The holidays are over, and the kids are sugared up, spoiled with toys and driving me crazy. I have run on a combination of coffee, butter tarts and fancy cheese and crackers for the last week. I am feeling overwhelmed by the mess in my house, my lack of self-control with sweets (I'm looking at you butter tarts and chocolates), and I know that I have been sorely lacking in self-care.
The Simple Life Project, my commitment to a more minimal, mindful and meaningful life will begin in January. Each month I will introduce a theme to explore in my own life, and hopefully inspire thoughtful examination in yours. I have been thinking about this project for almost a whole year already, and I knew very early on that the first theme would be self-care, not just because it lands after the holidays, but because I firmly believe that self-care must be the first step in a commitment to a simpler life.
If there is anything I have learned over and over again in the past year, it has been to fill my own bucket, and to make taking care of myself a priority. Simplifying my life needed to start with me, by taking my own health, needs and interests seriously and making them a priority in my day to day life. This has been messy and imperfect at times (most of the time!) but the simple act of taking my own needs more seriously has dramatically changed my life.
To me, self care is the sacred act of filling my soul, of hitting the reset button, or replenishing my energy stores. When I lack in self-care I experience more overwhelm, anxiety, anger and lack of focus. I used to see self-care as a low priority and accepted it as the odd bath, girls night out or shopping spree sans kids, but I have come to realize that self-care can take many forms, both big and small in scale. It can certainly take the form of one-off experiences like a weekend away, but the odd weekend away is not enough, and it is not fair to expect ourselves to run on empty for weeks and months before we take our own care seriously.
In order to make self-care a part of my everyday life, it needs to be embedded in my daily routines. In a podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, she described how we would never treat a child or animal with a lack of care for their body and soul, and how we need to treat ourselves with the same gentleness, kindness and care as we would a pet or a child. And that means it needs to happen every day, many times a day.
The more I reflect on self-care, the more I am realizing that at it's core - self-care is just being kind to yourself. Kind with the words you speak and think towards yourself, and kind in your actions towards yourself.
As I reflected on how I could be kinder towards myself, I needed to examine my days and identify the things I was doing that left me feeling spent. I ended up making a "to-don't list" for my self care. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I reflexively reach for these "quick fixes" which ultimately leave me feeling more overwhelmed and upset with myself for the mindless spending, lost time, or mindless eating.
- social media scrolling
- online shopping (when I don't have anything I am looking for/planning on buying)
- eating junk food mindlessly (I'm all for mindfully enjoying a treat, but eating chips while scrolling on my phone always leaves me feeling gross.)
The things I know I can do to take care of myself on a daily basis are:
- message or call a friend
- drink some tea mindfully
- read a book
- get outside
- meditate (I love guided meditations in the Headspace app, Omvana app, and a podcast Yoga Nidra by Michelle Jayne that takes about 13 min)
- light a candle
- diffuse lavender essential oil in my house
- mindful colouring
All of these activities leave me feeling more relaxed, grounded, and ready to face the rest of the day, and there is something in here for any amount of time I have. Less than a minute? Light a candle or diffuse some essential oils, or text a friend. A little more time? Bundle up the kids and get outside, or set them up with a show, and sneak away to my room to listen to a guided meditation. In the 14-16 hours a day I am awake each day, I know that I can take a few moments for myself a few times a day.
When I thought about it, I tend to want to consume (media, shopping, food) when I am feeling down or overwhelmed, and what I really need to do is just "be" (meditate, drink tea mindfuly) or to create something (colour, write, doodle etc), or reach out to someone.
For the next month, I plan to be really mindful of when I am reaching for my phone, my credit card, or the fridge, and choose one of these options instead. And, in the words of my sage 6 year old, I will also be "kindful" towards myself, knowing that speaking to myself with empathy, gentleness and kindness is the best way I can care for myself.
What does self-care look like for you?