Yesterday, I read a shared post on Facebook in which a mother ranted about all the advice thrown around for "self care," with suggestions for yoga, manicures, and long, hot baths. She expressed frustration at this kind of advice, which she deemed useless unless it came with a "concrete babysitting offer." The poster also vented about the phrase "you can't pour from an empty cup" because, as she says, "I gotta keep on pouring whether I want to or not because tiny people depend on me to live."
I walked away from this post deep in thought and wondering, where's the disconnect? It's true that for many of us, self care practices like yoga and manicures are not regularly accessible, whether it's due to lack of time alone, money, or both. It's also true that many of us are committed to responsibilities that require us to be "on" and serving others for the majority of our waking hours. It's also true that many of us don't have a go-to relief person, whether that's a partner, friend, or family member, to offset our responsibilities.
Here's what else is true: Self care isn't about the extravagant, hard-to-access, above-and-beyond experiences. Sure, if those kind of mini-retreats work into your life, then by all means, go get 'em! Self care at the core of its definition is the act of taking care of yourself. It will look different for each person, but in general, there are many commonly shared practices. Anyone can put this kind of self care into practice -- no matter how busy, how over-committed, or how strapped for cash.
Everyday Self Care Ideas that Have Nothing to Do with Yoga
Take a look at the following list and see what resonates with you. Make note of what would make you feel taken care of and replenished. Observe what items are missing from your everyday life, perhaps ones that used to be routine.
Eat - Eat three meals, maybe with a couple of snacks thrown in; if you can help it, don't skip a meal.
Going to the bathroom when you feel the urge - Not when your bladder is so full you could explode! go when nature calls, even if you have to interrupt important work or take a small child with you.
Washing your face - If you don't start the day with a shower, the simple act of washing your face can give a refreshing start to the day.
Skin care - Taking a couple of minutes after a bath or shower to moisturize your skin with your favorite lotion or oil can improve how you feel for the day to come; it's a small act, but can go a long way.
Hair care - Brushing, styling, coloring, cutting -- whatever you routinely do with your hair, make sure it's incorporated regularly into your life. It's easy to leave this off of the list, but it can be an important component to feeling "whole" on some days. Even a neatly brushed ponytail counts.
Getting enough sleep, or at least more of it - Maybe you can't get 8 hours, but what about turning in 20 minutes earlier tonight? Do that for a week. If it works, try going to bed 45 minutes earlier.
Get outside - Time spent outside, in fresh air and daylight, can greatly improve your mood.
Get up early; maybe - If you feel like "me time" is impossible, consider waking up 30-45 minutes earlier than normal to fit it in. Use the time to follow a practice that feels good and sets the tone for your day, like reading, writing, meditating, sitting and drinking tea/coffee, etc. If sleep is a bigger priority, then go for sleep!
Say no - This takes almost no effort -- besides your own self restraint -- but the payoff can be huge! If your plate is full and your cup overfloweth, then do not, I repeat, DO NOT take on anything new. Be honest with people. Tell them you will recommend others for the job/help. But whatever you do, don't say "sure."
Turn on music - Whenever a good song comes on, I am reminded how much music inspires me -- and how often I forget to make it part of my current life. If you're like me, consider turning on your favorite music as an act of self care.
Spend time with a friend - This does not necessarily mean to go out to dinner with a friend, though it could. Invite a friend over to your house (yes, mess and all) or call a good friend and have a good conversation. Real connection with friends, when you're a busy parent, can feel like a real treat.
Do one thing each day? week? month? that you want to do - For a minute, think about your likes and interests. Make a list. Pick one of those things each day, week, or month and DO IT. Maybe it's cooking, so bake your favorite dish or try a new recipe. Maybe it's crafting, so pick a project and work on it 20 minutes a day. Whatever it is -- make a commitment to doing something that's purely just for yourself.