A Little Self-Care Goes a Long Way
Why is it so hard to take time for ourselves? My first feeling is guilt, and my second fear is time. Is there enough time in my schedule for “me” moments? Taking time for myself also means that someone else is usually “on the con,” and I do feel guilty for handing off my children. And then, I also worry - what will I do with my time? What activity will provide the most nourishment for the shortest amount of time and the smallest of amount of money? And when I finally get some time, I still end up thinking of my children and my partner. How do I escape?
Wait, what? Escape? Is that what I am really looking for? I crave a space and time where I am the focus of my love and light. Just me! NO ONE ELSE. Peace. Quiet. Sacred alone time.
Create a new narrative
As women we are biologically and culturally wired to put others first. This is our superpower. This is what I believe will heal the world (if we don’t burnout beforehand). I don’t want to always put myself first, just enough. Balance. Taking time for ourselves is not just about self-care, it is key to healthy relationships, a happy family, and a vibrant community. When I feel the guilt creep in, I activate this new narrative: Self-Care is Good for My Marriage, Family, and the World. This is not selfish work, this is sacred work. When we nourish ourselves, and allow our reserves to fill back up we can be better caretakers, lovers, and activists. Everyone burns out if they don’t balance their lives. Ok, so good - take care of you so you can be your best self. AND, let us teach our children the value of self-love. I think our society does a damn fine job of teaching our children about shame. As parents we usually don’t require our kids to love themselves, we do that work. We love them and love them and love them. But, are we helping them love themselves? One radical way we can do this is to model what it looks like. So take your “me” time! It’s good for everyone, today and in the future. Self-care is a radical act. Do it and change the world, one act of self-love at a time.
Bigger is not always better
Alright, so you get it: self-love is good for everyone. But how to get it? I used to think self-care happened on a special day where I scheduled hours away from my family. I felt I needed hours to recoup and reconnect with my voice and my power. The problem is - that hardly EVER happened. It was such an adjustment on everyone’s part that I seldom asked for the time. And, it would usually mean taking time away from precious weekend hours spent with my whole family. My grand expectations were difficult to meet. And the worst part - I rarely felt the kind of rejuvenation I was seeking. Call it buyer's remorse, but I never felt like the time off was worth the amount of strength and joy I got in return. I actually made me feel worse, especially if I spent a bunch of money on a spa day.
Little Things Add Up to Deep Joy
Defeated by my attempts to create deep joy through epic ‘Me” days, I just stopped. Still in need of something to nourish my soul, I created small pockets of self-love. Showering was the first small act of self-love that I consistently fit into my life (if you are a mama, you know how hard it is to find time to shower when there are small children in the house). For our family, nights work best. This was difficult to establish, mostly because I am exhausted in the evenings. It’s much easier to veg out with a show, or curl up in bed with a book, or chat with my partner. “Just do it,” I told myself. I asked my husband to help me. We even discussed language he could use, “would you like to…” or even “what can I do so you can...?” Seriously, I needed a lot of help to get this habit started. Now I have added on a 15-30 minute yoga practice after the shower. This is life-changing. The key is heading to the shower at an early enough time to leave room for stretching. These two things can change everything! If you regularly bring mindfulness to bathing and stretching I guarantee you will feel more nourished. It’s not about escaping your family, it’s about focusing on you. When you are in the shower/bath trace the words “love” and “kindness” and “strong” on the surface of your skin. Heal yourself a little bit each day.
Sacrifices must be made in order for self-care to happen. Usually it means replacing short-lived pleasure with practices that cultivate deep joy. I have to say, in my experience, this is not always fun...at first. My greatest sacrifice in the pursuit of ‘me’ time has been carving out time in the morning. I used to love sleeping in...as long as possible. I learned, however, that the morning is precious quiet time. It is an opportunity to touch base with myself before the chaos of the day begins. I began to force myself to wake before the children. The very best thing I do are “Morning Pages.” Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, created this idea. She writes, “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind… Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.” I also incorporate my daily Tarot readings into my Morning Pages. It is a writing meditation, allowing thoughts to come to the forefront of the mind, and then letting them pass. It is a braindump, the act of clearing my mind of mental clutter. In this way I make space for peace and heart-centered actions. This is a practice in listening to intuition and connecting with my wisest self. Most mornings it is still hard to rise from my cozy bed, and yet I do it. This morning time is divine.
Find What Works for You
The challenge is finding the activities that fill you up. Everyone is going to be different. I have a friend who needs to be immersed in water; she needs a hot tub or an ocean. An introverted friend of mine is replenished by intimate one-on-one dates with friends. Another friend needs to go out dancing. Find what brings you joy and make the time, and do it regularly. As it turns into a habit, your family will begin to expect it. It will become strange when you don’t do it. For me, I need regular hangouts with my friends. I need daily journaling. I need to make art. And, actually some of these things I can do with my family. I can sew while the kids are playing, and the feeling I have upon the completion of a project is self-love! Painting with my kids is soul-nourishing. Baking warms my heart. Therefore, I made a list of things that bring ME joy, like baking, painting, and walks, and I folded them into our weekly rhythm. Experiment with different activities. Share your findings! Spread the word on self-love. What works for you? I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying it is worth it. YOU are worth it.
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