Who: Hey you. Yes, YOU. Are you a human person? Then you need to be practicing self-care. Are you a mom? Then you REALLY need to be practicing self-care. If you are spending your life expressing love and nurture to little people who often test your patience, wet YOUR bed (it happens), and require your help to do simple things like STAY ALIVE, then you need to be taking care of yourself. You are really important in the lives of those little people and it matters that you are functioning at your best. If you are constantly emotionally drained, physically wiped out, and spiritually dead, it’s going to be pretty tough to teach them how to be healthy people.
What: Self-care is both extremely simple and thoroughly confusing. It is what it sounds like– it is taking care of yourself in ways that are refreshing and rejuvenating for you. This is going to vary GREATLY from person to person. What is self-care to someone will feel like torture to someone else. Running, sewing, baking, lunch with friends, reading, woodworking, solitude — all great options. . . unless you hate them, in which case they do not count as self-care for you. When I’m evaluating what is self-care for me, I want to know if I feel better after having done it, more inspired in my daily life, refreshed, and if it helped me connect with some aspect of myself that doesn’t get enough attention during my normal activities. I have also noticed that when I’m involved in an activity that qualifies as self-care for me, I generally have a strong emotional response. It’s not even always a positive response, it just connects me to a feeling I might not have been able to deal with while parenting, working, etc.
When: You are likely already doing self-care, but you need to reorient your priorities to see it as self-care and remind yourself of how important it is. Do you have a nightly time when you read a book? Self-care. Do you go for a run three times a week? Self-care. Do you go out for coffee with a friend every other Tuesday? Self-care. So the first part of the “when” is to recognize when you are already doing this and affirm that these aren’t “guilty pleasures” they are a necessary part of being a good friend, mom, wife, etc. The second part is intentionally scheduling and prioritizing self-care time that may not come as easily. Every other Thursday is my self-care night. My husband and kids are prepped that this is time I spend by myself to do what I need to do for my sanity. If it wasn’t scheduled, I can promise you it wouldn’t happen and other things would creep in during that time.
Where: Wherever! Outdoors, indoors, in your home, at the coffee shop, in the library, at Target– wherever YOU feel rejuvenated.
Why: Because you are a person. It’s that simple. This is not about rewarding yourself for hard work or earning a break, it’s about simply acknowledging that you are a person of worth and your emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing matter. This is NOT the same as selfishness (more on that later). This is not about prioritizing your own wants at the expense of others. In fact, I think we’re more likely to veer into selfishness territory if we aren’t appropriately addressing our self-care needs. If you deny your self-care needs long enough, it starts to become tough to figure out the difference between your need for rest, or exercise, or time alone and your selfish desire to run away from your responsibilities. I have found that when my self-care needs are met, I have MORE to give to my family and my selfish feelings diminish.
How: However it works for you! This aspect is important to me– self-care doesn’t need to be expensive. No one should be priced out of self-care. Would we all love a quick self-care weekend jaunt out to a beach somewhere to sip fruity drinks and feel our toes in the sand? Sure, but that’s not what self-care has to be. A warm bath, some time with a book, a favorite movie you’ve already watched a thousand times, a donut (with sprinkles!), working on a craft project, a walk in the park or just around the block a few times– these can all be self-care activities that don’t have to be pricey. Don’t tell yourself self-care isn’t for you because you don’t have the money.
I’ve got posts ready to go about some of the trickier aspects of self-care and what I do for my own self-care, but I wanted this to serve as a primer from one newbie to another. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but someone who is learning and wants to bring you along for the ride. If the whole concept feels foreign to you, or even wrong, immoral, unnatural, I want you to have some time to think about it. I want to encourage you that YOU are worth it. You are worth the time and effort it takes to care for yourself. Give yourself permission to think about what it would look like if you truly treated yourself as a person of value. More to come, Friends! (And if you’ve got questions or something you’d specifically like me to address, write a comment here and I’ll be sure it gets handled in a future post.)