This post includes a FREE printable to assist you in creating your own plan, and can be downloaded at any time! Read on for all the details 🙂
In the throes of modern motherhood, here are a few phrases that make me cringe:
“Fill your cup.”
“You are a priority.” (I actually laugh out loud at this one)
All these phrases should send warm and fuzzies, but to me, “self care” is associated with privilege. I envision lavish spa treatments with a big white fuzzy robe and flute of champagne, expensive yoga leggings, stylish manicures, a night out to dinner with a fresh blow-out, and some kind of seasonal Starbucks coffee. This is the ideal that I was taught; that I was sold. (No shame if these are things you enjoy and can afford to do regularly – I’m happy for you! But, I’ll warn you that this particular article may not be for you). I pretty much exclusively associate the phrase “Fill your cup” with expensive workout programs, or nail sets that I definitely don’t have the patience (or budget) for. I find that it also is usually followed by “so that you can pour into others,” which gives me brief cause for alarm, because, well, maybe I just want my cup to stay full, ya know? Do I have to pour it out? My “me time” reality: a shower alone, where I actually get to wash my hair. So you can see how it’s easy to develop negative feelings around the societal definitions of “treating yourself.” Some of us can’t. It’s an unattainable goal in our given circumstances. We’ve got children and homes to look after, we’ve got family and friends that need our care, we’ve got jobs that support those families, school and extracurriculars (virtual or otherwise), we’ve got tight budgets and schedules, we’ve got slack to pick up when a partner is away. I hate to say it, but the reality of adulthood, and especially parenthood, is that you don’t typically get to put yourself first.
Can you relate at all? Are you sobbing in the bathroom, hiding from a toddler as we speak? Me neither….
But stay with me, because you CAN introduce some self love and care into your life! There are perfectly valid reasons for why we must take care of ourselves, but it can be hard to feel like we are able to take that opportunity. And it can be overwhelming when everyone is posting about self care like it’s some hierarchical social status, when in reality we all need to find ways to care for ourselves that will better us as well. These mental images of lavish excess are NOT what self care is, not really. Forget the little squares of #SelfCare you see on Instagram, and let’s relearn what it means, apply some love in accessible ways, and make a plan to incorporate peace into our hectic lives. How can we make self care truly accessible? By getting rid of what we think it looks like, and finding creative ways to sprinkle more joy into our lives.
The 5 Pillars of Self Care
I truly do believe that we are all called to serve others, and this is not something that should be seen as weakness; additionally, though, we all know we shouldn’t be neglecting ourselves (even though this too sometimes feel necessary). Ideally, we have a community that can in turn help care for the care givers in a woven network of support; an alternative to my concerns surrounding the ideals of neo-liberal individualism, where the assumption is that each person is just a unit who is solely responsible for him or herself and his or her responsibilities. I hope our society grows to combat that with more complex understandings of our interconnectedness. For the mean time, if you need to take charge of your own self care, I get it, and I digress……..
True self care isn’t being selfish, overspending, chasing some fleeting spur-of-the-moment “fix,” or shucking your responsibilities to take a bubble bath. It’s setting yourself up for internal growth, a peaceful mind and spirit, and gaining awareness so that we can manifest joy, contentment, and even fulfillment. So how can we begin? Often times I’m not even aware of my own needs, I just know that something is off and it’s causing friction. By understanding what I’ve come to acknowledge as the “5 Pillars of Self Care,” I’m becoming more aware of myself; I’m able to identify lacking or weariness within one of these pillars, and align it with an action that I know helps me find more balance.
When making plans to better myself, and to better take care of myself, I focus on these 5 areas: Mind, Body, Spirit, Addition, and Subtraction.
Mind: The brain is the most important organ we’ve got, and its ability to navigate us through this world is amazing. What are some activities that stimulate you mentally? Do you need to calm your mind or would you prefer to exercise it?
Body: The vessels in which we inhabit should be honored and taken care of, and tending to our bodies can affect a lot more than just our physical health; the mind body connection is incredible. So think of your favorite ways to get moving. Do you enjoy gentle stretches and walks? Do your goals require a more strenuous workout and healthy sweat?
Spirit: This one can be hard to name, but when you feel balanced, you know it. Call it a mindset shift, a religious connection, or a combination of universal vibrations… Whatever your spiritual beliefs or practices are, we can only benefit from tapping into them. What habits or rituals make you feel most connected? Are you religious? Do you pray or meditate?
