Self-Care is not a luxury
Sleep was clinging to me like a smothering blanket as I struggled awake. Where am I?…..Home. This is my bed. Where is he? I burrowed through the covers to find my sleeping husband, and I nestled into my favorite spot.
“What’s wrong?” he mumbled. And then more awake, “Why are you crying? Did you have another nightmare?” They’ve been plaguing me every night for a week. Different each time, but equally horrible, and today I can’t shake it. I’ve been sobbing all morning. I am like an overstimulated newborn, wailing to shut out the world.
The last six weeks have been a sprint. I’ve been working 24/7 on the launch of the Fall Wardrobe Guide and the Stunning Style Society Membership, a website makeover, I had company, a kitchen renovation, 6 kids home from school, back-to-school madness, and it culminated in a conference at the end of last week. All of them great things, all of them happening simultaneously, all of them a big deal on their own, and in my usual determination to do everything, be everything, and have everything, I took no time to care for my own needs.
I am threadbare right now, and it didn’t have to be this way. I CHOSE to over extend myself. I CHOSE not to make myself a priority. I CHOSE where I am right now. And now I am CHOOSING to make it right.
I had an entirely different post scheduled for today, but I felt so strongly that I needed to write this as a commitment to myself, and hopefully it will help some of you as well. I am returning to my habits of self care.
What does self care look like?
Truthfully, it looks different for everyone. I’ve read other posts like this, and sometimes I think, “Yes! That would help me!” and sometimes I think, “That would add to my pain.” I hope as you read this you can take the helpful pieces and leave what won’t serve you.
Wear What You Are Drawn To
I am a cross between Minimal Classic and Edgy Classic (you can read more about the other Classic Style Types here). It really depends on the day. Right now I CRAVE black clothes and stabby accessories. I don’t want any color, not even white to lighten it up a bit. I’m also craving comfort, so nothing restrictive. Does that mean I’m in yoga pants and an old tee? No. My favorite jeans are plenty comfortable. For me comfort has more to do with being fuss-free. Nothing that I have to adjust, tug at, or secure.
What I find soothing won’t necessarily be soothing to you. If you put something on and feel that instant, “NO,” take it off. Yesterday when I got up to spend some time with my kids after being out of town, I felt like I should lighten it up, so I wore a black and white striped shirt with black jeans. Later in the day I tried on a black shirt and instant relief washed over me. I left it on. I NEED black right now. Other times I NEED color. I also NEED triangles and pointy, sharp jewelry today. Other times I NEED no jewelry. Listen to those needs and honor them. Black and stabby might not do it for you. What does? This is what I’m wearing today:
LOVE YOUR BODY
Self care has to include caring for your physical body. For all of us that means some kind of exercise or movement. It might be a 30-minute walk, a run, yoga, Crossfit, Pilates, or swimming. I’ve really struggled with this one the last five years due to serious health issues. I was in such great shape 8 years ago, and so strong! But when I got pregnant with my last, my health started to spiral, and my doctor told me my exercise routine was literally killing me. I had to stop.
I wrote all about How to Start and Stick to an Exercise Routine here, and I wrote about my favorite exercise videos here. One of them even has options for exercising while sitting in a chair, which I’ve done when my adrenal fatigue was so bad. One favorite that isn’t in that post is an A.M./P.M. yoga video that I love. It has different practices ranging from 10-45 minutes for different purposes. It has helped with my sleep and my tension headaches. It’s very gentle and definitely for beginners. Even with my worst adrenal symptoms this is something I can do. Of course always follow your doctor’s advice on physical activity.
Loving your body also means nourishing it. I made a goal this summer to eat more vegetables. I love them, but I’m usually so focused on the protein main dish portion I skimp on making my veggies interesting or appealing. I put a huge handful of spinach in my favorite morning smoothies (I go back and forth between this one and this one). I’ve been making myself a big salad for lunch, and having fun switching up the ingredients to keep it interesting. I have been eating these a lot, as well as some others. What helps is for me to grill a big package of chicken or steak and have it ready for the week, or save some from meat from dinner to put on my salad the next day. I also make sure I get at least another 2 servings at dinner.
Without good nutrients and food, our bodies won’t work properly. It can all taste amazing and be easy to make! For me ADDING things that nourish my body is more effective and loving than restricting and punishing myself.
My brain never. shuts. up. It talks to me constantly, and it’s exhausting. About four years ago I realized that just being alone is not enough to replenish myself. Being alone and reading something educational, researching, and learning, are all still very active and just rev my brain up. Being alone and gardening (one of my very favorite things to do) isn’t restful to my body, even if it nourishes my soul. The only ways I can make my brain and my body stop are to take 30 minutes to an hour alone in my room and read for pleasure or watch a show or movie I enjoy. I can’t learn a single thing from it or it doesn’t count. The only way to make my brain be quiet is to give it something else to do, and for me it’s usually reading historical fiction novels (my favorite genre). It transports me somewhere else and I’m able to finally get out of my head.
