It’s been several weeks since my last post on self-care. This was not intended. It was an unexpected health blip on the radar, prompting me to table all other priorities in order to take care of my health. More on that later, but for now I’ll tell you it involves my dental fillings causing mercury poisoning, a compromised thyroid and adrenal glands, all wrapped up in a ridiculous amount of lethargy and superfluous napping. How’s that for a riddle?
So today’s post (since many have asked what I do to take care of myself/get through the day/smile/not run away from home) is a list of practices and guiding principles that have helped me in my self-care journey. Because we just have more to offer our families, our communities, and God when we’re taking care of ourselves, right?
Note: this list is very specific to my personal financial, energetic and circumstantial limitations. Everyone has different amounts of time, money, resources, etc, and so self-care can look as unique as you are!
So here it goes, in no particular order:
1. We hire an affordable house cleaner. I can handle keeping things tidy, but I simply don’t have time to steam mop, scrub bathrooms, or dust. So this angel flutters over once a week and restores cleanliness to our home. It’s like Christmas morning.
2. I recently purchased a meal planning service that provides a breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack menu for every day of the week, WITH the corresponding shopping list and recipes. No more late night runs to the grocery store, or pouring over Pinterest trying to compile a suitable meal plan, or succumbing to cereal every night for dinner. I’m amazed at how much time this frees up in my week, AND how much better we’re eating! (you can find it at Paleoplan.com)
3. I have a tea wall. Because a hot cup of tea is like a warm hug. My tea selection may indicate the cycles of my days- Awake. Zen. Detox. Stress Relief.
4. Exercise. Most days the kids and I go to the YMCA, where I have 2 hours all to myself. I’ve sung the praises of the YMCA in the past and you can read about it here! I also teach fitness classes there under the reasoning: “I’m here already. I might as well get paid to work out!” And since I’ve been asked this a lot, our schedule looks something like this: school from 8-10, gym from 10-noon, then commence the rest of the day.
5. I have a house plant that reminds me to care for myself. In the past I have been notorious for killing plants. So when I began this self-care journey a few years ago, I bought a symbolic plant that grows with me. I’m happy to report that we’re both still alive and growing!
6. There is an affordable Korean spa that has become my retreat. You check your clothes and your connection to the world at the door, and you soak up all the quiet, mindfulness and detoxifying goodness offered within its walls.
7. See a professional! I’ve gained invaluable skills from counselors, and for the past several years I’ve attended a weekly support group via conference call for Christians pursuing a life of authenticity, growth and glory. Truly life-changing.
8. I see an amazing chiropractic naturopath weekly to improve my health.
9. I take breaks throughout my day to practice mindfulness. I never knew how exhausted my brain was until I began paying attention to its inner dialogue. Sheesh! So now I make time throughout the day to stop, breath, and regain focus as I go about my day. I use a timer and ask the children to participate with me. More on that later.
10. Think through my priorities and STICK TO THEM. In other words, live simply. Avoid busyness. Not every need/opportunity is mine to fulfill. Learning to “Just say no” has been one of the most difficult- and most rewarding- lessons for me. I literally had to stand in front of the mirror and practice saying phrases like, “Thank you for the offer, but I will not be participating” or “No thank you, that doesn’t fit into my schedule” or “Let me think about it and get back to you in a day.” I’ve also needed to enlist the help of the Hero Hubs to help me think logically through my capabilities and limitations. One of his many gifts to me!
11. I have been learning my “pre-meltdown symptoms” and how to stay ahead of them. For example, when I begin feeling like I’m trapped in the house or that the kids are suffocating me (i.e. my complain-o-meter is running high and I view myself as a victim) that’s a sign that I need to get out alone and reboot!
12. Get dressed. Like, not pj’s. And before 4 pm. It just makes me feel more like a human.
13. I’ve learned that energy levels ebb and flow like the seasons of the Earth or the phases of the moon or any other cycle. I’ve also learned that it goes much better for everyone when you COOPERATE with those cycles rather than trying to plow through them. In other words: rest when tired, work when energized, etc.
