Self Care Doesn’t Have to Be Elaborate
As much as I’d like to tell you that I spend every morning at a sunrise meditation at my local yoga studio, followed by a 4 mile run, then off to a local women owned coffee shop for some girl time while my cherub children play quietly eating their kale and quinoa scramble, the truth is, I have two young children under the age of 3, and most days, self care looks very different than you’d think. And honestly, up until about 3 months ago, it wasn’t happening at all.
I’m in those years of motherhood where ‘the days are long, but the years are short”. I look at my almost 3 year old and cannot fathom that she was just a newborn in my arms and now is a walking, talking, strong-willed, capable, vibrant human. But, that doesn’t mean that those long days don’t sometimes feel like they’re a week long, and dear lord if one more person whines, I’m going to pick up all these toys and run them to goodwill. That’s grossly embellished, but not really. I really didn’t see a problem with zero self care until postpartum anxiety hit me. Hard. Now, I’m no stranger to anxiety, it’s been my close companion for many years. Sometimes, it’s that distant cousin you see once every few months, sometimes it’s that best friend who doesn’t understand boundaries and likes to hang out by your bed all night long. When I realized what was going on, I immediately got my butt in a doctor’s chair for some anti anxiety medication to help take the edge off. The odd thing about long term relationships with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses (or what I like to think of as the spice of life), is that you know your threshold. I had completely blown past mine. So, I got in for some Zoloft, and went on my merry way. Within a few weeks, I wasn’t feeling so angry all the time, was feeling like I had more patience for my kiddos, I was a better friend, better spouse, and actually doing the dishes more than every time we completely ran out of spoons.
What I started to notice though, is that Zoloft was not a replacement for investing in myself as a human. Yes, I’m in a phase of life where I have an exclusively breastfeeding baby, a toddler going through, quite honestly, a LOT, along with all the natural stressors of running a household, keeping myself hygenic, and having clean towels for when we bathe. I tried doing yoga every night, but honestly, I was too tired. And, then I tried sitting and having a cup of tea by myself, and what I discovered is that I hated my own company. I was boring, exhausted, and not really up for deeper conversations.
So, let’s enter phase one of learning to like being with myself.
Crafts to the Rescue
In an odd way, starting self care is kind of like dating yourself. Which like most dating, can be awkward, boring, and learning about the other person can be intricate and exhausting. (I’m obviously a people person, can you tell?). The main issue, is that my primary energy for building relationships funnels into my relationship with my partner, my individual relationships with both my children, my mother, my siblings, my friends, and my extended family. By the time I get a few minutes to hang out with myself, I don’t really want to chat. The fact I showed up should warrant a gold medal. So, I started off with activities. First, it was a cross stitch kit from the craft store, I completed it (granted I’m pretty sure it was for a 10 year old), and moved on to a free form embroidery design. It gave my hands something to do, and my brain was able to check out a bit.
Then it was moving on to some herbalism. I started researching some of the more potent mushrooms for health (Reishi, Chaga, and Turkeytail in particular ended up being my favorites.), my husband joined me on this exploration and we ended up starting an evening ritual of a cup of hot cocoa with reishi and cinnamon to close out our day. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we sit in close proximity and watch funny youtube videos. The point is, it gave us a little more connection, and that really enabled me to focus on myself more knowing that he and I were solid.
Still playing around with some embroidery and keeping up my Turkeytail and Chaga morning drink and Reishi in the evenings, I was feeling pretty empowered that I was capable of conquering little hobbies I’d always admired. So, I jumped into soap making. This was a blast. I could really get out of my head and into formulations, ways to sculpt the soap, creating colorful swirls, experimenting with scents, and documenting cure times. I usually would do this insanely late at night while the kids and husband were sleeping. It felt finally like myself and I were getting past those initial dates, and I wanted to get into the meatier conversations, so, on to meditation.
Meditation and Anxiety
My husband likes to joke that he didn’t realize anything could stress me out like taking a bath. My whole life (well since I was 15), I’d have people suggest I take a bath to relax. Putting me in a bath to relax will work just about as well as tossing a dry cat into a lake. My brain doesn’t need stillness, it needs to work through the kinks and the cobwebs. Learning to meditation while knowing this about myself has been an incredibly interesting and rewarding journey.
- First, it was about creating a space I wanted to be in. Preferably a clean kitchen. Some nights, it had to be refined to a clean kitchen sink and a clean table. I also chose some teas I enjoy drinking, and found some candles that were relaxing. Quite honestly, if the kitchen was dirty but I needed to meditate, I’d lower the lights and light a couple candles on said clean table. It brought my attention down to were I wanted to focus, and drowned out the excess.
- So,…. now what do I think about? At first my brain was going everywhere and felt a little like that cat I mentioned earlier. So, enter affirmation and oracle cards. Granted, these aren’t for everyone. But, I found a card deck called “The Universe Has Your Back.” and by selecting a random card at night, I’d read the card and then think about the colors on the card, the text, if the text reminded me of any other quotes, if the text reminded me of anything that’s happened lately, or simply what i thought of the wording on the card. Basically, I gave my brain full permission to be that cat in the lake and jump on to any log in that lake, as long as I stayed in the water. If you’re not an anxious person, this may sound like hell. For me, this was the groundbreaking into meditation.
- From there, I introduced a notebook. I’d draw my oracle or affirmation card, digest it for a few seconds and then just start writing everything and anything that came into my head about that card. Sometimes it flowed into situations I was processing and needed to get my feelings out, sometimes it flowed into drawings, sometimes it flowed into letters, graphs, or lists. The point is, I gave myself permission to own my feelings and thoughts. And that was more empowering than I ever could have imagined.
Learning to Love Yourself is About What Works for You
From this post, I’m not hoping you’ll adopt what I do personally, I’m not even hoping you’ll buy some cards, or get into reishi hot chocolate. What I am hoping is that you will see that if you aren’t currently giving yourself self care, it doesn’t have to be instagram or nothing. It doesn’t have to be $400 spa day or nothing. and it definitely doesn’t have to be an hour or nothing. I know we are running on empty, and sometimes it feels like we have nothing left to give, even to ourselves. But, that is the exact time we need to give to ourselves.
How do you self care? Do you self care? What has been helpful for you? Please let me know in the comments down below.