I also sometimes take power naps or rest. I lie there with my eyes closed and listen to a guided meditation or just go to sleep. Or both. I set an alarm because if I sleep too long it makes me groggy, and knowing the alarm is set means I can let go and not worry about sleeping too long and being late picking up my kids from school.
GET READY FOR THE DAY
I wrote a whole post about why I get ready every single day, even when I had infant triplets. It is self care. It makes everything about my day go better. It’s loving yourself and showing up for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a 2-hour ritual. I don’t have time for that (but if that is self care for you, then do it!). But it is probably the one self-care thing I have never negotiated on.
Speaking of sleep, it’s my enemy, and I wake up EARLY every day because of my hormones. The only way I can get more sleep is to go to bed earlier. So instead of being a hero (and by hero I mean martyr) and staying up too late doing too much, I make it a priority to start getting ready for bed at 9. I shower, which helps me relax and wash away the day, gives me another 20 minutes of alone time, and also helps me get ready in 20 minutes. I get in bed by 9:30, spend a few minutes planning out the next day and doing a brain dump, and try to have the lights out by 10. Sleep is critical, and it helps no one if you are not getting enough rest. I have learned some things that have helped with my sleep a lot, and if you’d like a post about that, comment down below.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t draw from an empty well.” And the comparison to putting on your own oxygen mask first before you help others is another. It’s easy, especially as women, to take on the martyr role and care for everyone else’s needs before ours. It’s built into our societal expectations, and often celebrated, but it’s damaging. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. It feels selfish to fill my well. But you know what’s selfish? Snapping at my kids because I’ve ignored my needs and I’m on empty. Growling at my husband because I didn’t take some time to replenish myself. What fills your personal well?
For me it’s being alone. 100% completely alone and unstimulated. I call it quiet time, and I’m happiest (and so is my family) when I do it every day. 30 minutes is my minimum. An hour is ideal. We are all busy. Every single one of us. But we have to make time to fill that well. What does that look like for you? Social time? Being outside? Alone time? A certain hobby? A bath at the end of the day? I love to sit on my bench in my garden alone and close my eyes while the sun shines on my skin. Maybe add a great book. This doesn’t work in the winter, but I love it in the warmer months. That is my ideal scenario.
GET A DAILY DOSE OF POSITIVITY
If you saw my July Favorites video, I talked about what an enormous impact listening to Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School podcast has had on me. I like to listen to her while I get ready or while I drive. It really helps me get in a positive mindset for the day. During the last several weeks of craziness, I stopped listening because I thought one more input would fry my brain, but last week I realized I had spiraled into negative self-talk and doubt again, so I queued up and the next episode on my playlist was #18 How to Solve Any Problem. I listened to it again every day for 4 days in a row! It was JUST what I needed!
In my line of work it’s expected that I will be available 24/7. Answering emails, Facebook messages, and blog comments, engaging in the Facebook group, posting on the blog daily, sharing my life on social media 3 times a day, and more. I fell into this trap at first, but about a year ago I decided this doesn’t work for me. I set work hours for myself during the week, and for the most part, I take the weekend off to be with my family and live a life. I don’t feel comfortable sharing my whole life with the internet, so I don’t. I don’t want to publish 7 hastily-written posts every day of the week. I prefer to give you 2 thoughtful, well-written posts a week. I don’t want to show up in your inbox unless I have something worth reading.
I also give my phone a break on Sundays. It’s as demanding as a toddler, and it’s really nice to get away from it. I try to leave it in my room on silent. Sometimes I’ll check it, but sometimes not. The point is I don’t feel obligated to look at my phone or computer on Sundays, and that feels amazing.
HOW DO I FIND TIME FOR SELF-CARE? I’M SO BUSY!!
Girl, aren’t we all? But this is the key:
SCHEDULE SELF CARE
I mean that literally. On your calendar. I use my Google calendar. And from 1:45-2:45 is blocked off for quiet time. I have an alarm on my phone that reminds me it’s time. Are you familiar with the Stephen Covey analogy? You take a container (your day) and you have large rocks (your essential things), medium rocks (important things), and sand (everything else) that have to fit in that container. If you put in the sand and small rocks first, the large rocks will never fit. So you schedule (put in) your essential items (the large rocks) in your calendar (the container) first. Then the important things (medium rocks), and then you pour in the everything else (sand) and it will fill the empty spaces that are left.
