What self care looks like for me right now.

What self care looks like for me right now.

I used to be the type who would push through and get things done, no matter what. (Although you should maybe take that with a grain of salt: I have pulled exactly one all-nighter in my life, my freshman year of college, to finish a paper for my government class that earned me the worst grade of my entire academic career.)

These days, I try to take good care of myself. I used to think self care was silly and indulgent; now I view it as something vital—essential to my health and my sanity.

(If that’s not convincing, I’ve come to believe all those studies are right: it’s totally worth it from a productivity standpoint, too.)

I used to be bad at self care; now I’m pretty good at it. (I have my bad days: like when I just stayed up till midnight to finish a great book when Will was out of town. One could argue that that could be viewed as a “treat” instead of a self care lapse—it was a weekend night—but when a booming thunderstorm woke me up at 4:45 the next morning my previous night’s decision looked pretty terrible. Yawn.)

During the transition there was a time when I started believing that it could possibly be a good idea to put my own needs anywhere but last, but didn’t actually act on this inkling.

To talk myself across this gap, I used two strategies I picked up in therapy: when it came to self care, I tried to give myself the same advice that I would give to my best friend—and then I tried to follow through on it the way I’d hope she would.

backyard planning

With that in mind, this is what self care looks like for me right now:

Self care right now looks like recharging my body as reliably as I charge up my iPhone. It means turning out the lights at a decent hour, even if that’s only ten minutes after my kids go to bed some nights. It means sleeping far away from my phone and putting a clock on my nightstand. It means trashing (literally) my old college tees and buying real pajamas.

Self care right now looks like trashing my old holey underwear and buying 7 new pretty pairs. And then it looks like taking the time to fold them neatly in my underwear drawer, because it makes me feel happy every time I open it.

Self care right now means stepping back from the foods that others can eat with no ill effects, but make me feel like crap. It looks like eating more salads. It looks like drinking more water.

backyard

Self care right now looks like going for a walk with no headphones, for a drive with no radio, for sitting in the backyard with no book. It looks like listening to the silence, and listening to myself. It looks like giving myself the opportunity to get bored and feel lonely, if only for a few moments.

Self care right now looks like trusting my gut.

Self care right now looks like taking a bike ride in the middle of the workday, during my precious child care time, because my muscles and my brain need the change of pace.

Self care right now looks like crating the puppy when it’s time to work. More often, it looks like playing with the puppy. Very soon, it will look like walking the puppy. (I can’t wait. Neither can he.)

books, coffee, flowers

Self care right now looks like asking for help: with the laundry, with the dishes, with pulling the weeds, with making decisions. It looks like chatting with neighbors and talking to old friends. It looks like making time for get togethers even when our schedule leans toward the full side.

Self care right now looks like getting massages so my shoulders and neck don’t start screaming at me, and it looks like actually doing the stretches the therapist shows me.

Self care right now looks like a $2 bouquet of zinnias on the kitchen counter, like books neatly shelved instead of strewn across the office floor, like a bed that’s made, with no clothes piled on it.

More than anything, self-care right now looks like a state of mind, a paradigm, an attitude. It’s the opposite of overwhelmed; it’s anti-frantic. It’s choosing to make—and act on—the assumption that I have time to take care of myself, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment.

I’m sure there are whole categories I’m forgetting here. What does self-care look like for YOU right now? What do you want it to look like?

P.S. Spinning out, and avoiding burnout.

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83 comments

  1. Self-care for me right now looks like morning and evening prayers with my family. Reading the Bible and spiritual books before bed. Making my bed each day and cleaning the kitchen each night. Sitting on the porch with my husband each night, drinking a glass of wine and watching the fireflies.

  2. Cath says:

    I love ‘anti-frantic’. For me, today, it is an early morning run and enjoying a coffee made by my eight year old. I am hoping it creates a calm beginning to the next few days of packing for our annual sojourn to where I grew up in Prince Edward Island (home of Anne, Emily and so many more wonderful characters!).

  3. Bethann says:

    Love the 2 strategies you use to push you to self care! Self care for me looks like getting up early before anyone else to start my day, listening to podcasts on walks, getting to bed earlier, building in no excuse exercising routines and reading more!

