This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days and it used to make me cringe. It just seemed like a lot of people used it to justify expensive shopping trips, spur of the moment tropical vacations, nightly chocolate cake and bubble baths, weekly manicures, monthly massages and mud baths, and ALL captured with a beautiful filter for their snapchat/instagram. I guess I wrongly associated it with being selfish or high-maintenance.
As you may have read my perspective of the first 3 months of motherhood, I am 100% for giving yourself to serve others, and that can means seasons of not getting to enjoy life in the same way you used to. However, I have learned the hard way in this wonderful, yet very difficult first year of motherhood, that pouring yourself out for your family cannot happen without plugging yourself in for a charge occasionally. And though God’s love wishes to perfect us and grow us sometimes through bearing hardships, that still means finding time to be alone to pray, be still, and slow down.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. //Luke 5:16
The reality is, no one can pour from an empty cup.
I had figured out how to take care of myself when it was just me planning life around me, but it was harder to figure out what I needed when my focus and time were so attentive to my son, my husband, and our home.
During the first year with an infant who fed around the clock and doesn’t sleep much, it was especially difficult to figure out what I needed to stay sane or how I could even make those things happen. Heck, I was just trying to figure out how to keep a tiny human alive.
But as time went on, I realized more and more that many of the times I was anxious or upset over little things was when I hadn’t been praying, hadn’t had an adult conversation (besides my husband) for several days, hadn’t been listening to or reading anything positive, or hadn’t taken a break to do anything that brought me joy. I realized, especially in stressful seasons, my mental health is something I actually needed to work on.
Self-care isn’t necessarily about indulging yourself, it’s more about nourishing yourself so you can blossom in your vocation.
And sometimes “self-care” is doing things you don’t really want to do in order to create a more balanced life, like exercising regularly, finally scheduling that doctor appointment after 3 years, forcing yourself to go to bed earlier, getting organized and purging old clothes from high school, spending less time scrolling on social media or with toxic friends, doing the dishes right after dinner each night so that you have time with your spouse instead of stressing that they pile up and you can’t handle it all.
I knew I did need to change several things to find a little pep in my step again! My word of 2018 came quite easily to me: RENEWAL. Life is always going to be busy so I needed to find some small steps to take care of myself, and renew my mind and soul. (The same thing I preached to other people pre-motherhood, I now needed to practice!)
So January 1st, I left the babe (now toddler) at home with dad and drove to Starbucks to start brainstorming.
I broke the categories up into MIND, BODY, & SOUL. I made a few other goals for the year, but most of them revolve around this practice of making my interior life a priority.
Then, I made my list under each category of the most important things I needed to do to take care of myself.
These are simple things… perhaps just the minimum things I need, but nonetheless things that will go a long way for my well-being when done frequently.
I can tell you after working toward implementing these this first month of the year, I may not be accomplishing all of them, but I feel hopeful and motivated for the months to come because I’m breaking out of the rut. There is a great satisfaction in using my time wisely, seeing myself as a daughter of God that deserves to grow intentionally and is important enough that my needs are worth the effort. That is not selfish. Loving my mind, body, and soul in a small way each day is extremely valuable.
Whether you’re a mom or not, I’d venture to say most people are too busy, too scheduled, and too stressed. Maybe if you’re struggling to get started, this list below of mine will give you some ideas! Ask yourself, what is the MINIMUM I need to do each week to feel healthy, happy, and whole? I’m not talking about training for a marathon, having a spotless house, or doing perfectly on every single work project… just the little things to really look out for your long-term self.
- Listen to a podcast, read an article or a few pages in a book
- Have an encouraging conversation with a friend (on the phone or in person)
- Write in my “One Line a Day” book each night
- Plan meals for the week on Sundays (even if it says Pizza)
- Journal once a month
- Wash face & brush teeth twice a day (this sounds so sad, but it is an example of how the minute my son woke me up for the day, it was off to the races. He could wait for a couple of minutes while I started every morning with some basic hygiene.)
- Move everyday (Stroller Strides 2-3x’s a week, reaching 10k steps, 10 minutes of stretching, going to the park etc.)
- Take vitamins. Sit down for all meals, not snacking with processed food during day. Focus on veggies & limit sweets.
- HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE
- Take deep, meditative breaths while rocking James to sleep. Once asleep, pray for him, my marriage, my family and friends
- Read scripture and devotional each week (sometimes this is daily, but I’m working in baby steps)
- Play music and sing while cooking or playing throughout the day
- Go pray in the church adoration chapel alone once a month
- Fill in my “I am grateful for:” section in my planner each day. (It’s harder to be frazzled when you come from a place of gratefulness and when you have moments in the day to just stop and force yourself to slow down.)
How am I doing all of this when I already didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to before? Well, I’m not doing all of it yet…but the short answer is that I’m trying to improve the way I use my time to use it more efficiently.
- I have been trying to make a habit out of sitting down for breakfast with my son, getting out my planner, and first thing, writing down my 3 most important tasks or hopes of the day. I find that this helps me get my head on straight before I just start reacting to my day. I also look and see I have scheduled to go to workout class today, so my morning needs to prepare for and work around that goal.
- Finding a friend to do a babysitting exchange 🙂 I watch your kid, you watch mine, gives me pockets of time I know I can take a long shower, journal, or just be in silence to think.
- Grocery Delivery occasionally
- Delegating/getting better at communicating my needs (This one is HUGE) ie. I do bath time while my husband does the dishes; I literally text my husband at work and say “I need to shower tonight”, so he knows we need to work our evening around giving me the time to do that and he’ll remind me if I forget.
- Making appointments and putting it on the calendar (my time away in prayer, my workouts, my Bible Study… all ‘obligations’ that I don’t want to miss!)
- “Alexa play my favorite music” while we are eating lunch, or “Alexa, order more paper towels.”
- Podcasts while making dinner or driving
Any other ways you work in your “self-care”? What are your typical go-to activities to fill your cup?