Taking care of myself, the dreaded "self-care" topic, has been on my mind a lot this week. I say dreaded, because if you are anything like me, sometimes when I hear "self-care," I groan.
Self-care can feel like another item on my to-do list that I never seem to get to. It can feel like a burden. I believe this is closely connected to my tendency to have "all or nothing thinking." For example, "a productive workout should raise my heart rate and should last at least an hour. I don't have an hour a day to dedicate to that, so I won't work out at all..."
This sounds a lot like negative self-talk, doesn't it? I'm guessing if this "find your calm" challenge appealed to you, you may struggle with all or nothing thinking as well or maybe a child in your home or professional role does. So how does this pertain to self-care?
Example: "I don't have time or money to take an hour-long yoga class or get my nails done, so I guess I just won't do something nice for myself." It's that easy for all or nothing, negative self-talk to get in the way of being nice to ourselves. When we are in a state of heightened anxiety, stress, burnout or overwhelm, being nice to ourselves is more crucial than ever. However, if we are stuck with the line of thinking that being nice to ourselves must include big gestures such as long bubble baths, and shopping sprees out of our grasp we are missing out!
I was recently discussing this phenomenon with a psychologist friend of mine, Dr. Terri Baccow (find her on Instagram @drterribaccow). Her advice to me was so simple, yet it totally blew my mind and really "flipped my personal self-talk script." She explained that when working with busy moms she suggests that self-care efforts focus on taking things OFF your plate, or OFF your schedule, never adding (even if it was adding something fun like a social activity) when things are really overwhelming. I'm sure Dr. Terri wouldn't say don't EVER make time for yourself to do something fun, instead I believe she wants to make sure we don't feel obligated to do so when it doesn't feel realistic. (Make sure you are following me on Instagram www.instagram.com/faabparentin... to see our collab self-care post coming out soon! )
So what does this mean exactly? I often have Moms say to me, "there is nothing I CAN let go of." Is that really true? It certainly can feel that way if you are the "default parent." Let me share a personal example from my house of how I took some things off my plate, including some unrealistic expectations I have of myself. Last night my husband was working so it was just me and my three kids. Miraculously they had no activities. At 5 p.m. I arrived home. I asked if they were hungry and of course: one was, one was offended I even asked that (13-year-olds are fun) and one was hungry but wanted a snack instead of a meal. I decided right there to let go of one task, one "should " moment. I looked at them and said, "OK, then we will all eat whenever we want to. I'm going to eat right now because I'm hungry. I suggest when you want to eat, you finish up the leftover pizza."
I took the pressure of "the family meal" off my plate completely. The kids were thrilled, and I was thrilled, it was a great self-care/be kind to myself moment! Now my son is a bit too young to heat up pizza by himself so I did help him do so later, however, it was a no-stress meal and we were all pleased! In fact, I was so relaxed later that I persuaded all three to watch a half-hour show with me. So in the end I think we had better quality family time than we may have at a forced family meal, which we weren't in the mood for!
The next day, I had only twenty minutes to shower and run out the door for some in-person work. I was exhausted from a busy weekend and cranky! I wanted to do something relaxing for myself not rush around for work. There certainly wasn't time to add anything to my schedule at the moment. I couldn't take away showering if I wanted to look presentable... Instead, I remembered that I had bought myself a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker as an impulse purchase a few weeks ago. So instead of adding self-care or taking anything off my to-do list, I "reframed." I blasted my favorite music and took that fast shower. I no longer was stuck in all the "have to" feelings.
This small moment of filling my bathroom and my brain with music took care of me. It was the perfect self-care/be kind to myself 10 minutes I needed. You know what, I found my calm, I even found my smile.