Addition: We all have goals we’d like to achieve, and man does it feel go to work towards them! Think hard about something you could add to your life that you feel would improve it. What are you craving? What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn or try? What would improve your mood?
Subtraction: Sometimes doing less and doing it less well can be a blessing, if you’re willing to release the guilt surrounding perfectionism. Consider something in your life that you can just ditch; a stressor, obligation, or expectation that isn’t serving you positively. How would life be easier if you cut out something unnecessary?
So how can we take all this information and our need for some kind of relief to make this doable? As you’re getting used to manifesting joy, it’s important to see yourself as a capable and creative problem solver. You can utilize the The Self Care Action Plan to help you look at your habits, your goals, and your schedule to commit to a little personal growth, as well as find examples of activities or practices to try. (Download to get started!)
Some key things to remember:
Start with one pillar at a time.
Make a practical plan, but don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge lifestyle shift. Baby step, dear reader. I suggest starting with “Subtraction,” since this is likely the most beneficial pillar when first becoming aware of your needs. It allows you to experience a quick win (Hey, I no longer need to volunteer for that PTA event — insert sigh of relief). And now you have a little extra time to maybe explore one of those other pillars.
Allow time to experiment.
What you think may help you could end up being more stressful, and some things may look different than what we envision, and that’s okay. For example, if yoga is something you enjoy but you just aren’t in a place where you can get to a class or studio, try it at home with your kids, give it a few tries until they get the hang of it too. Don’t throw in the towel just because it looks a little differently than the ideal yoga session (I mean, we can’t all live by the beach and wake up at sunrise and afford LuluLemon. Let go of those expectations and just focus on the practice).
Stack habits if necessary.
You may not be able to carve out much time specifically for reading a book, but you may be able to find ways to enjoy good storytelling and mental stimulation by stacking habits. For example, if you have a commute to work, consider trying an audio book. You can even download a bunch of books for free from your public library; there’s no need to purchase a subscription or app. Do you usually check instagram right when you wake up? Stack onto that by opening up your Bible app or Meditation app first. Eventually your fingers will go straight to these apps out of habit before you begin scrolling through pages of perfectly curated squares.
Always turn toward yourself with kindness and compassion.
There is no “failure” when it comes to trying something new and pushing yourself to be better. Frustration may happen, disappointment is a fact of life, but working towards a better version of yourself is worth every trial. Each moment is a learning experience. Rest when you are weary, continue to receive, and love yourself regardless of your circumstances. Always be reevaluating what makes you happier, what makes you more helpful to others, and what opportunities you have for growth. You are an amazing and loved person, even when you’re exhausted and frustrated and stress-eating snickers in your car (don’t look at me though, just keep pumping your gas, sir).
Forgotten about (and wildly unpopular) forms of self care:
Not so glamorous, but just as important; not shucking responsibilities but allowing yourself the tools to handle them with more peace.
– A homemade meal over a convenient drive-thru.
“Treat yo self” may actually set you up for more stress, or a tummy ache. Nourishing your body is a form of self love. We like to frame the idea of going out to dinner or grabbing a bite at the drive through as a special treat, and sometimes that’s what we need to do — believe me, I get it. But let’s not pretend that opting into a convenience purchase that will damage your health is self care.
– Tidying up.
A clean space really does enhance your mood. No one chooses doing the dishes over getting her nails done, but one of them has a lasting effect on your space, mentally too. Sometimes self care is adulting — literally taking care of yourself. It’s not as glamorous as a spa day, but it costs a lot less to clean your apartment. And you’ll feel good, I promise.
– Paying your bills.
I sincerely hope you’re able to pay your bills consistently, and I don’t need to tell you that there are real consequences if you don’t… this is just an example of another less shiny form of self care; set yourself up for success and do what you need to do.
If you’re looking for some examples of ways to slow down in your life, please feel free to check out September’s 30 Day Journey. There are some great practices included that may help you shift your focus and encourage you to slow down and live simply.
I cannot thank you enough for reading, engaging, and supporting. When you use the Self Care Action Plan, please share it and let me know how you’re doing! If you’ve found some creative ways to improve your self care routine, I’d love for you to share them in the comments! Wishing everyone peace and growth this coming season and always.