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’m still in the years of very young kids and just in the last year I’ve learned that if I don’t take care of myself, the whole household suffers. It’s taken time to get over the guilt I initially felt in taking time and resources just for me. But now it’s a necessity. Like you, I buy myself flowers or pick a bouquet from the yard. I go on runs with no devices. I go antiquing by myself. By buy my favorite loose leaf tea and make a pot each afternoon while I read.
    I actually wrote about a very similar subject this morning on my blog-investing in yourself. Thanks for sharing all the ways you are investing in YOU, Anne!

  5. While going through grad school for counseling, people kept telling me to slow down and do selfcare. I had no idea what it was. So, I spent eight years researching the positive psychology literature and writing a book about selfcare. Abingdon Press published my book Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. I’d love to send you a copy.

  6. Aims says:

    Self-care for me is discovering your blog! It’s also rediscovering posts from my blog that I wrote years ago to inspire myself again towards writing. Self-care lately has meant investing in a new mattress that adjusts to a “lounge” position and taking time to actually lounge in it with tea and a good book. Self-care for me right now is allowing my newly adopted teen daughter and myself a bit of space from each other now that we’ve bonded so that when we see each other in the evening at the end of the day we have lots to talk about together. Finally, self-care for me even this week has been continually placing in God’s hands through prayer the prospect of adopting another daughter this year from foster care. Thanks for you terrific posts. They are like a breath of fresh mountain air to my spirit.

  7. Ciera S says:

    I love the idea of looking at it through the lens of “what advice would you give a friend.” Self-care is a word I hear frequently working in the Social Work department of a university. Like many others, it’s something I tend to brush off.

    What do you think sparked you to see self-care as “vital”? Was it simply growing older? Having children or another life event?

    • Anne says:

      Hmmm. I think the school of hard knocks and a little bit of long-overdue pattern recognition helped me to make the mental switch: when I don’t take good care of myself, bad things happen. And a little bit of empathy, that came with growing older and opening my eyes a little: I’m very empathetic when it comes to other people, but have always been hard on myself. I’ve learned the past few years that that is NOT a good thing. And seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the therapy part: that really helped me get over the driving-myself-too-hard stuff.

  8. Dawn says:

    I love the qualifier “right now.” Self-care used to look like going to the gym 3-4 days per week. I loved it and loved being strong, but I have an ongoing issue requiring surgery (today, actually) that means I have been and will be out of the gym for several weeks. Self-care will look more like rest and family time and gentle words to myself for a while. I hope there will be a time to get back to the gym, but I love the lazy Saturday mornings too.

  9. Stacey says:

    Love all of this. I am not great at taking care and I really like the idea of following the advice you would give to a friend. Also, important for me right now is to focus on eating the foods that I know make me feel good. Summer makes it way too easy to eat the ice cream that make me happy but at the same time makes my body feel yucky. Thank you for these good reminders!

  10. Molly says:

    Thank you for this post. Self-care in the past has looked like writing in my journal, sitting with a coffee in the book store, and tending my tiny garden. Lately I have not been indulging in any of these. We bought a new house and are working to get it ready to move into. At the same time I am trying to manage the house we currently reside in and pack things. I am tense and stressed much of the time. As soon as we finish painting the new house I am scheduling an hour-long massage.

  11. Cassie says:

    Yes to all of these! I’m focusing on eating well, drinking lots of water, getting outside even if it’s 95F, morning yoga, walks throughout the day, reading and writing.

  12. Steph says:

    I have a lot to learn. Self-care for me this week looked like dropping my child off at daycare and going home instead of going to work (even though it is an inconveniently long drive) because I had been up for hours at a time the night before with a stomach bug. I was so proud of myself for making THAT decision. Perhaps I need to get a bit more proactive 🙂

  13. Katia says:

    This is a great reminder for me. In the summer, when the sun sets later, I tend to have more energy and end up going to sleep later. However, the sleep debt accumulates. I’m dealing with that dreaded debt right now. It’s time to go return to my usual bedtime. Thank you for the reminder, Anne.

  14. Erica Layne says:

    I love all of these ideas and the overall flow of this peaceful post. For me, it looks like…

    Nighttime showers (when no one can bug me), lotion on my feet, the occasional hot foot bath, and leaves and branches clipped and brought indoors.