14. This one’s mostly for your entertainment: sometimes I just need 10 minutes of quiet. Sweet silence. So I have been known to buckle the kids in the van with a good snack and some music. I then sit at the front door with a cup of tea. I can see them, but I can’t hear them. They are happy. I am happy. It’s a win/win.
15. I have a ‘corner.’ It’s pretty to me, comfortable, and serves as a little oasis. When the kids get up/wake me up in the morning, they sit on the couch with a movie while I sit in my corner. I take time to journal, pray, prepare for the day. For the most part, they know not to interrupt for those 20-ish minutes.
I would love to hear from you! In what ways have you been able to care for yourself? What ideas might you try in the future? What are you learning about this whole self-care thing?
Absolutely LOVED Reading this….!!! I of course was laughing a bit about the kids in the van ….It is easy to lose ourselves when we become wives and mom’s. It is a challenge to maintain your individuality and “Freedom” as you once knew it. Sounds like you are doing to GREAT job finding what works for you. Exercise is back on my radar…it is like therapy 🙂 Going out every now and then with friends creates a sense of sanity. Praying does Wonders and Keeps life as a whole in check…..creates much need security as well. SLEEP is ALWAYS a Welcomed Self Care Treat :)) …… You have inspired me now to try new Self Care ‘tactics”…… I look forward to sharing them ….XXXXXXXX Cuz’n Gretch XXXXXXXXX
Gretchen, I also admire from a distance your ‘retreats’ to Maine. I think it’s SO helpful to have a change of scenery, right?
Love this list! So helpful for me. In fact, I’m going to do the free trial with that meal planning service. I too love exercise but that’s gone out the window this pregnancy and I’ve been giving myself grace for that. I love what you said about taking pauses thru out the day, that’s very helpful for me.
I have a housekeeper who comes once a month and deep cleans our house, its so helpful and gives me a boost to tidy up knowing that she is coming soon.
I homeschool but I also have educational opportunities for my kids outside the home. Next year my K and 1st grader will go to school one day a week and my 2 1/2 year old will be in preschool that same day. That will give me a whole day with just my baby and I’m really looking forward to that.
Recently I’ve slowly been working on organizing our house and streamlining things. I bought a set of 20 clear shoe boxes at the Container Store and I’m using those. For example, I have two daughters who need their hair fixed every day so I used a clear box for brushes, de-tangler and hair ties. Now when I need to quickly fix their hair I can grab that box and I know everything will be there. They’re also great for art supplies, puzzles, and small toys. The kids can get a box out and play with it and then easily put things away and stack it back up. I’m also trying to purge and get rid of clothing and toys my kids don’t enjoy.
I also regularly plan date nights with my husband (he’s not a big planner and after years of resenting that in him I finally just started doing it myself and we are both enjoying it), and I also plan “dates” with my girl friends. One of my friends love to go junk shopping with me and on Valentines Day we left our kids with the husbands and went junk shopping, it was marvelous. I need to have that time with my friends and if I don’t plan ahead of time it doesn’t happen.
I’ve also been trying to keep my room tidy and my bed made, it makes for a pleasant space for me to go to when I need a little break.
I’m going to keep thinking about this and I may just print off your list and keep it handy to remind myself.
Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out!
Thanks for sharing! I love the idea of the clear plastic boxes. I think I could REALLY benefit from some boxes. I’m a sucker for containers!
Like you, I try to keep my bedroom (hideaway) tidy. If I’m gonna hide out, it might as well be someplace that’s tidy, right?
I would love to hear how you like Paleo Plan. This is week 6 for us and I’m hooked. It’s been interesting to see how my love for cooking has waned as it’s gone from a hobby to what feels like running a cafeteria! I’m sure you can relate.
And it’s timely that you mention school options. Just yesterday after posting this entry, I began researching pre-K options for my 1 & 3 yr olds. Thanks for the inspiration!