever since Covid because people had to take a break, finally.”
Zara was part of a major car accident in her freshman year, with much of the impact on her side of the vehicle. It resulted in kidney trauma, ongoing back pain from a lower back fracture, and a concussion. She had to press pause on her life in such unexpected ways, which led to her isolating herself and feeling unable to do the things she loved, specifically playing sports. Before the accident, Zara didn’t have any time to fully think about what was happening to her mental health saying, “[there were] so many things I should have acknowledged.” The accident forced her to stop, like many of us during the pandemic, and realize that something needed to be done.
Zara realized that the only way she could get back into working out and overcoming her injuries was to start with her mind. “It’s about breaking the negative talks you have with yourself,” she said after realizing that she needed to prioritize her mental health. Zara feels a calling to speak – especially with students – because she believes teaching self-care from a young age helps people create healthy coping mechanisms as they get older. School can be extremely stressful, and education has gone through many changes since the pandemic. Students are still trying to figure out their careers and what colleges they want to go to, and they need guidance. This isn’t always available, but learning to practice self-care gives them an opportunity to find guidance within themselves and still feel like they can conquer the world.
With all the pressure that students are put under, many of them feel like they don’t have the time for self-care. “Most students start feeling stress from middle school, freshman year, senior year, and being in sports. You have long days and barely have time to do the normal stuff, like homework, eating dinner, and studying,” Zara said.
There is also the social aspect of being a student that can cause stress. “You want to know who your real friends are. Who are the people that will grow with me and support me?” Since high school is a time when people are with their friends every day in classes and after-school activities, it’s important to befriend people who won’t hold you back. Zara says she wants to be surrounded by people who are more knowledgeable to better herself, adding “When you have friends who are pretty much at the same level, it’s not giving you an opportunity to grow.” She gets inspired seeing her friends’ accomplishments and tells herself she wants to do that, too. While this kind of challenge is great, it’s also harmful to constantly compare yourself to people online, whether you know them or not, since everyone has completely different circumstances and lives. Zara said, “I don’t want people to go through that. I want everyone to understand they have their own path.”
With certain social media phenomena like the “that girl” trend, self-care seems like it’s become an impossible standard. Zara acknowledges the potential harm of these trends by saying “Some, in a way, devalue self-care and make it look toxic by doing all this stuff to put themselves down. Self-care starts up here (in the mind); self-care is about your mentality first. It’s not about the material commercial stuff (having the iPad and expensive skin care tools). Social media puts out a different persona for self-care. All you need is to go to the 99 Cents store, grab a journal and a pen…You don’t need to have money for it. It’s a daily conversation with your mental health. You have to focus on your likes, dislikes, what you feel daily…sometimes it’s about asking the small simple things.”
Zara believes that self-care is about acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and emotions because “if you’re not acknowledging it, then you’re not willing to accept it.” You first have to acknowledge whatever your ‘it’ is for yourself. Identify what you are doing wrong, or as Zara says, “what would cause you to not focus on your mental health and self-care…The whole structure of Zest of Life with Zara focuses on those pillars: acknowledging what you’re doing and accepting it. In order for self-care to actually start, you have to ask: ‘What are the things I’m doing wrong that I want to change in my life?’ For example, maybe you want more of a work-life balance or better eating habits. Being able to acknowledge it helps you get to the point where you are saying ‘I know about it [the bad], and I’m going to start applying things that will help me take out those bad habits, like setting boundaries.’”
Positive affirmations are essential in giving us the motivation to be our best selves. “A simple ‘I am beautiful’ makes me feel better on gloomy days. I have to sit there and tell myself that I’m going to have a better day today,” Zara brightly said. “It’s all about saying what you need to hear; for example, ‘I got this. I can do this. This is a challenge I’m going to accept and overcome. I have the power within me, and even though I’m tired, I still have the power.’”
Sometimes, we say negative affirmations that we don’t realize we tell ourselves. “I’m not going to do this because I can’t do it” or “I’m too tired” are two common ones that Zara mentioned. These unconscious thoughts repeat themselves in our brains because that’s what they are programmed to do. If we don’t do the work to reprogram those negative thoughts to be more positive, we’re just going to keep hearing that we can’t do something. Zara says “It’s us telling ourselves that we can’t do it, and if we don’t feel good on the inside, then it will show on the outside. We’ve all heard that hurt people hurt people and it’s still true. It’s in the way we talk to ourselves; we project it on other people, and it becomes a domino effect.”
When asked how she overcomes feeling silly while giving herself affirmations in the mirror, Zara laughed a bit and said, “I’ll laugh because I’m thinking, ‘Well does anyone else actually do this?’ I get it; I mean, I feel pretty weird talking to myself.” Zara adds, “You don’t have to necessarily say it out loud, I typically like to say it silently. There are so many ways to do this: you can read affirmations to yourself, meditate on them, write some out, it’s up to you.” Zara compared it to any other daily routine, saying you have to “reapply positive affirmations throughout the day like makeup.” She credits journaling as an essential part of her self-care journey. “If there’s a lot on my mind, I will write it out. You don’t always have to have prompts, but they can be really helpful and make you think about things. They ask you the hard questions or things you never really thought about.”
Zara said her favorite part about what she shares online is “learning other people’s stories, meeting people, hearing what others have overcome, and connecting with people.” In fact, many people have approached her by telling her that they read her blog and felt like they were being heard.
Zara Jones is a wonderful spirit, and I definitely felt heard in her work. I really appreciated chatting with her and getting to know more about the world of self-care. You can find her on Instagram @zestoflifewzara or on her blog https://www.zaramjones.com/
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