Self Care Is Not A Luxury
There is always a price to pay
The last year and a half has been a sprint. I’ve been working 24/7 on the three (actually 15) new courses, the seasonal Classic Wardrobe Guides, a cross-country move, getting six kids adjusted to a new life, new home renovations, a water leak that meant moving out of our new house for five weeks, a death in the family, illness, hormone replacement therapy, and that’s on top of the same chaos and uncertainty everyone else in the world is going through.
Some of them great things, some of them terrible things, some of them outside of my control, many of them my own doing, most of them happening simultaneously, and all of them a big deal on their own. In my usual determination to do everything, be everything, and have everything, I took on way too much and 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. Is this the first time I’ve made these mistakes? Sadly, no. But hopefully I’m learning.
I had an entirely different post scheduled for today, but I felt so strongly that I needed to share 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.
This article and the video below are taken from the Stunning Style Weekly Style Snack! Join us Wednesdays at 1pm ET on the Stunning Style Facebook page or the FREE Capsule Wardrobes for Classic Style Facebook Group.
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.” This isn’t your typical list of bubble baths and lunch with friends (although those can be great options!). We are getting down to the fundamentals of self-care, and 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 Twists here). It really depends on the day. For the last 9 months I NEEDED black clothes and stabby accessories. I didn’t want any color, not even white to lighten it up a bit. Navy and espresso brown also worked for me.
I’ve also craved 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. I’ve been wearing some color lately, now that things have finally calmed down, but today I’m back in a head-to-toe dark neutral outfit because I need it.
I NEEDED black year. 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’ve worn lately:
Move 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 seven 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. A couple of years ago I discovered hot yoga, and it worked with my body’s needs and was amazing for my brain as well, but 18 months ago I sprained my ankle very badly, and it took a year for it to heal. By then we had moved and I was too busy and tired to find a new place to go. But really, when I’m so busy and so tired, I need it even more.
Next week we will talk about How to Start and Stick to an Exercise Routine, because I’m back on the exercise bandwagon as of a week ago. I confess I have whined, complained, and pouted about it because I am so frustrated by how weak I am right now. Starting over is the hardest part, but it’s AMAZING for my brain and soul. Of course always follow your doctor’s advice on physical activity.
Feed and Hydrate Your Body
Loving your body also means nourishing it. Over the last year I’ve been eating like a toddler. Instead of making myself a proper lunch, I was eating Totino’s pizzas every day. I lived on those in college, and I still love them the way I love blue box macaroni. They are nostalgic. But they do NOTHING to nourish my body. Sometimes I ate cheese and crackers with pepperoni. Also not my best option. Or I grabbed fast food, which is probably even worse. I convinced myself that my daily smoothie was making up for it, which isn’t true.
Honestly, I’m not motivated to make food for myself. My family? Yes. Me? No. But without good nutrients and food, our bodies won’t work properly. I was talking about this with a friend yesterday, and how important it is to keep the insides of our bodies clean. Am I going on some extreme whole foods kick? No. But I’m adding back things like…vegetables. Making sure I get enough protein in a day so I can build the muscle I’m after.
I always struggle to come up with an idea in the moment (and that’s how we landed on a freezer full of Totino’s), so I made a list of quick, easy, and nourishing meals I can feed myself.
And water. I love water, but for the last couple of weeks I’ve been perpetually dehydrated, and I knew it. I was too busy to go refill my water bottle, and last night I paid the price in the form of horrible foot cramps. Every time I drifted off, the cramping started, alternating feet for half the night. Usually one glass of water will stop it. I drank another 45 ounces of water by the time it finally stopped, but then I was up the rest of the night running to the bathroom. Let’s all drink water. Before bedtime (pauses for a long swig from my water bottle).
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 Up and Get Dressed
I get up and get dressed every single day, and I always have, even when I had infant triplets. It is self care. It makes everything about my day go better. It’s a way loving yourself, showing up for yourself, and saying you are worth that time.
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. I get dressed in 20 minutes every day, and knowing my style makes that easier than ever. If getting dressed is a struggle because you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear, I have a free masterclass called “Five Steps to Find the Right Clothes for You” that will get you started.
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Speaking of sleep, it’s my enemy, and my sleep is all over the place 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 am going back to making it a priority to start getting ready for bed at 9 (and drinking water so I can go to sleep).
