This subject is very near and dear to my heart. According to Wikipedia, self care is defined as “In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Some place self-care on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self-care. In modern medicine, preventive medicine aligns most closely with self-care.” I have to be honest, I didn’t actually know or appreciate what this meant before I became a mother. Learning to pay attention and take good care of myself has been a regular exercise of some very unused muscles. Motherhood has quickly taught me that this practice not only feels good, but is entirely necessary in order to be the kind of mother I want to be. My self care consists of physical care, spiritual tending & down time. It’s taken me a long time to narrow down what this truly means to me, but I continue to cut the fat & focus inward.
My physical care comes in two, tangible forms: movement every day & choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods as often as possible. My daily movement might consist of a workout chosen by my virtual trainer Train & Flourish, walking the dog, doing some light yoga with our without Noelle or taking a walk with a friend. Movement used to be drudgery for me- I would choose extreme workout plans or something painful where I could get the week done in one go. This burnt me out very quickly and took an extreme toll on my body. Now, I move for pleasure and make sure to stay very flexible and open to hearing what my body needs.
When it comes to food, I have already gone both routes: drinking most of my calories and surviving on fast food & boxed mac ‘n cheese or highly restrictive eating whether it be calories or entire food groups! Now, I’ve cleaned up my diet and swear by the 80:20 rule. Friday night is pizza night, but the crust is gluten free and there’s tons of veggies. On Wednesday, Jeremy goes out with friends and I take Noelle to Chick-Fil-A, where she gets some grilled nuggets, fruit and a lemon water & I’ll have their market salad. Once a month we even get an ice cream cone! The rest of the week, I avoid gluten, limit corn and only use coconut oil (instead of corn oils). My family eats a lot of veggies, bone broth and a green smoothie in the morning. It’s truly a balancing act, but as my mind heals, so does my body and I’m able to take care of myself with what I need physically.
I also like to tend to myself spiritually. I realize many people skip this step and there’s nothing wrong with that! For me, staying connected to the deeper part of myself, beyond this reality is extremely important. I do this by attending a church. Not just any church, but a Universalist Unitarian church whose philosophy is:
We gather in safe and compassionate community, seeking our spiritual truths. We affirm our interdependence, celebrate our differences, and create a thoughtful and harmonious voice for liberal religion. Through the practice of the principles of our faith, we promote social, economic and environmental justice and continue our legacy of respect and acceptance. We covenant together in a spirit of love and freedom.
I usually bring a knitting project and sit with Jeremy while we learn about other religions, practice mindfulness and connect with others. It really is a wonderful thing to do on a Sunday morning. Noelle really enjoys the child care and it gives us some rhythm on the weekends. I’m also a daily meditator. I use the app Headspace and I absolutely love it! For 10 minutes a day, I feel like I join with my higher mind and I truly enjoy the quietness. I also have a habit of journaling at night before I go to bed. No matter what I’m feeling, I like to sit down with my 2 journals: Q&A a Day for Moms: A 5-Year Journal and my regular scribbly journal full poignant thoughts and random nonsense.
Last but not least, my absolute favorite form of regular self care is down time. This is time spent 100% alone. Ideally, I can have this at home but it’s not always possible so I’ll go to a coffee shop for a while. I’m 80% introvert and 20% extrovert which means that I re-energize myself with time spent totally alone. Time alone includes no computer and my phone is on silent. During this time I might read (non self-help), listen to audiobooks, knit, paint or draw. One of my favorite things to do is to grab my camera and go take photos somewhere I’ve never been. If none of these are accomplished except one, this one has to be it! When I don’t get time alone, I do, say, feel things that I ultimately regret and often cannot get relief until this need is met. I need at least 1-2 hours a day alone and I’m so lucky to have a husband who understands this so well.
Some other forms of self care I may practice are a meditative bubble bath which includes hot water, bath salts, lavender essential oils and a candle of some kind. Noelle now knows when it’s time for this and will close the door and tell Jeremy “Mama is having a meditative bath… shhh”. Some self care will also show up in the form of saying no. If a friend wants to grab drinks and I’m feeling depleted or if it’s time to give up a group or hobby that feels draining. I say “no”, knowing that there’s always the possibility of joining at a later time. I once heard it referred to as FOMO (fear of missing out) and I’m glad to have kicked it. After all, I can do anything, but simply cannot do everything.
So, now I want to know. How do you practice self care? Do you need time alone or do you prefer nights out with friends? Tell me your self care routine. I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.