One of the most important tenets of self-care for me is that self-care is a prevention tool. This means that engaging in self-care practices can prevent stress, becoming overwhelmed, having emotional breakdowns, coming into negative head space, or disillusionment. The most important thing however, is that self-care is used in a way to prevent first, then treat. This means that self-care is engaged in a routine and daily fashion not just relied upon when stress takes over. So engage in creating your own self-care plan in order to make sure you’re maintaining emotional health instead of just remedying it when it starts to falter. Here are some tips:
- Creating a self-care plan can be done in the way that best suits your personality. If you’re a little type A and need some structure to your day make sure you write in (WITH PEN) your daily self-care practices or rituals. If you’re more type-B don’t worry about having a set plan for each day but pay attention to the rhythm and flow and stay mindful of the best times to utilize for self-care. Either way make a commitment to at least a 10-15 minute self-care ritual each day. You may have to test and trial times and spaces that work for you based on your schedule. You may think that you’ll wake up an hour early each day and then keep hitting the snooze button- then its time to change what time is best for your self-care ritual.
- Each morning take some time to think mindfully about which practice would most benefit you during your self-care time. This is important because we can easily fall into doing something that is mindless or not as impactful during self-care time. “Me time” is different than “self-care time.” Self-care time is mindful and focused on doing something to enhance your emotional and/or physical wellbeing. “Me time” is giving in to whatever desires you have for yourself and maybe even indulging- there is nothing wrong with this. However, self-care time is more planful and intentional and a NECESSITY, not a luxury. I have watched so many nap times come and go where I didn’t feel any more nurtured or rested because I sat in front of the TV or on the internet for 2 hours and that wasn’t refreshing for me. That “me time” wasn’t working for me so I had to devote the first half hour to mindful self-care and then I could turn on the tube.
- Keep a list of self-care practices readily available. Sometimes it can be daunting to even sit down and think about what we want to do for ourselves. Having a list of self-care rituals at hand can be helpful to select what is best for ourselves that day. Breaking self-care rituals into different categories that address our needs can also be helpful. Feeling a little in need of more social time? Have a list of self-care rituals that help address loneliness or disconnection such as writing an email to an old friend, scheduling a coffee date with another mom, or Skyping with your cousin who lives overseas.
Here are some examples of self-care rituals from various aspects of human need. You can ask yourself what area you feel you have the most need in and select a practice from that category.
Spiritual– Read from a religious text or spiritual book, pray, reflect, or meditate, journal, educate yourself on a spiritual subject you’ve wanted to learn more about
Emotional– write in a gratitude journal, write a letter to yourself talking about your strengths, open up and ask for support from a friend, engage in healthy coping skills, read a self-help book, journal, engage in some form of creative expression through writing, art, dance, or music
Physical- exercise, yoga, sensory rituals that heal such as hot baths, aromatherapy, schedule a massage
Social – write an email to an old friend, go a new group or social event and meet new people, engage in an online support group, schedule time out with friends, schedule a date night or private time with your partner, call a friend or family member just to catch up
Intellectual– read the news, read a book, engage in a hobby or start a new hobby, make a list of goals, join a group based on your interests
Take 5 minutes today or tomorrow to engage in making a self-care plan and stick to it no matter what. Making this a daily ritual can have an amazing impact on maintaining good emotional health.
September brings about this freshness and renewal for personal growth. With children returning to school we are reminded of the goals we want to achieve and start organizing ourselves to strive towards them.
This can be a great thing… unless you have a tendency towards perfection. If you’re anything like me writing down lists and making big plans gives you a “high” that is most often followed by a “low” when you realize you’ll never get it all done. We set our expectations high and we place so many hopes on that sense of accomplishment that can never come because its just impossible to achieve.
I’ll never plan every meal a week ahead of time or make dinner every night. My husband does way more of the cooking than I and yet I find myself each Sunday convincing myself that I’ll take on the meals because I “should.” Why am I trying so hard to strive to be something that I’m just naturally not?
So I’ve decided this week I’m going to do the exact opposite of setting my sights high and choosing to strive towards perfect stay at home motherhood or at least the societal expectation I put upon myself.
