Is the idea of taking care of yourself a foreign concept? Do you even know where to begin? Do you already feel overwhelmed enough with day to day life that you don’t even want to think about taking care of yourself because it would mean you have one more thing to do?
One day a friend of mine was telling me that she was feeling burnt with all of her responsibilities as a mother. I asked her, “Are you part of your family?” We talked about how it is our vocation as wives and mothers to take care of the needs of our families, yet we are part of our families, too. We tend to forget this as we work to take care of the needs of everyone else. We need to take the time for self-care, too.
Take care of yourself.
Yes, I know. It is easier said than done, for sure. But, if we don’t take care of ourselves, who will? Even when our husbands take over a household responsibility that we usually do so we can have a break, do we take a break or do we use the time to get one more thing done? Yep. We need to make the decision to take care of ourselves and then make the time to do it.
Don’t run yourself into the ground.
We need to be mindful to not run ourselves into the ground. Not eating well, or not eating at all, not sleeping, not taking the time to rest our mind and body will all backfire on us eventually. When that happens, we will not be any good for anyone at all. It is not worth it.
Think of this analogy: If we drive your car until it runs out of gas, we get stranded in the middle of nowhere. We’ll need to get a gas can if we don’t have one already, transportation to the nearest gas station (that we have no idea where it is) and then transportation back to the car to put the gas in it so we can get back to a gas station and finish filling up the tank. Then we can get back on the road. What a pain and inconvenience!
Yet, this is what we do to ourselves when we allow ourselves to become run down; we run out of energy and emotional resources and then we are so depleted we can’t function. It all could have been avoided if we had just taken the time to fill up our gas tank before it ran out.
7 Tips for self-care.
1. Plan ahead.
Planning ahead is key. To make something happen, we need to plan for it and then execute our plan.
You can plan something into your daily routine or put a date on the calendar. The important thing is that you stick to it.
Plan what you will do.
Some of us recharge when we are by ourselves (an introverted personality), and some of us recharge when we are with other people (an extroverted personality). You know yourself, so you know the best way for you to recharge.
Do you want to read a book for 20 minutes (or more) each day? Maybe exercising three times a week is what you are longing to do. Perhaps you need to go out with your friends.
Decide what activities will be the best ones for you to do to help you to recharge.
Plan when and how often you will do this.
You may choose to read every day, but go out with friends two or more times a year. Decide how often you will do what activities you decided on. Then, put them on the calendar.
The next step is to follow through.
You will never recharge if you don’t take the time to do it. A date on the calendar won’t recharge you, but taking action and following through will. Remember that what your objective is to nurture yourself and full yourself up so you are not depleted. This is necessary to your well-being, so follow through on your plans.
2. Do something that recharges you.
Yes, I am saying this again. It is an important part of self-care. If you are an introvert and you go out with your friends, you’ll probably have a great time, but may still feel tired and unfulfilled the next day. Make sure that you plan something that will help you to recharge your energy. This may take some trial and error. It may be that what recharges you one day may not be the best choice for another day. Take a bit of time to evaluate yourself and discover what you really need. It will be time well spent.
3. Eat well.
This seems obvious, right? Yep. But, do we do it? No. Not all of the time. (At least I don’t.) Even if we don’t eat well all day every day, we can make the effort to eat well for at least one meal. We can start there and then eat well for two meals. Then three. Don’t forget snacks! Good snacks can help you out, too, to sustain your energy level, which also affects your mood.
Food is fuel for our bodies. Are we trying to fuel them with junk and low-quality foods, or are we going to nurture the bodies God gave us by fueling them with what they need to work their best?
4. Get enough sleep.
What?! Sleep. Really? Yes. Getting enough rest helps our mood as well as our energy level. Even though we may not feel like doing it, going to sleep at a good time so we can get enough rest is in our best interest.
You know how your body works, what times your kids get up in the night, and when they get up in the morning. Plan accordingly.
If you aren’t sold on the idea or getting enough sleep each night, I encourage you to just try it for a week. Then, see if it was helpful to you. Make any necessary changes to your bedtime, then try it again for another week. Keep repeating this process until you find what works for you.
Picking up babies and toddlers repeatedly every day all day long is exercise all by itself! Walking and more vigorous exercise may be of interest to you as well. Try some different things to see what you like and what fits your life right now. Exercise is also a mood booster, so that is a bonus.
An exercise routine is something that will change as family life changes. Find what will work for you right now.
6. Do something you enjoy.
If you had two hours with no obligations what would you do? Now, dinner and housework are not available options. Think of what you would like to do if you simply had free time. You can make a list if that is helpful. Sometimes when we unexpectedly have some free time (yes, that can be very infrequently!), we don’t know how to spend it. Having a list to consult will save us time, so we can enjoy our free time instead of spending half of it trying to figure out what to do.
Prayer is also an important part of taking care of ourselves. God created each of us. He knows us inside and out. He knows what drains us and what recharges us. Turning to Him for guidance and help will give us insight into ourselves that we may not have had before. We will be more productive with our time and use it more wisely when we understand ourselves better.
Prayer by itself can also recharge us. Turning to God, learning more about Him, and trusting in Him all strengthen our faith.
We need to value ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. We value every other member of our family, after all, right? Why are we so different? We aren’t. We need to value ourselves just as we value our husbands and children. We are part of our family and, just as we have a responsibility to take care of our family, we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves as well.
What will you do this week to take care of yourself?