We all know the importance of self-care. And yet, it still feels a little unattainable to many. I hear some version of these stories more times than I can count:
- I’m too overwhelmed. My plate is so full it’s spilling over. How can I even think about adding “self-care” on top of it all?
- Sure, self-care. Thanks, I’ll add it to my long to-do list
- I don’t have time/money/energy/support for self-care
- My kids/husband/sick or aging parent/etc needs me more
Sound familiar? I know, I get it, these all used to constantly consume my inner dialogue.
The roots of all of this is: FEAR. Everyone else matters more than I do. Everyone else’s survival is more important than mine I must put everyone else’s oxygen mask on before my own, even when I’m struggling to breathe.
But I’ll tell you from personal experience: you WILL eventually run out of oxygen. Mama, if you don’t put yourself front and center, NO one will.
Part of the problem is that we’re such a product of our consumerist culture that the term “self-care” is distorted. We equate it with spa days, hour-long workouts, or a girl’s nights out. But since those things are inaccessible to many of us, we brush off the entire notion of self-care. We reject it because it’s just too much.
Here’s the good news: Self-care is not another add-on to your to-do list. It’s a mindset. The mindset that when you plan your day/week/month, you’re at the top of your priority list. And often, self-care is more about doing LESS than more.
When that ONE thing shifts, EVERYthing changes.
Let’s do a little exercise: how many minutes are in an hour? No trick question, we all know the answer is 60.
Now, close your eyes. Answer the question, honestly, how many of those minutes are spent caring for others? How many of those minutes do you tune in and ask what YOU need, what would nourish YOU? (No, basic human needs like eating or using the bathroom don’t count.)
For me, it was a big fat ZERO. All of my minutes were devoted to everyone else. It’s no wonder I collapsed when crisis struck. For me, it took being catapulted into the deep-end to finally learn how to swim. It took an earthquake to force me to build the foundation and bracing that would have saved me from destruction in the first place. But friends, we don’t have to wait until The Big One hits. We can create the systems NOW, right now.
When we move ourselves to the top of the priority list a subtle but powerful shift begins to unfold. You begin to ask really tough but important questions like:
- How am I spending my time?
- What really matters in this moment?
- Is the life I’m living one I created, or has simply “happened” to me?
- Am I happy?
- Am I making choices or are my choices making me?
- Am I balancing the things that light me up with the necessary but depleting tasks?
- Or perhaps more importantly, WHAT lights me up? Do I even remember who I am, or have I lost myself so completely in caring for others?
You see, self-care isn’t usually pretty. It’s a sometimes-painful series of questions that force you to evaluate what feels set-in-stone.
For me, it took heartbreak to realize that my heart was begging for attention. I created a system of self-care based on loving myself. It looks like this:
… Allowing myself to sit in pain and discomfort without attempting to distract myself
… Allowing myself to feel in order to heal
… Loving myself so fiercely that I couldn’t help but believe that I can conquer the world
… Sleeping, a lot, drinking water, and MOVING. Barre3 is a central component of my life
… Spending time connecting with amazing friends and family – avoiding the urge to retreat when times get hard
… Embracing gratitude – I keep a gratitude journal and gratitude has become my go-to response to challenges and struggles
… Honoring my limitations and capacity by cutting back when necessary, and keeping life simple
… Every Sunday, writing down my priorities and intentions for the week and working them into my planner
… Intentionally creating space for recovery and stillness
… Making sacrifices so that I can balance work and motherhood in a way that meets my boys’ needs as well as my own
… Playing with my boys or going to sleep instead of cleaning
… Allowing others to see my messy life, embracing that vulnerability
… Loving. Myself. Fiercely. And, unconditionally.