Here’s a lie that moms tell themselves: Self care is selfish. We don’t just tell ourselves this, we internalize it. We believe it. The fact is, nothing could be farther than the truth. Self care is essential to our ability to care for others. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher, ladies!!
A mother (or any other caretaker) who cares for herself FIRST is far more likely to be able to care for others. You know how before a flight takes off, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others? I always thought to myself “Oh, HELL NO. I will save my babies!” Here’s the thing, though. They’re right. If you have no oxygen, you lose consciousness. How will you save your babies then? It isn’t selfish, it’s prudent.
Life is like that. If we neglect ourselves as caregivers, we are, by extension, neglecting those we love. We are headed for burnout, or sickness. Trust me. I learned this the hard way.
I am a member of the “sandwich generation”. I have kids at home, ages 14 and 8. I also have parents who need my help. My dad is immobile and needs a great deal of care. My mother has been trying to care for him. My husband and I helped as much as we could, but she did the lion’s share. Then, this month, she collapsed. We called an ambulance, and she was in the ICU for several days. She was suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. She cared for my dad and neglected her own needs. When she was released from the hospital, it was to a care facility so that she could get physical therapy and work to regain her strength.
You would think that what happened to my mom would have taught me a lesson. Nope. I doubled down. I upped my caretaking, and completely ignored myself. After all, mom needed support, dad needed support, my kids needed extra support because they were worried about their grandparents. I spent my days at the hospital, then went to my dad’s, then home to make dinner and care for the kids. I just wasn’t part of the equation.
Guess what? I got sick. Not just sick…SICK!! I was exhausted, had sinus issues that required surgery, fever, my blood pressure was elevated, and my asthma raged out of control. When I finally dragged myself to the doctor (too much to do), she warned that I was in danger of ending up in the hospital myself. I needed to stop caring exclusively for others and take care of myself.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Self care isn’t jetting off for a weekend in the Bahamas to sit by the beach and sip fruity drinks. It’s carving out some time for YOU. Here are a few of the things that I do to refresh and renew myself:
My personal favorite! Rest is essential to life. Don’t deprive yourself of it. A 20 minute nap does wonders to refresh me, and I find it easier to concentrate when I’m well rested.
I’ll be honest, sometimes it isn’t easy to nap. I can’t count the number of times I’ve announced “I’m going to take a nap” only to lay down and overthink, or toss and turn. Now I have what I call “nap triggers”: a favorite blanket, soft music, drawing the curtains. All of these things help signal my mind and body that it’s nap time.
It’s funny, a lot of the things that we make sure our little ones get are also exactly what we need. Few things make me feel better than a hot bath. I’m still a kid at heart, so I love bubbles, lots and lots of bubbles! I also love to use Epsom salts and essential oils. When I want to spoil myself (if I don’t, who will?) I light some candles, play some music, and have a cold glass of white wine while I’m in the bath. Divine!
I am a big believer in journaling! I have dozens of notebooks waiting to be filled, and at any given time I have at least three journals going. I do gratitude journaling, mood journaling, keep a reading journal, and others from time to time. Think of journaling as a conversation with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s frustrating you? What do you want to remember? It’s cathartic to write things out. I like to do what I call a “brain dump”: stream of consciousness writing. Often, I look back, and it doesn’t make any sense, but once I get things on the page, they’re no longer on my mind.
Listen to Music
There are ways you can care for yourself even while you are caring for others. This is one of my favorites! I used to watch TV while I was making dinner. Invariably, the news would be on with all of its doom and gloom. It would stress me out, setting a bad tone for the rest of my night. Now, I listen to music I love instead. I find myself dancing around the kitchen while I’m cooking a beautiful meal for my family. It lifts my spirits, and now I look forward to getting into the kitchen. Music is a mood-changer! Have a dance party for one!
Make Some Tea
I’m a recent convert to tea. I love the ritual of it. Heating the water, picking out a flavor, choosing a great cup or mug, pouring the tea, letting it steep, holding the hot cup in my hands, taking that first (too hot) sip. It’s almost like meditation. It’s simple and wonderful.
Take a Walk
I have to force myself to exercise. Taking a walk is the only kind that doesn’t fill me with dread. It’s really beautiful outside right now, and after I take a walk, I’m always glad I did. I don’t push myself, just take a nice stroll around the neighborhood. Sometimes I take my camera with me and take pictures of interesting things I see.
How do do you take care of yourself? Do you struggle with it like I do? Let me know in the comments below!