On this grand journey I call life, I have had the opportunity to experience a lot. Some really great things – and some not so great things.
I had Jack at a very young age. I threw myself into being a mom, putting him first and allowing myself to absorb and experience all that it had to offer. I was also in a horribly toxic relationship during those first few years, and it wasn’t until several years later, after I was married and had two more children that I really learned what self-care was.
See, I spent a lot of time on my kids. I was taught that as mother, they should always be first. My needs should come second, and once I was married, third. Putting others first has always been completely ingrained in who I am.
Whenever I would put myself first I would feel incredible guilt, to the point that I would talk myself out of doing things, especially if the perception was that it would ‘take away’ from my kids or partner.
Now, I will say this. I always think of others first, and how my actions and decisions will affect them. What I learned, and what I started to experience as I grew into adulthood was that I was no longer taking care of myself in the ways that were equally as important as exercise or eating healthy. By doing this I was inadvertently teaching my children that they shouldn’t value themselves just as much as they value their partner and children.
I would pack things on my plate without question – “Sure I can volunteer for that field trip,” “Yes I will take on that new project at work,” “Of course let’s do a date night.”
I wasn’t necessarily saying yes to things just because – in most instances I really did want to do all the things. But I was saying yes to so many things for so many other people – that I forgot about doing things, and saying yes, for myself. It wasn’t something that I was taught to do.
I burnt myself out, not even just at work but with life as a whole. It was all too much. My anxiety went through the roof, my OCD was out of control and I was swirling into depression. It took a while for everything to snowball – but it happened, and man, when it did, it happened BIG TIME.
Finally, I had to step back and ask myself, how did I let this happen? How did I get here?
Generally speaking, we are incredibly apt to go to the doctor if we see something that looks like skin cancer, or if we have a fever. We wouldn’t look to a person with a heart condition and say, “Eh. I’m not sure you really need to rest and stay home today to prevent your heart from over exertion.”
I mean, maybe some people would, but they’d be an asshole.
Yet, I had done it with my mental and emotional health. I powered through tough times. I kept up with all of the things for everyone. I felt selfish and anxious when I would call into work if I wasn’t sick with a fever or the plague.
God forbid if I ever did call in ‘sick’ because I needed a mental and emotional break, I wouldn’t dare leave the house or go shopping or to a movie for fear of seeing someone from work – even though I knew doing those things independently would help me recharge and think more clearly.
For so many people, we’ve reserved mental health and self care for weekends and vacations. Why do we do that? Why do we stifle our ability to feel completely well?
I’ll tell you. We do it because of the stigmas that surround mental health. We use it out of fear of judgement, and disapproval for doing these things when it’s not as ‘common.’
Self care isn’t just about just about having a longer shower or taking a big vacation to get away from everything. It’s all encompassing. Practicing self care, even the smallest amounts of it, allows us to feel refreshed as a person. It clears your mind and allows you to focus on things that bring you joy, new projects at work, your family and friends.
Well, lovelies, I’m here to tell you that self care and mental health days are important. I would even venture to say that they’re critical to a persons overall well being. They are not selfish, and they don’t only have to happen on weekends or on vacations.
In fact, self-care doesn’t have to cost a dime or take up an entire day.
There’s a saying – You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s overused and moderately cheesy, but it’s true. You can’t. Science.
We exercise, we drink water, all to take care of our bodies. But if we are in an overcrowded head space, don’t we need to care for that as well?
Yes! Yes we do.
Practicing self care doesn’t have to be exhaustive or expensive, and you definitely shouldn’t have to feel guilty or selfish for doing it.
In fact, here are some of the best things I’ve done, and do regularly, to care for my head and soul:
- Take a bubble bath
- Read for 30 minutes
- Create something you love
- Take a walk outside
- Face masks
- Cuddle cute little humans that I created. When they let me…they’re really wiggly sometimes and not about mom-cuddles.
- Dance party. If all else fails. Dance. Dance your freaking heart out. Unless you are aforementioned person with a heart condition, then dance in moderation – because we want you to stick around with us too.
- Sonic happy hour and singing in the car
- Cry it out. Sometimes a good cry is well worth the smudging mascara.
My list could go on and on, and I encourage each of you to make one as well. Save it on your phone, fold it up and put it in your wallet. Keep it accessible.
The more accessibility you have to it, the more inclined you will be to use it. The best part is that none of the things I listed, require an entire day. Not even close.
You don’t even have to wait until you’re home. You can practice self-care anywhere. I meditate at work. I’ve even had dance parties. Alone. With myself. In the bathroom. At the office.
The point is, doing something small for yourself each day is beneficial. Wake up and write down affirmations. Affirming to yourself that you’re worthy of this life that you’ve been given and that you’re doing a damn good job at living it, is crucial.
It’s okay to take a personal-day and spend time focusing on yourself. Don’t call in “sick” so that you can care for your mental and emotional health, because you aren’t sick – you’re human.
I’ll say that one louder for people in the back.
PRACTICING SELF CARE TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU’RE SICK.
It means that you’re smart. You’re smart and human and kind to yourself.
We teach our children to be kind to others – but one thing we most definitely need to be teaching is that in order to live that philosophy fully, we have to be kind to ourselves as well. We can be our own worst critics, and sometimes we have to be our own biggest fan.
Self-Care in its most finite sense, is you taking time to care for yourself. Whether it’s skincare, dance parties or meditation.
Be kind to yourself lovelies!