In short- I’m going to rebel.
Rebelling is something we often relate to our teenage years. We may look back at ourselves and roll our eyes at the ways we rebelled now but in that moment the rebellion was essential to our development. Rebelling is a key way to affirm your identity and assert your values whether or not they are part of the establishment. It’s a way of saying, “I’m making these choices for me and not for what I feel society expects.” It’s liberating, it’s freeing, it’s so damn important.
In a way being a mom sometimes feels like those junior high days where you feel you have to do so much to fit in. Only instead of liking N’Sync and wearing Doc Martens its feeding your children organic vegetables and knowing everything there is to know about the latest parenting book. Societal expectations and attitudes prey upon the vulnerable, those that are insecure about who they are and that quite perfectly sums up how I’ve felt the past 2 years. Well mamas, its time for a rebellion.
To be honest my actions might not change that much in my rebellion. I set my sights high to cook each week and then they usually don’t pan out anyways. I make cook no more or less than I usually do. However, its my attitude towards how much I cook that will change. I’m not cooking because I feel I should. I’ll cook because I want to. Now I may cook because there’s a tasty recipe I’ve found or because I want my son to eat more veggies or because I want to do something nice to my husband. But I refuse to cook because I feel that it somehow makes me a better mom in the eyes of society. That attitude I will firmly rebel against.
I’ll take more time for myself this week and ask for it clearly. I’m rebelling against the expectation that moms must be martyrs.
I’ll go with the flow and stop feeling disappointed if I don’t have a firm schedule for my 2 year old. I’m rebelling against the expectation that moms must be in control at all times.
I’ll communicate with my son the way that feels loving and naturally to me. I won’t obsess over saying “good job”too much or worry that anytime I get short with him I’ve done permanent and irreversible damage to his self esteem (I will however, apologize to him). I’m rebelling against the expectation that there is only one right way to parent.
Again, I may go about my week in a similar fashion as always but the way I perceive these actions will change. Instead of rebelling against my sense of self I’m going to rebel against the societal attitudes that I’ve let seep into my life.
So find some small ways to rebel this week. Start to follow your choices and actions based on what you truly want and feels is best regardless of the attitudes out there that say otherwise. Rebel on mamas.
I was in a dark place this last week.
It was dark outside. It was dark inside my mind. I was not me.
I allowed myself to stay in this dark place for quite awhile. I allowed the sleep deprivation to keep me under water. Instead of fighting to thrive I just decided to survive.
Some days as moms we talk about how it is just about getting through the day. But when that becomes every day for a period of time it starts to feel like a dark place. You don’t want to just survive. You want to live, to experience happiness, accomplishment, connection, and fulfilment.
And then this morning I took a brief walk. It was just 5 minutes around my city block while I listened to music but the air felt fresher, my eyes stayed forward instead of looking down, there was a bounce in my step. And it hit me- I had reached the other side.
It’s hard to remember when we are in our dark place that the other side exists. That is is waiting for us. Sometimes it’s up to us to get there and sometimes life circumstances brings it to us. But it is there. Sometimes it gets hard, really hard to find it or wait for it to come. But it’s always out there somewhere.
It’s the place where our best self exists. It’s the place where we feel more whole. The sun shines in our mind. We see all that is before us and are grateful. We see a beautiful self in the mirror and not the monster that was there before.
I write to remember this moment, that refreshing moment of entering the other side. I write so that I remember that it exists if I leave it and am in a dark place again.
I will not get this past week back. I can not take away my mistakes. I can not erase the irritability, the coldness that I spread to my son because he was the only one there to take it. It hurts when I think about it. But its something else I need to remember. I am capable of allowing myself to be less than I am when I’m in dark place. I must be gentle with myself and then others, I must assert my needs, I must ask for help.
So I’ll hopefully be on the other side for awhile. The dark side will start to slowly pull me back. My self-awareness is my best weapon. My belief that I am worthy of always being on this side can help keep me here longer. And if I do get pulled back to the dark side my memory of the other side can hopefully keep my stay there shorter and the strength and motivation to get back to it stronger.