Have you had enough of all this self-care talk? Thinking to yourself, "Ok, all this talk is nice and all, but I don't really need any of this stuff. I'm good. I feel fine. I take time out for myself. I see my friends. My kids are sleeping through the night. We eat healthy, most... ok some of the time. I'm fine. I don't really need any of this self-care thing."
Except that you do. Because self-care isn't a destination. You don't actually ever arrive anywhere. "Fine" isn't the end goal. Motherhood is a journey and there ain't no refunds on this ride.
Consider it like packing for vacation. Getting ready to leave can be pretty stressful for me. I love to travel but the packing of outfits, and jewelry and shoes and hair products and chargers and ALL. THE. THINGS. Into a tiny suitcase. It takes days of preparation which I always leave until the four hours before my flight.
But, the moment I get on that plane, woah! I immediately start to feel different. Relaxed. Calm. I begin to unwind. The vacation is here! I'm nearing my destination! I can finally breathe.
But taking care of yourself is not just about lying on a beach on some beautiful island and getting a massage. Or even having a weekly manicure or standing date night with your girlfriends. That's not to say that that's not a lot of fun and important too. But, it's not enough. And if you don’t establish self-care into your daily routine, all the spa treatments in the world won’t help you be the best version of you.
Self-care is more like packing for the vacation. It requires a little bit of work like deliberate consideration, the creation of a plan and, perhaps most difficult of all, discipline. Laying on the beach and getting a massage can feel incredible, but it’s generally not a long-term solution.
So, how do you start integrating self-care into your daily life?
1. First, let’s take some time to consider your routines. Do me a favor and skip Netflix tonight. Instead, do this little exercise with me. Find some paper and a pen that you like and squirrel yourself away in a comfy chair on your deck or living room. Grab a cup of tea or maybe some wine. Spend the next thirty minutes or so writing down all of the things that stress you out or make you unhappy over the course of a day or the week or in this past year. No rules on how to do this, just brain dump. Whether it’s how rushed and chaotic your mornings feel with your kids, to the state of your living room, or your difficulty of staying on track with healthy eating at work, or troubles in a relationship, it’s okay if you fill up the page. I almost always do with this exercise.
Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a great place to start identifying where you want to begin making some changes. Once you have this list take some time to review it. I don’t mean just glace over it, I mean really consider what you’ve written. Do you notice any patterns or themes? Are there any connections? Does anything really stand out to you?
Next, circle three or four things that are most pressing on your mind right now. Follow your heart when selecting these. And if your heart is quiet and nothing is speaking to you at the moment, select the first thing or things that came to mind.
For the record, these don’t have to be life-altering or world-changing things. It could just be that your cluttered countertops are making you bat$hit crazy every day. Or that dinnertime is a disaster every night, which makes you yell at your kids and resent your husband every night. Or perhaps you hate your commute and want a promotion so you can work from home more often. Maybe you’ve just been in a funk lately and want to get out of it. Listen to your heart. Check in with your gut.
Now, look at the stressors that you just circled. If you were able to eliminate one of these of these stressors with the snap of your fingers, which one would it be? What would have the biggest, positive impact on your life? Select that as your starting point for self-care.
2. Now it's time to create a plan! You thought it was going to be easier than that, didn’t’ you? Snap your fingers and let’s make some change, am I right?
Well, as my fave girl, Rachel Hollis would say, “girl, wash your face.” That means it’s time to brush yourself off, put on your big girl pants and take responsibility and ownership over your life. $hitty things are going to happen. Life is unfair. It can be ugly and hard. But it's up to you to make it what you want. To find beauty. Create your happiness. Make it exactly what you want. And don't stop until you succeed. This applies to your career as much as it does to clean countertops. What do you want? Go. And. Get. It.
You 100% control your own actions. Which means that you can create the change that you're looking for. You can teach yourself pretty much anything using Google and YouTube. Did you see the video where the mom taught herself how to build a freakin' house using YouTube videos? Your power is infinite, mama. You just have to want it bad enough.
So, ask questions, find the experts, talk to friends, get on Pinterest if that's your jam. Just. Do. Something. Create a plan to change the crappy parts of your day. Because you're not going to wake up one morning and find that things have magically worked themselves out. I'm still working on that invention...
Let me show you how this exercise can work:
Since having children, one of the many things I’ve struggled with is cooking. I love to cook but I do not love to cook for my children. It's a major stressor for me because feeding a family is, as you know, never f*&king ending.
