I truely believe learning how to holistically care for yourself is an ever-growing skill. Self-care in itself seems simplistic, but in order to do it, you need to know what you need... and that isn't always as simple.
Pre-pandemic, pre-baby... pre-hectic-busy-life.. self-care didn't feel important. It wasn't something I did intentionally, I didn't block it out in my week, or consciously recognize when I did it. It wasn't necessarily that I didn't care for myself, but rather did so in a more.. effortless way? A lot has changed in my life in the last five years...engaged, college, married, bought a house, reno'd said house, became pregnant, experienced a miscarriage, reno'd some more, became pregnant again, got smacked in the face with a world-wide pandemic, welcomed Beau into the world and survived maternity leave in a social distancing society. Self-care has never seemed so difficult to accomplish, yet so simple to achieve. It's felt hard to make time for, yet the smallest wins bring me some sense of normalcy.
I'm sure you can relate. Gyms are closed, hobbies and social activities post-poned, spas/salons... I don't even know the process for them.. ha! I'm greatly out of touch. I may have contemplated cutting my own curtain bangs, giving myself a Julienne Hough-inspired long bob, I've dyed my eyebrows with JustForMen's beard dye, and painted my toenails twice in the last year.... I need to relearned self-care.
I'm sure its a combination of surviving the first year of momhood and learning our new pandemic normal, but I've found myself celebrating the small tasks that make me feel good: bathing, clean hair, painted nails, fresh bedding, a clean home, good coffee, running outside, moisturized skin, lemon water and daily dance parties. My opinion of self-care has shifted dramatically. Balancing what I want to do with my free time and what I should do. Recognizing the difference between temporary relief and permanent contentment. Prioritizing my mental health, physical health and emotional stability. Listening to my body and my mind around what will provide peace has been essential. Your mental toughness and resiliency is what creates the structure for self-care.
Here's what I've learned about myself and how I consider them self-care. Take this with a grain of salt, I know we're all different and find comfort in different things.
A clean home is important to me.
If I feel my home is messy and I'm tired from a sleepless night, I will tidy my home before I rest.
For me, a clear space supports a clear mind. I am not one who thrives creatively in mess. I don't find comfort in that cozy slept-in-vibe bed, but rather a made bed with beautiful throw pillows. I can't turn a blind eye to the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the basket. My rest is FAR more effective when I rest in a place that is organized and tidy. More often that not, friends/family would say.. Ellie, leave the mess and lay down. All from a place of love, and I'd likely give the same advice to you. You're tired? Take a rest, read a book, curl up and watch some tv... I get it.. I tried that. And it didn't provide me the rest everyone promised it would. So.. now I set myself time to quickly pick up what was left behind, straighten the pillows and hang the laundry before I sit and relax. And for me... FOR ME... that works. I can relax in a space that feels good, smells good and looks good. And so I encourage you to do what feels right and listen to your body when it comes to rest.
I need to move my body daily.
I've lived a fairly active lifestyle and spent my time doing traditional exercise, my job was physically demanding and before I got pregnant had started half-ass training for a marathon (basically upped my treadmill/endurance/strength training in hopes to prepare for a proper marathon). With a newborn and a pandemic, traditional exercise took a downward turn. And that's okay. It provided a time for my body to rest after labor. It provided an opportunity to establish breastfeeding and eat intuitively as my appetite grew. It allowed me the chance to appreciate walking in a way I never did. I've learned the streets within my neighbourhood, the time it takes to walk to various locations and have appreciated the change of seasons in a whole new way. Now, moving my body looks differently that it once did. Now I climb up and down the stairs 106 bajillion times with Beau. I crawled on my hands and knees chasing him around. I walked... ever so painfully slow.. one step at a time as Beau learned to walk holding only one hand. And now, with my walking..basically one year old toddler, I walk alongside him, chase after him, and carry him from place to place. I run when I can, and if it fits into our weekend when Brandon is home. I practice yoga (almost) daily... its a slooooow burn, really challenges my fast-paced mind, and tones my entire body. I walk with friends, with family, and with Beau as often as we can. When I'm feeling wild, I'll wake early before Beau and get my workout done in the basement.. those are often the sweaty intense ones. I follows Chloe Ting's workouts for a while and loved the results, and still implement some of her videos throughout my week. Fitness has a whole new meaning and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to move my body the way I do.
When I am stuck in a self-absorbed bubble, not only do I fixate on my problems, my opinions, my life (me, me, me), I loose the ability to serve others. I recently deep dived Dax Shepard's Podcast to years ago when he released his first episode with his wife Kristen. Among lots of topics, they touched on service to others. They spoke about how serving others is often times a love language, and how people feel they show love the best. But also talked about how acts of service is also an incredible self-esteem builder, and could be (half-jokingly) argued that it's actually a selfish act. And I couldn't agree more. Of course they speak on it so candidly and word it much better than I have here, I hope I can give it justice. Not only do I love serving others... but it makes me feel good.. about me. I feel that I'm needed, that I've contributed, that what I can offer is valuable and absolutely builds self-esteem because I'm contributing to things outside of my life. When I feel my best, I do my best for myself and others. It encourages me to take a step back from my life for a moment and serve someone in theirs. Often times, when I return to my melodramatic self, those mountainous problems seem like a measly rolling hill. It absolutely gives perspective, and I love that.
