I have seen many great articles on self-care by fellow bloggers and I have mentioned that it is one of the things that I try to consciously invest time in. What is the big deal with self-care? Why is it important? I have given this one a lot of thought and I have certainly learned its importance the hard way.
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What is self-care and why is it important?
The name seems petty self-explanatory. Self-care is caring for yourself. What is amazing to me is that such a simple concept can be so hard to actually put into practice. I have often seen the analogy of “put your own oxygen mask on first” in regards to self-care. I think that self-care is probably especially hard for Moms in particular. Moms are amazing people. They need superhero capes to go with all the hats they wear. Since I’m a mom too, I will try to include myself in that, but it’s hard for the same reason self-care is hard for most Moms.
As mothers, our lives revolve around everyone else. Our job is to care for other people. We respond to the needs of our children no matter what time of day that they need us. Baby wakes up multiple times a night? Don’t worry, sweetheart, Momma’s here. Kindergartener throw up in bed in the middle of the night? Mom is there too. Middle of the day and someone needs a snack and a nap? Mom is there also providing for her kids. Husband comes home and has had a horrible day? Yup, that’s in our domain as well.
Don’t Forget that You Need Care Too!
What about a shower for ourselves? Depending on the age of your children, you might be thinking “ ah yes, that’s so relaxing after the kids are at school!” Or you might be thinking “ Yes! I’m a champion at that Olympic sport. You know, when you have people screaming your name and you are trying to finish in the fastest time possible?”
All those examples are giving. They are giving of yourself, your time, your emotions, your nurturing, your encouragement, your energy, and often your sleep. Your job is to give and take care of others, but how do you give when you have nothing left to give? How can you give when you are totally depleted? We scrape the bottom of the bucket and we come up with some hidden strength when push comes to shove.
How much better are your gifts to your family when your bucket is full? Probably much better. If your gas tank in your car is approaching empty, you stop and fill it up. Why do we hesitate to do the same for ourselves? When we make the time for self-care, we are more productive, less stressed, and we feel much more able to give. When we do not take the time for self-care, we wind up (ok, I wind up) doing things that are less healthy like stress eating (guilty!) and binge-watching tv.
Making Time for self-care when you are overwhelmed
I’m going to say that the most common reason that we, as Moms, neglect self-care is that we feel there is no time. We have so many responsibilities and things that we have to get done and take care of. Other people are depending on us to pull it all together. Failure is not an option. We get so focused on accomplishing the task or tasks that we are responsible for in addition to caring for our little ones that self-care is continually shoved to the back burner.
I will say to myself, I will sit down. When I get X done. In the middle of the task I am trying to accomplish, something else comes up, and the original task I was trying to accomplish ends up taking much longer than expected, and that time to myself never quite happens. Before I know it, its bedtime and instead of going to bed I’m looking at “one more thing” on the internet trying to unwind a bit. Taking “ me time” out of my sleep time never works very well and I end up exhausted and just as stressed as ever.
You Are Worth Investing In
Does this ever happen to you? Does it ever just seem like there are not enough hours in the day for you to get done what you need to get done and take the time for yourself that you need? I will share a secret that I learned with you. You have time for what you MAKE time for. Does that seem odd? It’s really just about prioritizing. My friend, YOU are worth making time for. YOU are important, how you feel is important, your wants and your needs matter. *sending you a virtual hug right now.*
The family that you so lovingly serve needs you, and they need you to keep your sanity. Your family needs a you that is not worn ragged and at the end of her rope. If you have little ones at home, try to get them all napping or having “rest time” or “quiet time” at the same time. You need that little break in the day. Go do something that you love. It might only be for 20 minutes, but you NEED that like you need oxygen and food. That is emotional recharge time for filling your bucket so that you can go back to giving and being the amazing person that you are.
Set aside a certain time each day that you do not work during. For me it was nap time, for you, it might be early in the morning before the kids wake up, or it might be in the evenings after they go to bed. No matter what is happening, that is YOUR time. Make it a priority. By taking care of yourself, you are also taking care of your family.
Types of Self-Care
Self-care is not all bubble baths and candles. (Though those are nice!) Self-care can fall into 5 categories: Sensory, Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Social. (Kathrine Hurst at thelawofattraction.com wrote an article on this that gives a great break-down.)
Have you ever tried to sleep at night and were extremely tired, but your mind kept you awake? You are ready to quit for the day but your mind will not let you, it is wrestling away at everything you have been stressing about and running 90 to nothing so that you spend half the night looking at the ceiling? I know that I have. Sometimes our minds are too stimulated to rest well. When you do something that falls into the sensory self-care category, you do something that integrates one or more of the 5 senses of taste, hearing, touch, seeing, and smelling.
Different people have different tolerances for what is overstimulating, but I think at some point it can be overwhelming for anyone. If you need to calm your mind down, you might try lighting a candle with your favorite scent, brewing a cup of hot tea, putting on some relaxing music, closing your eyes and snuggling under a blanket. Try to stop and savor the moment for a little while using your 5 senses. Take deep breaths and soak in everything that’s around you.
There are times if I am upset about something that I cannot focus or have fun with anything until I deal with whatever emotion is bothering me. It might be tempting to think of emotions as “good” or “bad” but in reality, they are just emotions. They cover a wide range and they are all ok. It is ok to not be happy all the time and healthy to let yourself feel and deal with your emotions. Dealing with your emotions is actually much better than suppressing them because it allows you to process them and then let them go in order to move forward.
