Last month I posted self care isn’t what you think it is. And it got me thinking… about the ways in which I care for myself and how I might do better. The holiday season certainly ended with me feeling depleted and worn out, not just because of illness and long to-do lists, but also because of my family’s grief surrounding the loss of my father-in-law last January.
So, here is some of what I came up with: women often find ourselves spending all of our time caring for others and not enough time caring for ourselves. I know I am guilty of this, and usually it’s my own fault… getting wrapped up in my long to-do list and letting my calendar get overrun with family things too often means forgetting to make time for myself.
BUT, self-care doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are my tips for self-care basics:
…Or whatever meal you tend to leave out of your day. All too often, busy moms skip meals, leaving ourselves exhausted and drained of the vital energy needed to fuel ourselves physically and mentally.
Finding a way to make sure we stay nourished can take planning and prep. Whether you take time to prep something the night before, or make sure you’re fed before or at the same time as your children, it can happen. I’ve made it a rule in my kitchen that I get to finish my “firsts” before I interrupt my eating to get the kids “seconds.”
What you eat can also make a difference. A nutritious meal, with fiber to keep you full (and cleanse your gut) and protein for long-lasting energy, will be so much more beneficial than scrounging for your child’s leftover cereal or half-eaten granola bar from the day before. Avoid processed grains like bagels or muffins, but don’t skimp on flavor… if you don’t like it, you’re much less likely to eat it. My favorite go-to’s are plain yogurt with chia seeds and homemade granola, cashew butter and dried cranberries rolled in a tortilla, or soft-boiled eggs with avocado and grilled onions.
Get More Sleep
This one goes for everyone, really. Sleep deprivation increases your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which triggers fat storage around your waist, making you feel demoralized on top of increasing your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other conditions. But so many of us fall victim to the societal norm of exhaustion. I recently heard a story about how humans are “going through life in an underslept state,” not just in the U.S., but globally. And knowing more about the effects of how harmful undersleeping can be for our bodies and our lives was scary… but I STILL struggle with making sure I get enough sleep.
[Incidentally, it tells you something about how underslept we are as a society when a quick Google search for “sleep” turns up this image first.]
So, this is a goal of mine for the new year… opt for sleeping more when I can. This may mean prepping breakfast the night before so I can sleep in the next morning, or choosing to take at least one nap over the weekend, or simply leaving the chores/Netflix/crochet for later and going to bed at 8pm. Part of being able to get more sleep means being able to let go of some previous “obligations,” which leads me to my next tip.
Say “No” More
My husband and I were just reviewing many of the upcoming “obligations” we have and, as we looked for the various ways we could simplify our lives, it became quite obvious that we weren’t obligated to do most of them at all. Some things we kept as priorities for the family, but it was very empowering to realize how much we could say “No” to, if we wanted. So the first step in taking care of yourself is often finding places and things to which you can say, “No.”
Now, your first reaction might be the same as my husband’s: “But it’s not that easy to keep coming up with excuses for why I can’t go to things.”
My response to this is two-fold. First, you actually don’t need to come up with an excuse; I would argue that “I have too much going on” or a simple “I don’t want to” is reason enough to say “No” to something. However, I do realize that our extroverted society tends to assume that everyone always wants to do social things with everyone else all the time; this implies that you should want to, even if you don’t… but that’s actually not true. So I’m here to say that it’s okay, and (dare I say) even normal, for you to not want to do something fun.
Second, my husband is partially right… it’s not easy; feeling confident enough in your own skin to be comfortable saying “No” to something is a difficult thing. We are social beings, and within our social culture exists a real pressure to please others, or at least not hurt someone’s feelings. But here’s the thing… I’ve come to realize that I’m a highly sensitive, introverted person who needs her down-time to function well and stay mentally and physically healthy. And that’s okay. At least… it’s okay with me. To compromise myself for the sake of others not only hurts me, but also my ability to care for, be with, and enjoy my family. My children’s lives are literally depending on me being there for ME. Anyone who can’t respect that, it’s their loss.
By this, I mean give yourself permission to enjoy life. It can be the typical “self-care” things society always promotes, like taking a yoga class, getting a manicure, or treating yourself to a spa day. But usually it’s the little things (done more often) that help us feel better, like splurging on your favorite latte, nibbling on some dark chocolate, flipping through a gossip magazine, singing out loud with your favorite song, or taking an extra 5 minutes in the shower.
The key here is tuning in to what will really help YOU feel good TODAY. I like to stretch in bed every morning when I wake up, and I find that it’s the perfect time to take some deep breaths and ask myself, “What do you want today?”
So no matter what it is or how you fit it in, you deserve that little something that helps you feel cared for. Motherhood doesn’t have to mean martyrdom.
So What Now?
Want to start taking better care of yourself? If any of these tips resonated with you, see if you can find one concrete thing you can do next to improve your own self-care.
If nothing is coming to you, see if you can find 5 minutes in a quiet space to just ask yourself, “What would make me feel good this week?” Then look at your schedule in the coming days and plan a time to work it in.
Overwhelmed with ideas? List them out (either in your head or on a piece of paper) and tune in for 5 minutes. See what suggestion feels like the most fun or enjoyable, then plan a time to actually do it soon.
Taking loving action is the most empowering way to start feeling truly cared for. ❤️