Before you dive into this post, take a minute and define self-care for yourself. Don’t just think about activities that you consider self-care, but dive a little deeper…what does “self-care” actually mean to you? Now, hold that thought.
First, let’s take a second to be clear about something…if the first thing you thought was “taking a shower and actually brushing my hair out”…then you are probably a mom—and that is NOT self-care. That’s personal hygiene and that’s necessary.
Don’t worry if that surprised you a little bit. It was a major lightbulb moment a couple of years ago when someone told me that. Less of a lightbulb moment, more of a “walked into a brick wall” moment. If I managed a shower AND time to brush my hair out more than a single day in a row, it was a glorious miracle. Honestly, I got so used to tossing my hair up in a messy bun after a quick shower that I would find I’d gone days without brushing it out. #momlife
So when someone told me that wasn’t self-care, just the most basic of personal hygiene and I deserved a hell of a lot more, well, it was like being handed a tray of paints after being told you were only allowed to use a crappy ballpoint pen. I was about 6 years into motherhood at that point and really couldn’t remember what anything beyond that was. I only got a pedicure on super-special occasions, a haircut every year or two, and I had a super bad habit of attempting to monetize any hobby I picked up (and let me tell you, there is no faster way to ruin a hobby than to attempt to monetize it).
Self-care was a foreign object to me. I didn’t know what it was or how to bring it into my life. If that sounds even remotely familiar, be sure to keep reading.
What is self-care?
Self-care it taking the time to do things that nourish you: mind, body and/or soul. Nourish, not simply maintain. It’s doing things that fill you up because you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s putting your oxygen mask on before trying to help others. (Yeah, I know, we’ve all heard that one.)
What does self-care look like?
Now, this is where it gets really fun. Self-care is like an abstract painting—it looks different based on who’s looking at it. For some, it might be a pedicure or bubble bath. For others, it might be a cozy fireplace and a good book. It might be meditation or yoga. Or it might be an entire, loud music festival. It might be playing the drums or attending your metro orchestra performance. It could be a massage, an hour at the float spa, a new hairdo, or an afternoon wandering around the antique store. It might be rock climbing or skydiving. It might be a loud dinner with friends that’s full of laughter and wine, or maybe a quiet night in with just your cat and a cup of tea.
Essentially, if it brings you joy, it’s self-care.
Now, perhaps you thought “travel brings me joy! But I can’t afford to head to Bali next week.” Great! You know what brings you joy! But let’s step back…why does travel bring you joy? Is it eating at new restaurants? Feeling anonymous in a new city? Exploring museums or historical places? The sense of adventure? Once you narrow it down to what you love about traveling, it’s pretty easy to find more budget-friendly ways to experience that joy.
Another great example of this is yoga. I love yoga, but I spent a little too much time on Instagram and got stuck with this vision of “it’s only self-care if I’m in this amazing space, professional-led class, or exotic yoga retreat.” I let that hold me back for a long time until one day I rolled out my mat in my office, turned on a YouTube video and just fricking did it. And guess what? I felt nourished afterward. Would I probably feel more nourished at a 3-week yoga retreat in Costa Rica? Yeah, probably. But what serves me better? 30 minutes of yoga at home that leaves me feeling good for the day, or pining over a retreat that doesn’t currently fit into my budget or schedule? That 30 minutes a day is amazing for my mind and body and guess what? It leaves me feeling energized and focuses…which means I can work on accomplishing goals that will allow me to go on that retreat a lot sooner. Win-win!
Remember, those radical acts of self-care will fill you up in a big way, but you’ll still need some smaller practices to keep refueling during the times in between. Don’t underestimate the peace that 15 minutes of journaling or an unplugged walk with the dog can bring while you’re in between girls’ night out and your big retreat!
And remember, it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Honestly, I hate pedicures. I seriously can’t stand having my feet touched. So when I friend proposes “mani-pedis” for a girls day, it’s not all that relaxing for me. But I know that for many women, that sort of spa day is their exact definition of self-care. And that’s awesome. So just remember, rock climbing or skydiving may sound terrible to you, but to someone else, that might be the epitome of self-care. And that street goes both ways. Brush off the “shoulds” and tailor your self-care plan to YOU.
But self-care feels selfish.
Then you’re looking at it all wrong. You deserve care as much as your business, as much as your kids, as much as your spouse. You deserve it and it’s your right. I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: you can’t pour from an empty cup. So if you want to be the best parent, the best spouse, the best business owner or employee, be sure you’re doing things that fill you up and nourish you—mind, body, and soul.
Just remember to do it responsibly. Self-care shouldn’t cause you stress. Don’t plan a me-day on the same day your husband takes off to spend time with you or a girls’ weekend over your kid’s birthday. Be mindful of your priorities, but make sure you are one of them!
If it’s financial stress, distil down what brings you joy to the core of WHY it brings you joy and I’m sure you will find plenty of budget-friendly options. But make some savings goals based on those more radical self-care options like exotic travel, retreats, or expensive fountain pens (if that’s your thing).
I’d love to know what your self-care plan looks like.
Like this post? Be sure to mark March 9th on your calendar—that’s the day we’re bringing back the Do It Scared Podcast for Season 2 and we’re kicking it off with an awesome chat with Kayla Hollatz from #CreateLounge about how self-care helps you build and care for your community.