The kids are fighting in the back seat, your spouse’s texts are blowing up the phone, your boss just increased your work load, and you have no idea what’s for dinner. Everyone wants your attention and your to-do list is a never ending nightmare of “something else to deal with.” You feel close to snapping, and to letting loose the primal scream that’s been rising in your throat all day.
Another day has gone by with your own self-care at the bottom of your to-do list.
Women look at me and think, oh sure, self-care is fine for you, your children are grown, you live alone, and you don’t work a 9-to-5. Change the setting to a stay at home mom, an entrepreneur working from home, or a single woman, and you’ll still find women at the end of their rope.
This might piss you off… but it’s not more time you need.
What is self-care anyway?
There’s a physicality to it. It’s a turning inward toward ourselves, an attentiveness to mind, body and soul.
It’s nurturing self-touch, loving-kindness directed to our minds, and gentle surrender to our soul’s need for nourishment.
Self-care begins with being present to ourselves.
I love this description of self-care from Dayna Evans, from What I Learned in 36 hours With the Worlds Most Powerful Women.
She quotes this gem from Opal Tometi;
“Don’t sacrifice your body for the sake of everyone else’s body.”
How perfect is THAT.
The truth is that self-care is crucial in any healthy relationship. If we’re run down and resentful, our presence doesn’t benefit our children, spouses, or loved ones. In fact, just the opposite.
Self-Care Isn’t About Being Selfish.
Self-care means sometimes putting ourselves first, something that’s especially difficult for women. We’re taught at an early age to be nice, to share, and to put everyone else’s happiness before our own. Unless we thoughtfully examine those behaviors, we end up as adults that are exhausted, resentful and unfulfilled.
So Where Do We Begin?
1. Start small.
We often get blocked by thinking only the big changes count, yet the smallest efforts can reap huge benefits for your mind, body, and soul. Your entire being responds to the tiniest bit of intention when it comes from the heart. Make the intention to practice self-care, even if you have no idea what that will look like.
2. Put yourself on your to-do list.
Start with ten minutes a day, and schedule it in. We can all find ten minutes. Turn off the TV, close the laptop, pause the email checking. Tell your spouse and kids you need ten minutes of uninterrupted time. Let them know you mean it. Hide in the bathroom at work for a quick meditation. (I did that for years.) Get creative and you’ll find the time.
3. Don’t schedule yourself last.
You’re less likely to engage in self-care when you’re exhausted. A relaxing bath before bedtime is great, but make plans for yourself during your peak hours too. Self-care means you’re giving yourself the same quality time you give to others.
4. Learn to Breathe.
You’ve found your precious ten minutes, now what? Start by focusing on your breath. The power of the breath to change our emotional state can’t be underestimated. Even the ancient mystics knew that breath was the portal to our inner life. Close your eyes, take a deep abdominal breath through your nose, then blow out slowly and gently through pursed lips like you’re blowing through a straw. Just three of these breaths kicks your brain and nervous system into delicious rest. After that take slow comfortable breaths to avoid hyperventilating. For more about the stress-reducing benefits of breathing, check out Focused Abdominal Breathing to Reduce Pain and Anxiety or The 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Exercise.
5. Do a Body Scan.
After slowing your breathing, do a quick body scan. Turn your attention to your body, notice any areas of tension or pain, relax, and let your body guide your hands to any area that needs care . Trust that your body yearns to communicate with you. You may get images, ideas, or even cry. Massage, gently stroke, or just keep your hands on that part of your body, while saying soothing words like, “I’ll take care of you, I’m here for you, it’s ok, I love you.” It may feel silly at first, but the body has a higher intelligence that responds to this.
Self-care is powerful medicine for your mind, body, and soul. I guarantee if you can give yourself just ten minutes a day your life will start to change. You’ll feel calmer on busy days. You’ll get deeper insights about your life’s journey. You’ll feel less underlying resentment towards a world that wants to drain your precious energy.
There’s nothing more important on your to-do list than that.
Stay tuned for Part Two, as we delve deeper into your Self Care Journey with your next 5 tips!