Self-care. Seems self-evident. Obvious that we would take care of the body and mind we occupy every moment of every day. And obvious this would lead to better versions of ourselves for all those around us. But what about when it’s not so obvious. Faced with chronic lack of sleep, parenting probs, caregiving for loved ones, stress on the job, health woes, or even all of the above at the same exact time, attention to ourselves can quickly drop right off our to-do list.
We often hear: “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” When we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, or just plain tired, that advice can seem unfathomable. Even when we feel all systems are a go, adding a self-care item to our already delicately balanced to-do list can feel like too much. One to-do you might never actually do. And don’t get us started on feelings of failure, shame, guilt, and selfishness that can bubble up when we decide to take care of ourselves.
But what do we really know about self-care – besides the trend and the impression that everyone’s doing it well except us? According to Psychology Today, “Self-care has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve productivity, boost mood, power up your immune system, and lower your risk for health concerns – associated with chronic stress, like heart disease and diabetes.”
Happify points out that, according to research from the University of Michigan, “lack of privacy or ‘me’ time is a bigger cause of unhappy marriages than a less-than-satisfying sex life.” Say what?!?
So, with these benefits in mind, what about a shift in perspective? First of all, awareness. Awareness that we don’t expect our cars to run on fumes; that we would never ever expect our loved ones to go go go without rest or refueling. As well, awareness of what makes us happy – what truly resets and reenergizes us.
Second, focus. In some seasons of life, we have hours or even days to recharge and fill our tanks back up. But what about when we only have 10 minutes after everyone’s asleep, 20 minutes on a train commute every morning, or half an hour to connect with our spouse? Knowing what will bring us joy, a feeling of rest, or even just the release of being silly allows us to define how to recognize more of that throughout our days.
Self-care means different things to different mamas. Whether you define it as a glass of wine with the latest This is Us episode, a hot yoga class, the perfect latte while you people-watch, or shopping with your girlfriends, the important thing for mamas is to pinpoint what makes you feel recharged and renewed. The struggle can then become taking the time to do it. No guilt, no excuses, no shame. As Lindsey Roberts highlights in her Washington Post article: “Self-care is not selfish; it’s one of the best things you can do for your kids.”