Music as therapy.
We got an Alexa for Christmas this past year and it has been life-changing. Music has always had the power to shift my perspective. Having a source of music in the centre of our home has 100% aided in my self-care. Music has always found ways to comfort my heart and catch my tears, encourage growth, spark creativity, elevate my mood, and motivate gratitude. It is the source of our daily dance parties, broadway ballads, throwback Thursdays and rap battles. It brings our family together, forces us to let loose our speed bumps of the day and focus in on the now. Never underestimate the power of music, the impact of lyrics and the benefits of dancing it out.
I need the space to be heard.
Part of relearning self-care included relearning how to communicate. I am the type of person who processes feelings out loud. More times than not, sharing my feelings out loud, releasing it from my body and just putting it out there leaves me feeling lighter and happier.... and that's even without any kind of resolution. I need the space to be heard. I need to speak my truth, process out loud and find some solution in the end. I usually already know how I feel, what I'd like to see happen or recognize the reasoning behind my anger/frustration/sadness/whatever, and just talking it out can organize the tangled mess in my mind. For me, that's half the battle. Just getting those feelings out. And once that's all layed out on the table, it's much easier to come back together and find peace. Not everyone processes out loud, in fact my husband is a great example of someone who processes things internally. He sits and figures out what he's feeling and does so in solitude. Figuring out how to navigate your feels is a great skill to master... and furthermore, learning how to support your partners train of thinking is that but better. It takes time, patience and a crap ton of grace... but it's soooo sweet when you reach a great balance.
I need quality and adequate nutrition.
Gone are the days where I could eat crap and feel unbothered. And not only do I feel gross, I don't crave those things anymore. They just don't align with the lifestyle I want to continue living. Crappy food makes me feel crappy... in the moment, and long after consumption. Fuelling my body well and hydrating it appropriately goes a very long way for me. It's simple. Drink lots and eat well. The hard part of this, in my self-care aspect, is ensuring I keep a well-stocked fridge/pantry. I try my best to routinely top up our supplies so that future-us have the things that make us feel good, but sometimes life gets busy and we run low on the coffee, bubbly and coconut oil. Those are the dark days. HAHA. In all seriousness, doing quick weekly/bi-weekly grocery top ups ensures our bodies are fed with the things that make us feel the best. And who doesn't want to feel their best?
I am a people person through and through. I enjoy the company of others, need little down time between social events, feel energized after spending time with others as apposed to drained, and seek the community and connection from maintaining the relationships with those I love around me. When I have spent too much time alone it becomes apparent my "human connection bucket" is in need of filling. Connecting with people via FaceTime/Social Media has semi-helped when in person visits aren't realistic, and I will try my best to plan visits/walks for those who I've kept within our social bubble. I chat with my momma bear on the phone once/twice a day and FaceTime her before bed with Beau nightly. I chat with my dad (usually daily) and FaceTime him when we can... often during breakie and Beau can see his Grampa farming away. With my family out of town, I try hard to create a "physical" visit with Beau with the amazing tools of technology. I walk with Beau almost daily, and will sometimes stop by my in-laws to create an opportunity for Beau to spend time with them as well. We were created to have community. We were never meant to live in solitude. It's so hard right now. I have always recognized myself as a social person, and as I've grown I've learned to appreciate the quality of those relationships more so than the quantity. There was a time where anyones company was good company. Spending time with friends, and friends of friends, everyone was welcomed and the more the merrier was the way of life. And although I find myself with a similar mindset (all are welcome), I've learned that not only is human connection important to me, but being mindful with who those connections are with, is just as much so. Gone are the days where I spend time with people who make me feel crappy about myself. Has anyone ever experienced a time where they've left a friends house feeling worse than when they got there? And not just the one-off time when you had a tiff or received some bad news. I've become selective with the company I have. Spending time with people makes me feel good, and spending time with the right people for me makes me feel great.
I guess a common theme for my self-care is instilling systems that ensure my environment supports my well-being, and what I'm consuming is making me feel good. As I've gotten older I've come to learn my diet is far more than what I eat. My diet is everything I consume. And what I consume affects my entire self. The food I eat, the company I keep, the television/movies I watch, the things I read, and the words I listen to. I'm ingesting all these things, so of course it makes sense that it will impact how I feel, act and view my life. My well-being has so many ways to be influenced, and being mindful with my self-care has encouraged that influence to be positive, uplifting and strengthening. Everything is a work-in-progress, and I'm constantly shifting and learning as I go. When I notice I'm irritable, tired and grumpy, it often comes down to an area in my life I've been neglecting. It's a gentle reminder to fuel back up and continue on my day.
Everyone's self-care looks a little different, yet it all enhances the way we feel. I encourage you too look at the little things that you can do to establish happiness. Perhaps take a step back from looking at the week-long vacation trips, the lottery winnings, or brand new house/car/toy as self-care (although they may very well be just that), and look at the daily things in your life that have the potential to bring you joy.
All my love,