When you take an emotion and figuratively shove it in the closet, occasionally that closet door will open and it will come tumbling out, making you deal with it over and over again. Let yourself feel the emotion, and then move on if it is not one that you need to keep. Think of it as decluttering your emotional closet.
Some examples of emotional self-care are being around a family member that you really feel understands you. Talking through your emotions with your husband or close friend, journaling, listening to music that reflects your emotional state, letting yourself have a good cry if you need one. I like taking the time to do an activity that lets me think things through. ( Some of my best thinking is done while in the shower or on a brisk walk outside). I am not quite sure why, but going outside seems to help me feel better too.
I look forward to going to church each Sunday because it recharges me. Listening to the sermon reminds me how much my heavenly Father loves me. It reminds me to be grateful for the blessings in my life, and that the things that I am going through are just temporary. Going to church puts my life in perspective for me. Gratefulness is something that we all need to practice. We all have blessings that we take for granted. Sometimes pausing to read scripture or thinking about the things that we are grateful for, or even journaling about them can bring great peace.
Don’t run away yet! Even if you did, though, it would still be self-care. Our bodies need physical exercise. They just work better when we move. Humans are meant to move, not sit in one place all day. When we work out our bodies release a natural feel-good chemical called endorphins. It also helps to melt away stress (as well as fat!), leaves you with more energy, and just generally in a better mood. Physical self-care is not just exercise. It can also mean going to the doctor when you are sick, making sure that you have the right prescription glasses or contacts if you need them, and making sure that you take care of your teeth.
You need to be healthy in order to take care of everyone else. If you would take your kids to the doctor for it, then you probably need to take yourself as well. One of my favorite forms of physical self-care is going for a walk outside. I used to take my kids with me when they were little, either in a backpack, a wrap, or a stroller. When he was a little older my youngest son had a balance bike that he STILL loves. He had no problem keeping up with me on our walk. I got some self-care, he burnt off some extra energy. Win-win.
For me, one of the hardest things to do when I transitioned from full-time high school teacher to stay at home mom was the lack of people contact. Before, I had a job where I talked to a hundred people a day for a living. Then I went to having my newborn son to talk to (who, let’s face it, was not much of a conversationalist at that point) and my husband. My parents were close, and I talked to them about every other day but I was still going through a serious lack of social time! Cue little Mermaid song “I want to be where the people are.” It was hard, especially since my car’s engine had blown up a few weeks before I gave birth, so I was pretty much stuck at the house.
I found out quick the value of a good friend! I was so grateful when one of my friends would call and talk to me. It would cheer me up immensely. I also managed to make another mommy friend around the time my son was around 7 months old who I am still good friends with today. I lived for playdates and I think she did too. We always ended up staying longer than we meant to because it was just so nice to talk to another Mommy!
If this is where you are, find your tribe. Find people that you can talk to that will support you. Make time for talking with your husband. Make time for calling that friend that you haven’t talked to in forever that you’ve been meaning to call. I think women especially, benefit from social interaction. Life was not meant to be lived in isolation.
Here are some great tips from my friends on Self-Care:
“I wake up 15 min earlier than I need to every morning. I get my coffee, my journal and write out some things I’m thankful for. It gives me time to wake up and time to get centered before all hell breaks loose! The few days I haven’t done this have been chaos. Also, bubble baths. They’re the best! ” – Madeline Ginn
“Read inspiring daily readers, journal, tend to my immediate needs – hungry, angry, lonely or tired, get regular massages” – Holly Elliott
“I take time at least 3 days a week to go to the gym. I notice when I don’t skip on this, even if I’m dead tired, I’m a better mom and happier, more joyful, and more patient! Life is less stressful when I literally work it out of me. I make time to read my bible every day, even if it 5 minutes interrupted, and I highlight something that jumps out to me to focus on for a day or two.
I journal in my bullet journal. It gives me a fun place to schedule, doodle, plan, and lay out things on my mind. I LOVE bullet journaling. I read for fun. Even if it’s twaddle, I read something I enjoy and I don’t feel bad about it.
AND one last thing— I’ve been making more time for my husband. Trying to have a date night with him once or twice a month, even if it’s just a movie in bed after the kids are asleep. Though it’s technically ‘marriage care’ and not for just myself, it does SO much for me personally, too.” – Caitlin O’Dell
Lysanne Prud’homme linked this very handy pdf on mindfulness
“Never go to bed with makeup on. Always wear something with SPF on your face and neck. When things go sideways, ask yourself is a problem or inconvenience? You are arrested or carburetor goes out or rent is due and you’re broke= problem. You chipped a nail or the line is long and you are late= inconvenience. Crap is always gonna happen. Learn when to shrug and when to 911.” – Carol Miller
What are your self-care challenges? Is it making time for yourself, figuring how what to do for self-care, or something else? Remember that you have to take care of yourself and fill your own bucket first before you can fill those of all the people that you love and take care of. You are important, you are loved, your wants, needs, and feelings matter! What are you really needing right now? It can be helpful to break down self-care into the 5 different categories of sensory, emotional, spiritual, physical, and social. We all have needs in all 5 categories. What do you need today and what are your best tips for self-care! We are in this together! Let’s help one another!
You are important, you are loved, your wants, needs, and feelings matter!
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