Self-care is a trending topic amongst women, particularly mothers, right now. It’s common to see friends and fellow mamas post images of their spa day or shopping spree in the name of #selfcare. On occasion, we dig deeper and include our physical health under this umbrella, too. It’s all much-needed, well-deserved, and often long overdue. What I find alarming, however, is the degree to which we just barely scratch the surface of what it means to truly take care of ourselves.
I recently started seeing a therapist to talk through some of the things I’ve been experiencing as a parent with anxiety. She said something to me at one of our recent sessions that just reverberates in my mind: What are you going to do to make sure you’re ok?
As mothers/partners/women, we often forego our own needs in order to tend to others. For me, giving of myself to others has always been so fulfilling that it never occurred to me that I was emptying my own tank while I was filling up others’. I’m an educator, so service to others is innately a part of who I am. But when that question was posed to me, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I paused for a minute, then finally said, “I don’t know.” So she gave me homework – to figure out how I was going to take better care of myself (mind, body, heart, and soul).
That was it. The exact paradigm shift I needed. After that, I got to work. I set out to ensure I was doing things for myself. The type of work that would truly impact my well-being.
Affirmation Journal. I started an affirmation journal. Anyone else ridiculously bad at positive self-talk? If I’m going to truly care for myself, I have to change the way I think. Every single morning, the first thing I do when I wake up is write down affirmations. Things I know to be true about myself. Things I struggle to remind myself are true. The impact? I’ve noticed a huge shift in the way I approach my day. I start with positivity and that energy stays with me. Change your thoughts, change your behavior.
Meditation. Taking the time, even if only for 10-15 minutes a day, to sit and check in with yourself can be deeply rewarding and reenergizing. Meditation can look different for different people or at different times. For me, sometimes it’s literally clearing my head of all thoughts. Other times, it’s checking in with my values and intentions and focusing my energy to those things. If you struggle to meditate on your own, you may want to check out these apps: Insight, Headspace, Calm, or even the “Breathe” app if you’re an Apple Watch wearer!
Therapy. I’ve been guilty of thinking I can handle every single thing that comes my way. I have anxiety, but I refuse to define myself by it. Having a standing appointment to talk through the events of my life, acquire tools for handling stressful situations, and checking in with someone holds me accountable, but also gives me the mental release that’s necessary to ensure I’m feeling strong.
Movement. Be it running around at the park with your kids, taking a long morning walk to yourself, or exercising in the more traditional sense, it’s important to get your body moving. I’ve made a point to move, even if it’s a stroller walk with my daughter after a long work day, to clear my mind and enjoy the fresh air. It truly does decrease my stress levels and it’s something I’m able to do WITH my daughter, rather than finding the time in my schedule to get a solo workout in.
Reading. This one was a big shift for me. It’s so much easier to mindlessly tune out to the TV when I finally settle into bed for the evening, but I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I’ve made a point to sit down in my bed each night and read a chapter of a book I’m interested in. It nourishes my mind, which feeds my soul.
Taking some time away from motherly duties, in any capacity, can absolutely serve as self-care, but I believe it’s even more important (vital, even) to focus on the kind of deep repair that’s needed when you’ve neglected your own well-being for a prolonged period of time. And let’s be honest, it’s easy for us moms to do that without even realizing it. What are some ways that you prioritize your well-being?