After identifying the major stressor(s) in your life, jot down the ways that you could alleviate the pain for yourself. Don't worry about how realistic the solutions are right now. And don't worry about money or feasibility. Just write them all down.
Me? I could use a meal delivery service, order take-out a lot, subscribe to a meal planning service, meal plan on my own, simplify my menu, prepare meals in advance, buy some ready-made meals, or enlist the help of my husband. There are likely many more but they are the first that came immediately to mind.
Now, which ONE of these solutions could you most quickly and easily implement in your life? Select the one that would make the biggest impact on the problem. And don't discount the "expensive" solutions. It may not be as expensive as you think if the end result is less stress, a calmer state, and increased happiness. Think of it as an investment and then consider the return on that investment. It's likely that you can shift your spending a little bit in other areas to make the solution more affordable.
In my case, I love love love grocery delivery and pick-up services. Online shopping, local delivery, all of the above. A good friend of mine even gets Binny's delivered to her house! Genius! Because shopping with three kids makes my head explode. I never get everything I need because I can't think while my kids are shopping with me. And when I go alone it takes FOR EHHHHH VERRRRR because I saunter through the aisles as though I'm on a vacation.
Delivery costs extra BUT saves me the time and stress of getting the kids into a car, to the store, through the store and back home. It also saves me from a lot of random extra purchases and impulse buys. So, while there is a cost, the ROI is significantly worth it to me.
This is a form of self-care. Taking care of yourself by eliminating stress from your life. And what works for me is going to be different than what works for someone else. So do yourself the honor of thinking through this with some sincerity.
You may have no problem handling your three kids at the store at once (I've seen you, unicorn mama, galavanting through the store with your brood like it's no thang. Respect.) In your case, a grocery delivery service isn't worth it. But maybe, if cooking is a stressor, you'd gladly pay extra for pre-chopped vegetables. Hmm, now that I think about that, I may add that to my solution toolbox as well.
The point, again, is to come up with a plan that addresses and alleviates your biggest daily stressor(s). If your counters are cluttered and it's making you bat $hit crazy every time you look at them, it's time to address them. Clean it off, get rid of 90% of the stuff, and come up with a system to prevent yourself from putting it all back tomorrow. Maybe you need a table by your door, maybe you need a place for your purse, a desk to sort mail, etc. Look at what is piling up and why and figure out a plan for what to do with it.
A critical component in coming up with your solution is to understand your values. What will implementing a solution free up for you? Time? Mental anguish? Freedom to spend more time doing what you want and love? In my case, having the grocery shopping under control makes me feel more prepared at home and thus more easily able to handle my responsibilities.
3. In order for any of the above to work, you have to actually stick to the new routine that you create for yourself. Discipline is truly where most of us meet our demise.
Setting yourself up for success means taking baby steps, one day at a time. Every. Day.
There are a lot of theories out there about how long it takes to form a habit and what it takes to achieve "success." Obviously, you have to be the judge of what exactly that is for you, but, forming a new and positive habit is a great start.
The most compelling research shows that habits take approximately 66 days to form. That's not exactly a short period of time but it's not an eternity either. It's just over two months. If you break that up into ten, one-week increments you're working with something that's more manageable to attain.
Also, when coming up with your solution, stay off your phone or computer. I often get caught up in researching "the best organization system for..." or "the best way to..." and I come up with something that doesn't work for me personally. It seems like a great idea on paper but I never actually end up implementing a solution.
You are a smart woman, you know deep in your heart what it's going to take. So think about the best solution to your stressor and then plan the steps to putting that solution into action.
In my family meal planning example, I'm going to do more meal prep on the weekends but with SIMPLER recipes in order to make the week flow smoothly. I'm creating a basic list of recipes and we're going to eat the same damn thing for two weeks, at which point I will rotate the menu. I can do that for ten weeks. I was pregnant for 120 weeks with three kids (it seems like it was 120 weeks in a row) so I can most definitely try meal planning this way for ten.
As I step down from my soap box here, I want to give you the confidence and a little kick in the a$$ to take action towards what you want in your life. Whether it's a change or the creation of a system or a new habit. Whatehver. Because that, mama, is taking care of yourself.
The thing about the glorious journey that is motherhood is that there's no getting off this ride. There's no refund, no do-over, no rewind. You wake up every day and get ready to run. Hard. You work hard, love hard, and hopefully manage to laugh and play hard too. But there is no destination to reach. You've already arrived. So make this the best place you've ever been.