Recently, I was having a really rough time functioning. I was struggling due to higher than normal family conflict, work stress, and sleep deprivation. We even missed paying some bills, which is so unusual. I wasn’t drinking water or eating nutritious food, and I was certainly not getting any exercise, which I love.
At some point during this tough time, I ran into a friend who is a mental health professional, and after I vented a bit, she said, “You need to do something for you today.”
I thought, “Hmmm, she’s talking about self-care, but WHAT exactly does that even mean to me right now, right here, this moment?”
What Is Self-Care Anyway?
Since then, I have been trying to ask people what they do to take care of themselves because quite frankly, I need some ideas, some behavior modeling, someone to tell me what on earth self-care looks like!
Some of the folks I asked has great answers; others were a bit perplexed by the concept and question.
One acquaintance of mine who has three small kiddos looked at me with this playful gleam in her eye, her head tilted slightly to the side, and said with a smirk, “Uh, what’s that?” Then, we both burst into laughter.
Then, I jokingly said, “Going to the bathroom by yourself, or at least mostly by yourself?”
We laughed and laughed some more.
Related reading: “Parents Need Self-Care to Be Their Best Self”
In the classroom, as a Consumer Science teacher, I don’t generally say to students, “Behave better.” Rather, I say, “What does behaving safely in the kitchen look like?” “What does using the equipment properly look like?” “What does talking in an inside voice sound like?” In essence, I steer them to better behavior by asking leading questions. And more importantly, before asking, I model the preferred behavior.
I model the behavior I seek—over and over and over.
So, after asking some folks to share ideas and model for me what self-care behavior looks like, I practiced, and now I have some self-care modeling of my own to share with others.
Me Taking Care of Me Looks Like:
- Going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual
- Sitting on the couch or by the fire and reading light-hearted adolescent literature for 30-60 minutes
- Hot drink time! AKA: Drinking herbal tea or golden milk at home, outside in a beautiful setting, or at a local coffee shop preferably with a loved one by my side
- Snuggling our cat, my husband, or my kids
- Lying on my back with my feet up a wall
- Lying on my spiky mat (for real, I love this apparent torture device!)
- Drinking water
- Eating nutritious food
- Running my hands under warm water
- Giving myself a foot bath
- Eating toast with butter (lots of butter! and jam too!) Some people like chocolate, I like toast and butter, what can I say?
- Laughing with a friend face-to-face or on the phone
- Listening to an audiobook, National Public Radio show, podcast, webinar, Marco Polo, or music
- Sitting, just sitting
- Mind-mapping my emotions, stressors, misbehavior, or to-do lists
- Talking to a mentor, coach, or counselor about any specific stressors at hand
- Putting on an outfit that makes me spunky but also fits the work at hand. (My cool work pants for fencing, my cute yoga pants for house lounging or cleaning and cooking dinner, a favorite pair of jeans for going out and doing errands. As it turns out, what I wear, dramatically affects how I feel about myself and the world around me. Good thing to know.)
How often does one do this self-care business?
The answer: Every day!
It’s true! It’s best to take care of ourselves each and every day. However, self-care might look different for every person and day to day, year to year, through the different seasons of one’s life.
Taking Care of Myself Daily Looks Like:
- Trying to drink 40-60 oz. of water daily
- Eating plenty of protein mixed with carbohydrates for energy along with fruits and veggies for fiber, minerals, and vitamin in-take. Most especially, making time for eating breakfast. (I often try to skip breakfast (or one more morning task), and when I do make this choice, it doesn’t set me up very well for the day.)
- Try to do at least 3 of the above items every day.
- At times, I need or want a lot more and other days, I might skirt by with less.
- Sometimes I must be very intentional about self-care activities. Other days, I’m not as deliberate because I’m not in desperate need.
- The more I weave self-care into my days the better prepared I am for events, daily demands, and situations that push me to the edge.
- The more demands and tasks I choose to put on my plate, the more I try to self-care.
Well, there you have it. I modeled self-care for you. Please take some time for yourself. Write down your own ideas. Perhaps, use some of mine but tweak them to be your own. When we make a list, it helps us think of those things that refresh us and we are more likely to take care of ourselves.
For better self-care, consider a mindfulness practice. For more information, check out our blog, "What Is Mindfulness and What's All the Hubbub?"
Feel free to write a comment here or on Heartmanity’s FB page sharing what self-care looks like for you. Do you have difficulty finding time for yourself? Is there a friend or relative who takes excellent care of themselves? The more we model for one another, the more we learn and support each other.