Guess what today is? Today is the day you and I get another chance to take better care of ourselves in order to successfully manage our families and other responsibilities. I know you’ve been meaning to get around to taking that class, exercising, or spending more quality time with yourself, family or friends. But think about this: what kind of example are you setting for your son or daughter by not making your needs a priority? And, what subliminal message are you sending yourself? What can you do daily to put yourself first? It’s okay to be a little selfish and make your self-care a priority.
What is Self-care?
When I think of self-care, I think of special or fun things I can do for myself daily or weekly to feel better and improve my overall health. Psychologist and Psychology Today writer Dr. Christine Meinecke says the term self-care initially became popular in the 1980’s by medical and mental health professionals. Many people are still unclear though, about what it really means. Dr. Meinecke also states that self-care is not a form of self-indulgence or self-pampering, but that’s another conversation. If self-care isn’t pampering what is it? According to Dr. Meinecke, self-care means “choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors: exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation or relaxation techniques, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets and engaging in psychotherapy.” Her definition is simple, yet profound because it includes all major aspects of women’s lives. In addition, it’s not just a one-time thing or something you occasionally do to feel good. Self-care is a sacred practice you create to make yourself a priority, and to address issues that greatly affect your emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Do you have a self-care plan? Here are three tips to help you create and follow through with one.
1) Write it Down. Make a list of 10 simple, enjoyable and low-cost activities you like to do to relax. I’ve listed a few of my favorite activities as an example.
Writing in my gratitude journal
Walking one mile 3 – 4 times weekly
Going to lunch on a solo date or with friends
Reading a good book
2) Next, circle the top five things you enjoy doing that make you feel amazing. These are things that you absolutely cannot live without. For me it’s writing, dancing, and reading a good book.
3) Find an Accountability Partner – Reach out to a friend, colleague, family member, or neighbor to see if they’ll support your efforts to engage in weekly quality time by calling or texting to see what kind of rest and relaxation you’ve done. Discuss details such as how often you would like her to check in with you.Buy a cute journal or notebook to designate as your new self-care journal. Use this journal to track your weekly self-care activities, times you’ve succeeded in following your plan, obstacles, and times you didn’t do so well with following your plan. By tracking your activities, you’ll be able to visualize your progress, note areas for improvement and determine which activities you enjoy doing most often.
Think about how often you would like to engage in the activities you listed above, and determine if there’s an associated cost. Can you do this daily, weekly or bi-weekly? My goal is to do something small daily, although I have weekly and monthly activities scheduled as well. Then, decide if you’d like to include a bestie, good friend, or your accountability partner in on the fun. I’m all for sharing the love, but sometimes I really want to be alone so I can converse with my thoughts.
4) Schedule the Fun. Next, add your new self-care activities to your calendars, both traditional and electronic. Set a notification to remind you at least two days beforehand in order to allow time to plan and revise. In addition, inform your accountability partner of your new self-care schedule via phone or email so they can offer support and encouragement where appropriate.
Word to the Wise
Congratulations on creating your new self-care plan! You are ready to start today or even tomorrow. While working your new plan, don’t forget to live in the moment. In other words, notice how you feel before and after engaging in a relaxing activity. Also, notice if your thoughts or mood shift to a more positive tone after your activity is complete. Write your thoughts in your new self-care journal for the first few weeks to stay motivated and work through any issues. After two weeks, review your notes to celebrate your successes and tweak your plan as needed.
Random Things to Consider
How are you going to manage potential challenges that may arise while you’re trying to take better care of yourself via a strategically planned self-care routine? Issues such as a lack of childcare, few discretionary funds, not enough time, or feelings of guilt may put a real damper on your plan. Here are a few helpful things to consider.
The kids are too young be alone while you go out on a solo date, exercise, or spend quality time with others.
Hire a babysitter or swap babysitting days with a trusted friend. Don’t be shy. Ask a family member to babysit, and if it still doesn’t work out inquire about a drop in child care facility such as Giggles.
There’s not enough time in your day for meaningful activities.
Learn to say NO to anything that requires too much of your free time.
Go to work earlier so you can leave earlier and enjoy a self-care activity.
Make adjustments. If you can’t schedule 2 – 5 hours each week for quality time or exercise, try scheduling 30-minute increments more frequently throughout the week.
Friends and family don’t take your self-care routine seriously.
Have a quick conversation with them to explain that this quality time is for you to replenish your mind, body and spirit to enable you to become a happier you, which is in everyone’s best interest! Then, carry on as planned.
Guilty feelings arise often.
I can’t explain why we, as moms and women in general, have the nerve to feel guilty about participating in more relaxing and fun activities when we give so much of ourselves to everyone within our inner circle. When we take time to renew our mind, bodies and spirit, it’s a win-win for everyone. In addition, it propels us to further greatness and into being better moms, wives, lovers, sisters, daughters, and friends.
A happier me means a happier we! Nonetheless, if you’re feeling guilty about taking a much needed and well-deserved break to enjoy a class, exercise or go to dinner, do it anyway to keep your momentum, and continue to make it a habit. Also, take a few minutes to think about why you’re feeling guilty. Is it something someone said or is it strictly self-imposed? If it becomes unbearable, call a friend to share your feelings or seek help from a reputable mental health professional while sticking to your new regimen. Either way, this is a great time to practice positive self-talk and to justify why you deserve to enjoy something other than cooking, cleaning, homework time, making dinner, and chauffeuring.
Creating a self-care plan doesn’t have to be a dreaded task that you keep putting off. It’s as simple as listing a few fun activities you’d like to do more often to renew your spirit, scheduling those activities, finding an accountability partner, planning for challenges, and making it happen. The most important thing to remember is this: it’s okay to be a little selfish when it comes to self-care.
Meinecke, C. (2010). Self-care in a toxic world. Psychology Today.
Karen Doniere is the author of the NEW Baby Bear Children’s Book series and Motivational Speaker inspiring mommypreneurs. She’s also the creator of the Forgiveness Project. Karen is a wife and mom of three young adults, who loves to read, enjoys a cup of green tea and lives for dancing and peanut butter.