That self-care time needs to be one of your large rocks. It’s like putting yourself on the calendar. YOU ARE A PRIORITY. It’s as important as a doctor appointment. When I was in the stage of having little ones home all day, which only ended two weeks ago when my youngest started school all day, I handled it like this.
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
I guarantee if you spend less time on your phone you will be able to find 30 minutes to do something that will fill your well. I have this problem. I speak from experience. Your phone is the burden you willingly carry. Put it down a few times a day and you will feel 10 pounds lighter. I always put it on silent when I go to bed and during my quiet time.
Stop saying yes to every request made of you. I was recently asked to take dinner to a family with a new baby. Food is love in my family, and I usually say yes to something like this because I appreciated it so much in those first few weeks with a newborn. Instead I was honest. “Usually I would love to, but I have company this week, and I can’t do it. I’d love to help another time.” Yes, I felt guilty for saying no. Also, I felt tremendous relief for not piling one more thing on myself when I was already overloaded. Saying no was the right thing to do.
Has anyone else noticed that declaring yourself to be an introvert is the popular thing to do? Well, I am a homebody and truly an introvert, and I always have been. I could stay in my house and not so much as walk to the mailbox FOR WEEKS and be so content. Few things suck the life out of my soul like running around. I hate leaving the house. In college I figured out my limit of trips to campus was 1 per day, so I scheduled my days with back-to-back classes, because if I went home in between, I wouldn’t ever go back.
I can’t stay home for an entire day during the week because my kids’ school doesn’t have a bus, so I have to pick them up every day (my husband often drops them off), and then after school I zigzag all over town like a maniac taking them to sports and appointments. To recover from this, I try to have a 24-hour window each week that I don’t have to leave the house. For me the only opportunities are usually from after school on Friday to late afternoon Saturday, or Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon when we leave for church, or Sunday after church to when I pick up the kids from school on Monday. It all depends on our commitments that weekend. It’s not always possible, but I really try to fit that in.
BE HONEST WITH THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE
Have you ever talked to the important people in your life and explained your needs? Shared what would help you? Don’t assume they know, that’s not fair to them. If you don’t communicate what you need, they can’t support you. I had an honest conversation with my husband a few years ago about my needs (once I figured them out), and now he is mindful of them as well. Often more than I am. When I get edgy or grouchy, he sends me to my room for a break, and I love him for it. Or he takes the kids out of the house for a few hours.
WHAT DIDN’T MAKE THE LIST
Other people will list different ideas that work for them, but they don’t work for me. Manicures and pedicures are wonderful, but they are too social to be replenishing. I like massages, but they require me to leave the house and go somewhere. I LOVE having lunch or dinner with a dear friend, but that doesn’t fill my well in this way. Socializing in general is draining to me, even when I love it. I had so much fun with friends at this conference last week that my cheeks actually ache from smiling and laughing, but it was so draining at the same time that I need recovery time. I need to disengage for a while.
So what if I’m tired? So what if I’m a little grouchy? So what if I have the occasional meltdown? Don’t we all? This is a huge problem for many women. We are last on our own list, and we are sending a message to everyone around us that we should be last on their list too. We are teaching our kids and the other people in our lives that ignoring their own needs is the right, even the noble, thing to do! We can treat ourselves better and be better examples.
It’s affecting our health! Many diseases and autoimmune disorders can be triggered by long-term chronic stress and fatigue. I have been struggling with adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues for YEARS because I pushed myself too hard for too long and ignored my own needs. I also have something called Caregiver’s Fatigue, and it’s a very common problem. I am paying a high price with my health for not taking care of myself.
Quality of life matters, and even if you have the best of everything and the greatest life, if are so exhausted and worn so thin that you can’t appreciate it, what value does it have?
I know you are as over-extended and tired as I am. There are so many aspects of our lives we don’t have a choice over, like traffic and taxes. Let’s commit to giving ourselves at least 30 minutes a day doing something that rejuvenates us. Let’s CHOOSE not to over extend ourselves. Let’s CHOOSE to make ourselves a priority. Let’s CHOOSE where we are today. Let’s CHOOSE to make it right. Are you in? Share in the comments below what you are going to do to care for your needs, even one thing! I’ll start:
I’m going to start my bedtime routine 20 minutes early and do the P.M. yoga practice that helps me sleep better.
I’m going to take my quiet time each afternoon when the alarm goes off (instead of clicking dismiss and continuing to work at a break-neck speed) so I can be replenished when I pick up my kids from school and enjoy that time with them.
I’m going to return to listening to my favorite podcast once a day to get that daily positive boost!
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