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 alone outside on my bench 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
I’ve talked many times about what an enormous impact listening to Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School podcast has had on me. It really helps me get in a positive, empowered mindset for the day. I used to listen to her while I get ready or while I drive, but I got out of the habit when I stopped driving anywhere because no one could go anywhere.
During the 18 months of craziness, I also stopped listening because I thought one more input would fry my brain, but I realized I had spiraled into negative self-talk and doubt again, so I queued up and the next episode on my playlist was #17 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 quickly 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. Sharing my whole life with the internet isn’t something I’m comfortable with, so I don’t.
Rather than publishing 7 hastily-written posts every day of the week. I prefer to give you one thoughtful, well-written Style Snack a week. I don’t want to show up in your inbox or feed unless I have something worth reading or hearing.
how do I find time for self care? I'm so busy!
Girl, aren’t we all? Here’s how I do it:
Schedule It In
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, and I speak from experience. I need a break from my phone. It’s as demanding as a toddler, and I’m working on trying get away from it, but simultaneously drawn to it.
It seems most of us feel obligated to be available constantly, and I’m just as guilty. Our phone is the burden we willingly carry. Put it down a few times a day and you will feel 10 pounds lighter. I leave mine on silent all the time, which is a nice break from the dings and notifications, but I might start leaving it in another room.
Stop saying yes to every request made of you. I didn’t take any outfit pictures for about six months this year because it was one thing too many. Something had to give, and that was one of the things.
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 am struggling to find time to help my own kids 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.
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.
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 family 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.
What we are teaching our kids and the other people in our lives is 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 commit to working out three times a week.
- I commit to taking 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 commit to feeding my body to fuel my body (and drink my water!).
28 thoughts on “Let’s Commit To Self-Care”
Yes…I need to kickstart some self-care habits now that our move is over. I’m specifically thinking of a short yoga routine each morning before I do anything else.
Thank you for today’s post. I have experienced (and still experience the effects from) very similar things such as thyroid issues, adrenal issues, 6 children (ages 19 -30), and trying to do everything, be everything, and all of it needing to be perfect!
This summer, I realized that I felt guilty spending money on skincare products, and would hardly use them, even when I got the "gift" ones with the purchase of makeup. I committed to an a.m./p.m. facial regiment – not just wearing makeup and taking it off, but actually caring for my skin whether I wear makeup or not. I am seeing results! My skin loves it!
I commit to continuing this, and trying to eat more veggies!
Blessings on you and your week!
Thank you for this post, April! I am dreadful at giving myself time and nearly always end up so overwhelmed that my fiancè doesn’t know what to do with me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to explain to him that I need space and rest when I get like this and he is very understanding. When we went through our marriage preparation classes with our church, one thing that came up was how important exercise and space were to the both of us. So, I’ll be putting in place doing the PM yoga session at nighttime to start with. Thank you for the timely and gentle reminder!
Rebecca, my goal is not to end up in that horribly overwhelmed space (very often. Let’s be real and admit I won’t be perfect at it) so I don’t need to be managed. Your PM yoga practice sounds like a great way to prevent that. And how wonderful that you are preparing for a happy healthy marriage this way.
Jill a move is so disruptive! A short yoga routine first thing sounds like the perfect way to start your day.
Deborah, you absolutely deserve to care for your skin! It’s your largest organ and protection, and I’m so glad you are seeing results. What a great way to take care of yourself. The veggies will support your skin too.
Great post, lots of great tips and reminders.
I too love historical fiction and am wondering if you would share a list of some titles of books you’ve enjoyed—I’m always on the hunt for great books to read. I recently read “America’s Fist Daughter “ and highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.
Thanks Jenni! I’ll check that one out! I’ve really enjoyed Sharon Kay Penman’s books about the British Monarchy. I personally prefer to start at the beginning, but some of them are series, like the Welsh Princes series (but still reference previous books).
Also, something that I rarely see on self care lists, but one that I find so replenishing—listening to great music.
I don’t really like having music on in general because it becomes background noise and adds to the chaos at my house (I have 6 kids). But, I love to listen to music intentionally—headphones on, eyes closed—and I get lost in the music. My current favorite song to do this with is “Requiem for a Dream” by Jennifer Thomas. I don’t even have words to describe how amazing this song is, or how amazing I feel when I listen to this song. It’s not a quiet, gentle song, it has big movement through the song, but for me the overall effect is very rejuvenating.
