Self-care is a hot buzz word around these days. There’s no shortage of articles, videos, and inspirational memes that can tell you about what it is, how to do it, and why it’s so important. I remember it started being a popular topic around social media around 2014 when I had my first baby. I dismissed it all as something single people with stressful but well-paying careers did. Taking a day off to go to the spa or go for a mind-clearing bicycle ride. I was a sleep-deprived, breastfeeding, new mom and full-time teacher with a husband that worked nights. I had NO time for any of that kind of thing. I didn’t even have time for a nap and when someone made time for one, I was so stressed that I couldn’t shut my brain off and enjoy it.
My marriage was quickly collapsing into shambles as we hardly spoke and my anger became all-consuming. Reading about bougie self-care strategies was the last thing I was going to waste my time doing. So when I picked up The Empowered Wife and started reading about self-care I kind of rolled my eyes and quickly leafed through it so I didn’t waste my time and moved on to the “good parts” of which there were many that had nothing to do with self-care. But Laura (my relationship mentor) made self-care the first Skill of six for a reason. I wouldn’t get to benefit from it until later when I got an email about a free master class webinar that she was putting on. The exercise invited us to try in that little class was to make a list of 10 to 20 activities that bring us joy in the moment.
Oh wow, that was a tough one for me. I had lost my joy at least 4 years ago. I was so consumed with what I thought I had to be doing all the time that I had no idea what I even LIKED doing. So I did my best. My list was full of pipe-dreams like a weekend in a yurt, a trip to Tahiti, a visit with my best friend who lives across the country and a smattering of more realistic, smaller pleasures like going out for fancy drinks, spending time in my yard, going on hikes. Turns out those last three were right on the nose.
Then Laura asked us to start practicing self-care by doing three things each day that bring us joy in the moment. Looks like my big vacation plans weren’t going to help me much for that assignment. So I focused on the little things. Later I heard the suggestion for us busy mom types: always have 10 things in mind that you can do in under 10 minutes and for free in your own home. That was a nice parameter to work with. Soon I had a list that seemed doable.
The only self-care that I’d been decent at when having babies was showering. I had read over and over again that you should always take a shower when you are at home all day with your baby so I was pretty good at that. I noticed how it improved my mood and my overall mental health just a little. Besides daily showering, I really had no other routine that was for me. I started growing my morning routine a bit and tightening it up. I realized that I enjoyed uninterrupted showers, as well as some time to dry off by myself, put on some face lotion, and an essential oil roll on to make myself feel a little bit special. I added some time to fix my hair and maybe put on a little lipstick because although I’m not a big make-up person, I’ve always liked a little lip color. I looked in the mirror and could tell myself that I looked good, smelled good, and gosh darnit people like me. I was feeling better already.
My son loves engaging verbally pretty much every second of his life, so he often will have to use the bathroom when I’m in the shower. He would start to chat and I would lovingly say, “I love a quiet shower by myself. This a great time that I really like to spend by myself.” He got the picture. He still comes to visit in the morning, but it’s short and sweet and doesn’t drag out like it used to.
So I managed to start building self-care into my routines. I developed a bedtime routine, which I use sometimes when my husband and I are on different sleep schedules. I’ll light a candle, do some silent gratitudes and affirmations, maybe some prayer, brush my hair, and put on some more essential oil. Simple stuff that only takes a few minutes, but allows me to focus and stay on track. I also have a mid-day routine that helps me get a nap in or some time to drink tea and read a book by the fire, maybe even write a blog post like I’m doing right now. This is almost favorite time of day, second only to the evening hours I spend with my husband after the kids are in dreamland.
I also practice self-care by asking myself what I want to do in the moment instead of constantly accommodating everyone. My accommodation was costing me my joy, and having no joy was making me self-sacrificing worker bee that no one liked, especially not me. Now before I say yes to something, I think about what it will cost me. Will it put me in a bad mood? Will it take time away from my self-care? Will it drain me or fill me up? I restructured my whole life to have more time to spend on things that I put me in a good mood and fill me up. Turns out that it was possible for me the whole time, I just had to let go of my idea of what I should be doing and focus on what I want to be doing.
Sometimes I need more self-care than others, I need to be constantly in touch with my internal emotional meter that tells me how I need to fill myself up and get back to the happy lady that I now enjoy being, otherwise my anxiety, anger, and depression get the best of me. I don’t always crave the same activities day to day. One day it might be connecting with a trusted friend, another day it might be spending a few minutes petting my goats and watching the sunset in my backyard. Turns out the self-care that works for me isn’t expensive or time-consuming or only for people I have nothing in common with. It’s much more about valuing myself and doing things I enjoy so I’m an enjoyable person. I have so much more to share but I’ve got to get back to reading the book I’ve been enjoying and probably take a nap on the couch. Self-care is a big priority for me, because being a wonderful mother and wife is a bigger priority for me, and without it– none of this is possible.
Believe me, I’ve tried it both ways.
What activities do you do that fill you up? Do you like to go for long drives? Love to take photos? Perhaps you have a favorite pet that you like to spend time with.
Share what you love and see what it does for you.