I’ve recently felt like I’m watching myself have a meltdown. Why does it take an Emotional Emergency to realize we need to take care of ourselves?
When the plumbing in our new-to-us 100 year old house was having issues, I learned to take baths. I haven’t been a bath person. Too long, too slow, what are you even supposed to do in there? Baths feel like I am on a timer and I don’t know how long is too long and I have a hard time relaxing. However, I refused to take a cold shower (brr!!) and so I was willing to fill the bath with hot water from the sink in order to be warm and clean. I put epsom salts in the water, and some essential oils, so then it feels more purposeful. Not only am I getting clean, but every minute that I stay in this bath, my body is soaking in magnesium- an important mineral that we are often lacking, and one that is great for sore muscles too!
So began the first steps of my self care.
It seems so many of us struggle with this idea. “Self care” is me-time. Movies and chocolate, ice cream, staying up too late, reading a novel, having a margarita, painting my nails, going shopping.
The problem for me is- and this will not be the same for everyone, depending on your personality type- I was doing those me-time things all the time, and I wasn’t doing much better. Instead, I was becoming more selfish, as though I could never get enough me-time to counteract hundreds of hours a week with three small children.
What is Self Care, really?
In researching my Enneagram type (I’m a 5, the Investigator) from the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram, they talk about how you grow for each type, how to become a more well rounded person. Their advice for me felt so simple: be in your body more.
Not exercise more, not run really fast, not lose some weight, not eat more veggies. Be in your body more. Inhabit your body. Be present in the world and life that you are living, feel your body.
My tendency is to think too much, read too much, and I want to be left alone to do what I want to do. For my type, energy conservation is the name of the game, and so we withhold ourselves from the real world.
How to Grow
To grow in my type, I need to be in my body. Yoga and meditation were specific things they mentioned, and that I needed to do them regularly. Hiking also does this for me.
I’ve been intentionally pursuing my body like I would pursue a new friend. In yoga class, I try to take in all the sensations and the positive feelings of being there, without evaluating it too much, which is my tendency. Be present.
The more I can be present in yoga, in hiking, in meditation, in washing dishes and cooking food- the more I can learn to be present with my family, and the more I can learn to be comfortable in the world.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”- Brene Brown
I’ve had to give myself permission to take-care-of-myself. That’s what self-care is. It isn’t always saying yes to more ice cream, more binge-watching, more time at Target, though there is a place for that.
Right now self-care is looking for me like taking care of myself and saying Hey Friend(self), you’ve got a problem. Your intentions and your life are not matching up. You want to be a person that hikes but you avoid exercising at all costs. You want to be healthy but you constantly choose the over-indulgent thing because you don’t want to change your habits. You want to be peaceful but instead you are angry.
There’s a verse (Matthew 7:3-5) about mentioning to your friend that they have something in their eye while you have a giant log sticking out of yours. Right now I feel like I am noticing the wood sticking out of my eye, and trying to chip away at it a little bit at a time. More ice cream isn’t going to do that.
How I’m Actually Taking Care of Myself
- being grateful for the life I have
- washing my dishes
- cooking food (we are starting the Autoimmune protocol this month. It’s like Paleo with even less options. Trying to figure out which foods makes our bodies hate itself. You autoimmune people know what I’m talking about)
- drinking smoothies
- avoiding too much caffeine
- taking baths/regularly showering (I know! This is a real struggle for me ya’ll. I have had small children a long time)
- Reading good books
- Writing as often as I can
- Journaling, especially about the things my kids do. The nostalgia is good for me.
- Spending time with God
- Spending time with people
- Being kind to my husband
- being outside
- wearing clothes that are comfortable and fit my body as it is right now
- making natural face masks– I do it while washing dishes! My kids say I am ree-di-cu-lous!
These things just might help me feel better, and over time, I might actually become the person I want to be.
Figure Out What Your Taking Care of Self Is
Now, these things are not necessarily going to be your things. If you are not usually indulgent with yourself and you are always exercising and showering and doing normal human things, you might have the opposite.
Your self-care list might actually look like drinking margaritas and watching movies and going to the beach. It might look like going shopping to get yourself some clothes that fit. (I have recently purchased some expensive high waisted leggings and some thrift store shirts. The fit of pants is more important for my body than shirts, so that formula works well for me.) It might look like getting a nice haircut or dying your hair.
I don’t know what your self-care is, but I bet you might know, and it might be that thing you’ve been resisting. I think self-care isn’t just about what would help in this moment, but what are our long term intentions for myself- this body, this mind, this ultra highway of emotions? What do I want for my life and how do I go about getting there?
What’s something you can do this week to start Taking-Care-of-Self?
Me, I’ve got yoga tonight. As long as I haven’t caught my toddler’s stomach bug.