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.
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.
First off let me start off by apologizing because I made a mistake. I took a hiatus, I didn’t post about it, I just kind of stopped writing here. I can give you all the reasons that this happened but it doesn’t matter what the reasons were, I just should have communicated that I wouldn’t be writing for awhile.
I wondered if I would get back to my blog. A part of me wondered if all this time I put into was really worth anything, I don’t get paid for it, I’m not sure if anyone really reads it, and now that I’ve lost my momentum, what’s the point?
See when I make mistakes or when things don’t turn out to be my idea of “successful” I run and hide. I avoid thinking about whatever I was working on because I feel ashamed it didn’t work and I start to distract myself with other things.
But here’s what I’m trying to learn. I am worthy enough to make mistakes. I am worthy enough to keep trying. I am worthy enough to do something I enjoy even if it doesn’t make a difference to anyone. I’m worthy enough simply because I am.
I wonder how many times as mothers we put ourselves down when we make mistakes, dismiss all of our efforts the minute we lose it and yell at our little ones, minimize the importance of our work in the home because it doesn’t bring in money, lather ourselves in guilt when we can’t “have it all.” How much time do we invest into making our children feel worthy while we demean ourselves and place ourselves inferior because of mistakes or judgments from others?
Here’s an important reminder- your worthiness does not lie within motherhood. It’s simply within you. It was there before you child was and there before you had a career. You’re worthy whether or not you pushed out a baby. Whether or not you have a degree. Whether or not you’re pretty, or patient, or penniless. You are worthy even when you yell, even when you feel like you want to get in the car and drive away forever, even when you’re not sure you’re doing your best. You’re worthiness is within you all the time, it’s up to you to realize it’s there and start owning it
When you recognize your worthiness so many positive things happen. You can –
- Take responsibility for mistakes without shame
- Pick yourself up and try again
- Ask for what you need and want
- Recognize the difference between a sacrifice of love and being a martyr
- Demand respect and recognition from others
- Give the best parts of yourself without fear of failure
- Realize what is not worth your time, energy, and effort
So when you feel yourself starting to tear yourself down with shame, insecurity, and fear remember- you are worthy, simply because you are. Now start acting like it.
I’ve always been a person with a mind that races at a million miles a minute. It’s hard for me to stop the plethora of ideas and worries and to-do list items from popping into my mind that motivate me to take immediate action and do something. I put pressure on myself to do something all the time. The thoughts continue to race all the way up to me closing my eyes and I realize that I never get to experience the quiet mind.
And even if you’re not like me we live lives that are full of input. Requests from our children, noise from TV and cell phones, information from articles and Facebook groups, opinions of our families and friends, demands from our daily to-do lists and jobs. Everything’s coming in and if we never have time to sit and sort it out in the silence we can easily feel defeated and overwhelmed.
Silence is not something to always be filled but our society and culture seems to make us believe that. Many people I meet say they feel awkward when there is silence in a conversation. I utilized silence in my therapy sessions with clients often. If they became uncomfortable I encouraged them to take a deep breath and sit with their thoughts before continuing or before I would have my reply. It’s perfectly okay to say to anyone in your life, “Do you mind if it’s quiet for a second, I need some time to think.” This is a profound tool you can use with your children when it comes to discipline. Often if we feel pressure to make a decision and act in the moment we don’t have time to organize our thoughts and feelings and can act rashly or in ways we didn’t intend to.
Silence in itself can be a gift. It’s a gift that is full of time to sit with our thoughts, be with them, and sort through them without having to get up and do something. But we have to do to the work to first create the opportunity for it and then let it be.
So for this post I let myself sit in silence for 5 minutes. I tried to work on mindfulness techniques which I will elaborate later but found myself just wanting to focus on being comfortable with the silence and stillness instead of focusing on my thoughts. You have to be comfortable with the silence and the stillness before you can work on how to really be mindful and meditate. I let myself organize my thoughts and sit with ideas. The one thing I wouldn’t allow myself to do it get up and take action. I had to wait and sit still until those 5 minutes were over. For people like me, this is really really hard. But I was able to form a better action plan for the day, take some time to be gentle with myself about previous judgments, and be inspired for the remainder of the day. I sorted with all that input and feel that things are filed away where they should and I can truly focus on the moment.
So try sitting in silence for 5 minutes each day. Take notice of your thoughts and instincts within those 5 minutes. What did you learn about yourself and your thoughts that you may have not if you were doing something else?
I remember in college having a sign I hung in my room that said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.” I was a passionate girl in college and in many ways I still am. I was ready to fight for what I thought was right and attended various protests for issues I believe in throughout my 4 years there.
I’m not sure that moms who don’t stand for something will fall for anything but I do think that if a mom loses touch with her values it’s very easy to fall for our negative thoughts and judgements we place on ourselves. Our personal values are what keep us grounded and focus. They are the platform that keeps us standing on our own two feet and when we lose touch with them things can get shaky.
Personal values come from many places: our upbringing, our environments, our culture, our relationships, past experiences, and our own unique personalities. They are our compasses to help direct our decisions and behaviors. Sometimes when we feel lost or having difficulties we can fall back on our values to guide us. When we feel disheartned about our direction in life our values can be the light at the end of the tunnel. When we feel discouraged by our choices or the way things are going we can again rely on our values to center and ground us.
Reflect on your values inside and outside of motherhood. If you need some examples here is a list:
Fun Wealth Achievement Education Faith
Creativity Fairness Compassion Generosity Adventure
Family Community Health Loyalty Love
Empathy Discipline Honesty Hard Work Happiness
Freedom Practicality Exploration Patriotism Balance
Simplicity Success Growth Security Leadership
Independence Grace Intelligence Beauty Service
For your self-care exercise this week write down your top 10 values and then circle your top 3. Ask yourself these questions:
How are you living by your values? In what ways is it difficult to stick to these values?
How do you show your children and close family and friends that these values are important to you?
Do you make decisions everyday based on these values? Do you allow values of less importance take over? Which ones?
Write down 2 things you can do this week to show your commitment to these values.
So mama, what do you stand for? What are you about as a person, woman, and mom? If a value is mportant to you then try to find ways this week to make it priority. Let this be your roadmap to your decisions inside and outside of motherhood. Stand on that platform of strength and proud of who you are and what you’re about. You’ll be a guiding light for yourself and your children.