April! Sounds like you’ve got this self care thing nailed down. I was completely exhausted after the conference. So many people love you and are sending good vibes your way! My self care is getting outside, adopting rocks and spending time with the introverts in my life.
Boni thank you! I have self-care THEORY nailed down. I struggle with application. I love that you adopt rocks.
Jenni I’ll check out that song. I love music, but often choose silence because with 6 kids silence is golden and rare.
Thank you for this post! You wrote it just for me. 😉
Paulette I absolutely did write it just for you! You’re welcome
I really enjoyed this post. I also really enjoyed spending time with you at the conference. I relate to these things wholeheartedly. Thanks for making this wonderful information available. ????
Hi Shannan! I loved spending time with you at the conference as well! Laughing and crying all at the same time.
I love to read a blog post that is open and honest like this one you wrote. Those of us out here reading and participating in your Stunning Style think often times you are perfect and your life is perfect. Thank you for your candor. This is my first season here and I am learning more about you with each post. All of your links went to non-existing pages. I would really like to read some of your earlier posts. I hope. Once again, thank you for your real-life update, we all are there as well or have been at one time.
Thank you Kathryn. I am far from perfect, and so is my life. I try to be positive and also honest about myself. It’s a fine line to walk, but everyone struggles. We usually can’t see it, though. I’ll fix the links. Thanks for letting me know.
Thanks for being so vulnerable…and helpful, April.
I would love a blog about sleep!
Thanks for being so supportive, Jean.
I also need to disengage for a time each day. My father died 2 years ago and prior to that I was with him almost daily for 3 years in and out of the hospital with all of his medical woes. I had to be his advocate and even though I don’t regret a single day I was more tired than I had ever been in my life. Currently my 95 year old mother is in assisted living and declining rapidly. These types of things are sad and slowly suck the life out of you. I can look at pictures of me from a few years ago and see how all of this has just drained me. It is finally cooler here in VA and I want to start walking. Thanks April for reminding us all we need to take care of ourselves first!
This appears to be an old post so I don’t expect a response from you. Without daily time in the Word of God, prayer and meditation, I would be stressed, and experience many of the effects of stress that you’ve described. I hope you’ll consider adding time alone with God to your life and see what a difference it can make.
I already do those things and I agree. They make such a difference!
Thank you so much for this timely post April! This was for me! I went through a very difficult time earlier this year that resulted in a panic attack and unintentionally losing about 8 pounds among other complications. I was in survival mode and self care time was non existent. My health was terrible – I was not eating well, getting enough sleep, or exercising. There were many factors out of my control, but now that some of those have calmed down I am really trying to commit to self-care again. Recently I have started exercising again and it feels wonderful. Thank you for all of your thoughts and ideas here. So much to think about. I really need to remember how important this all is!
I am committing to move my body more by walking 20 minutes every day and to preparing real food for myself.
Thank you for this post!
We were on holiday for 7.5 weeks. One of the things I was dreading was connecting with one of the stepchildren. Things went much better then I could have hoped to, I was having anxiety attacks about the time with the kids (30’s to 40’s in ages plus grandchildren) We didn’t do much each day other then sitting on the covered deck watching the birds and squirrels and their interaction with each other. I am committing to enjoying the outdoors and wearing lipstick each day. I either sew or read for a bit each day. What I have to do is not to stress about getting things done and enjoy the moments. One big change is we are moving in about 5 years to be closure to both sides of the families. I need to be honest with the house that is being renovated, it is going to take a while. I also need to make some hard decisions on what goes as the house is smaller then the current one. I need to be closure to water which refills me, this will be happening. We can see Lake Erie in the winter from the new home. I cannot really explain the refilling of my soul from listening to the sound of the water and surf other I can feel myself getting filled up.
I commit to:
1.Eating lunch every day instead of picking or working through it and then wondering why I have a splitting headache most Fridays
2. Drinking more water
3. Turning off all devices except my Kindle an hour before bedtime
I would love to hear more about how you improve your sleep, April. Between ‘busy brain’ and hot flashes around the clock, sleep has been a problem for me for years. Any tips to try would be appreciated!
I also needed this post, when I finally made time for me to read it! I was especially intrigued by the water/sleep connection! I commit to more water. Also, I find I play games on my phone to put up a “barrier” against people talking to me when I crave quiet. I need to be more direct and simply ask for silence and to be left to my own thoughts. More restful!