Self Care Made Easy
The benefits of self care are noted. And while it has become a bit of a buzzword (I seriously doubt people in the 1840's, or the 1940's for that matter, used the phrase "self care" in any context), it matters. Self care is anything you do to further your personal well-being and health. There are hundreds of things you can do that might serve as self care. Here are just a few of my favorites when I'm in desperate need of a break:
1. Commit to doing what you love for 30 minutes, no matter what. Schedule it. We spend so much time taking care of our kids. Let's be honest - they need a lot of care! There is no shame in that whatsoever. I love caring for my kids and my household. It brings me a great sense of pride. But I know now that I am better able to care for my family when I have taken care of myself, too. For me, it might be working out. Or sewing. Or setting aside time to read a book. When I am fighting through a busy day I am energized if I know that my personal time is upcoming, waiting for me like an oasis in the desert. I am also energized if that time has already passed, for I know that I honored my commitment to myself to make time for me.
2. Treat yourself. Get your hair done. Get a manicure or pedicure. Get a hot rock massage or a reflexology treatment. Anything that feels indulgent. Anything that feels good. Be mindful to select things that are truly helpful rather than harmful. For example, getting a large Ben and Jerry's milkshake because you are feeling burned out about your workout schedule might feel like a treat in the moment, but once you determine that it will take 5 workouts to even approach burning those indulgent calories you will realize how much that milkshake really was only fronting as a self care provider. Feel like you don't want to spend money to make yourself feel better? See #3.
3. Create a spa routine at home. I don't generally spend a lot of money on spa treatments and the like. I feel like I have so much at home that I don't even use that would serve as part of a home-spa routine. I have sample of face masks from previous spa visits. A foot scrub that was a gift a few years back. Fuzzy slippers that are so pretty that I don't want to ruin them. Eye creams and ointments that were collected over a year of Birchbox deliveries. After a shower, I can spend 10 minutes and 'pamper' myself without spending a single dollar.
4. Meditate or relax your way for 15 minutes. I'm not great at meditating - my mind rolls a millions miles a minute despite efforts to control it. But I do try. Even my little FitBit has a setting that gives you guided breathing for a few minutes. And when I use it and just breathe with my eyes closed, I feel different. I can also relax by just laying down for a few minutes. I can relax with a cup of tea and a book. I can relax by stretching. I can relax by silencing my phone. I can't tell anyone else how to relax because what works for me might not be the right fit for someone else. Find what relaxes you and do it.
5. Check your own thoughts. Self care is not just what we do on the outside. We need to care for ourselves by taking care to use kind words and thoughts when we speak to ourselves, or about ourselves, or about our progress. We can't be committed to self care if we are readily using words that fail to inspire or forgive. We are our worst critics so by cleaning up our own thoughts and feelings we can also be our biggest cheerleaders. Nobody can care for us better.
6. Seek out time with the people you enjoy, even if you are busy. The days go by so quickly. Before I know it, an entire season has passed and I haven't connected with a close friend who lives only 5 minutes away. And I don't necessarily feel very enriched or happy about that. Making time for those friendships and relationships that make you feel complete is a huge part of our emotional maintenance and self care. Cleaning the kitchen really can wait while I go out on a much needed evening with friends that make me laugh, fill my spirit and energize me.
7. Snuggle in. Sometimes staying in is the best way to care for yourself. See earlier posts about my self-proclaimed status as a homebody and you'll understand why this is an easy one for me. But many find that between work and other commitments, they are always running and are never at home. And when they are at home, they are struggling to clean it. So why not spend a little quality at home without the to-do list or the drama. Stay in your comfy house clothes and settle in for some carefree and unscheduled time at home. Don't ever feel guilty about choosing to stay in once in a while.
8. Set a mood. I love candles but I also love having a home so burning them with small kids around is not an option. But at dinner, we set a mood. Place mats and small votives that are constantly monitored. Maybe even a few flowers cut from the garden. We serve boring pasta in a big beautiful bowl. We use the white cloth napkins and serve sparkling juice in wine glasses, just because. We set whatever mood we want for whatever time of day - no rules or regulations. Something different and fun, for the family or for myself, doesn't take much effort or time and changes my mood dramatically.
9. Eat well. The connection between what we eat and how we feel is undeniable. When we eat better, we feel better and look better. Our mood is better and our outlook improved. Taking the time to feed yourself healthy and nourishing foods matters in the short-term and long-term, and is the ultimate act of self care. Doctors, medication, therapy, exercise, and vitamins all have their place, but eating what your body needs to function at its best is key. I find that preparing a good meal, even though it takes a bit of time, has the benefit of making me feel good about what I'm doing for my body and also feeds my soul. I completely understand the "I don't have time to cook". That's fine. But you do have time to eat, so make sure that what you are eating is helpful, not harmful. There are a ga-zillion options for healthy eating that take zero time whatsoever. Find one of those.
10. Sleep. There is no good replacement for getting enough sleep. I won't try to argue that everybody needs 7 hours since everybody is different and every body has different needs. But everyone does need sleep to function. Settling in for a decent amount of sleep, each and every night, is a solid step toward greater self care. Support your system's basic functioning and support your emotions with restful sleep that will carry you into the new day ready to face all of your challenges.