“I’m tired, but I’m always tired. I just exist on coffee.”
“I don’t even remember the last time I got my hair cut. Thank goodness for messy buns!”
“I haven’t bought new underwear since before I got pregnant with my first!”
These are all things I’ve heard real women say. Every single one of them makes me cringe. Because humble bragging about NOT taking care of yourself is just wrong. It implies that you believe that person who falls down in exhaustion first wins.
I don’t want to win that competition. But let’s be honest. The phrase “self-care” is a trigger for many women.
It makes us feel selfish, guilty. It makes us feel inadequate, because whatever things we are doing for ourself feel woefully inadequate. As if caring for yourself doesn’t count if you can’t get completely away from your responsibilities. Self-care is only worthwhile if it is a pedicure, a long nap, a date night or an evening out with your girl friends. If you can’t be checked out entirely for a few hours, then it doesn’t count. Easy self-care isn’t good enough.
But this is what I believe – all self-care counts. Easy self care is still self-care. It adds up, becomes part of a practice. If today you do a little bit, next time you will do more.
If you can’t get a long break – especially if you can’t – you still need to care for yourself. You cannot care for your family’s needs non-stop without meeting your own. Self-care is useful even when it is tiny. It can be moments in between, or moments during. Or simply a breath, a re-settling your awareness into your body. It might be a decision to do less today, to let go of perfection and judgement and comparing.
Try one of these things for a bit of easy self-care today
- Whatever you are doing right now, pause to take three deep breaths. Close your eyes if you can, but that’s not a requirement. Let your thoughts go. Just focus on the act of breathing. This is an incredibly grounding, but easy, exercise.
- Whenever you think of it, in the middle of whatever you are doing, practice letting go of that running drone of thoughts about what comes next or what didn’t get done last. Feel what it feels like to be in your body right in this moment. Do you ache anywhere? If so, send a loving thought to that spot. Thank your body for the ability to do this task, whatever it is. The strong arms to lift your son. The dexterity to change the diaper of a wiggly baby. The knowledge and patience to work though that snarly problem, even if it isn’t solved quite yet.
- Go to bed early tonight, just 10 minutes or an hour, whatever you think your body needs most. Leave the dishes undone, or the washing in the machine. It will all be there tomorrow. Give yourself the gift of rest.
- Take five minutes today to list three things you are grateful for. Just three things. If one of those things is a person, then take one more minute to tell them thank you.
- While your kids are occupied (with anything), pick up something fun to read. Just for you. Not Facebook, not email. Read a few pages of poetry or beautiful prose. Read an article or two in that magazine that’s been gracing your counter all week.
- Get some exercise. Go for a run or catch a class at your gym (my daughter loves the gym daycare!). If that’s not possible, walk around your neighborhood. Have a dance party in your kitchen before you start dinner. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot at the grocery store. Just get your body moving.
- Say no to something. If you are feeling overwhelmed and worn out, pick one thing on your list today or this week and then resolve not to do it. Make a little space in your schedule and also give yourself permission not to fill it with something else.
- Get out a notebook and do a brain dump of everything that is swirling around in your mind. Don’t worry about making it pretty or organized. Just get it out of your head. Close the notebook and enjoy the quiet in your brain for a few minutes. Next, turn to a new page and write down whatever swirls up in that quiet. When I do this, it is usually my dreams and soft inner yearnings that whisper into that space, the things that get shouted down by the busy routine of daily life. Find a way to commit 15 minutes to something on the second list in the next three days.
- Buy yourself some new underwear. Seriously. I really like these.
What will you do for yourself today?