  15. sarah says:

    I was just sitting on my yoga mat thinking about this same topic. For me, daily yoga is a requirement, as is a short period of quiet time in the morning with a cup of coffee and my devotion books (right now: Meditations from the Mat, Simple Abundance, and Joyce Meyer’s 365 Daily Devotions). For so long, because I both work from home and homeschool my children, I would race to my desk first thing in the morning so that I could get a head start on the work before the kids got up. No longer. The *most* important thing I can do when I wake up is get some quiet time with my own mind, with God, and with some inspirational reading. I am also thinking about adding in a monthly chiropractor visit to my self-care schedule. If I neglect either my body or my mind, I go insane and want to hide under the bed and enroll the kids in school. I am inspired, though, by your treat of walking without headphones or driving without music. I never do that, but with the way constant noise wreaks havoc on my soul, I think turning off the music at times like that might be an excellent idea.

    • Jennifer says:

      Self care is so important and yet misunderstood. Especially, for me, in a religious culture, it can be seen as selfish. Although it is not what the doctrine teaches, there is a culture of giving until you drop–and if you set boundaries and say “No. I can’t. This time needs to be for me” then shame (from others and/or self) comes in to say that you should sacrifice think of others more than self.

      i really believe that it’s like oxygen. When you are on a plane and if the oxygen masks drop, you are told to put on your own mask before helping others around you (including children). Without self care, i have nothing to give to anyone else. If i take the time to make sure that i have my oxygen, then i am in a better position to give to others.

      For me right now self care looks like an early morning run, a moment at the end of the day to look at the stars and reflect on my high moment, low moment and gratitude for the day, and also keeping my nails painted so that i don’t have to look at chipped polish.

  16. Anna says:

    Right now self care looks like taking the longest walk I can fit in, every day I can fit it in, and not worrying about it on the days I can’t. It looks like taking a media fast as a birthday gift. It looks like sitting every morning on the sun porch with my small coffee with honey, sitting until I’ve finished, watching the sun rise over the backyard trees. It looks like finally deciding to get a maid, even if it’s just once. It looks like deciding to find a counselor for the long-term. It looks like making time every other Tuesday to be alone without work, or children, or chores so I can write and re-energize. It looks like admitting when I really can’t eat that food with that new allergen because even if it tastes good I will feel sick and it’s not worth it. It looks like switching sodas and caffeine for B Vitamins, Emergen C, and some protein. It looks like saying no, not right now, I can’t fit that in, maybe another time. It looks like finally (oh so gently) sleep training the 15 month old, even though it’s hard, because 15 + months of terrible sleep is making me feel, well, terrible. It looks like meal-planning for what our days actually look like, and the foods we actually need to eat, and not my ideal summer fantasy diet. It looks like inviting people over even though the floors aren’t swept, or mopped, or picked up.

  17. Tina says:

    I am in a new stage of life with adult children out of the house and an ailing mother living with me so self-care has become essential to my well being. Self-care for me these days is a solitary early morning cup of coffee and a book; an evening trail run or crossfit class; yummy, healthy food; good wine and coffee; cross country texting with my best friend; and essential are deliberate moments/getaways with my husband.

  18. Tim says:

    Self-care for me includes a liberal dosage of the word “No”. I learned long ago that I could not say yes to every request, invitation, demand, and still remain healthy mentally, emotionally and physically. Saying no doesn’t bother me, and how others react to me saying no doesn’t bother me either. It used to, but I got used to it.

  19. Aubrey says:

    For me, it is saying no the glass of wine before bed (because it always makes me wake up after a few hours) so I can get a good night’s sleep and wake up for my run. Then it’s taking a shower and actually washing my hair and taking the time to blow it out. It’s reading a good poem and then trying to write one. And, on my counselor’s instructions, it’s writing down what I like about myself–and trying to add to that last every day. It’s washing the makeup off my face at night. It’s playing on my piano for a few minutes before bed. It’s lighting those scented candles. It’s picking the brave nail polish. And it’s staying the crap out of other people’s drama.

  20. Terri says:

    It took me years to listen to what my husband was telling me to do: take care of myself. I am better, but still bothered with guilt for doing so. I like to have a list, full of things to do, but the reality is that I never finish it. More guilt.

    What I do that absolutely works for me is to quilt every day. It is my favorite activity to do. I find it is the one thing I can do that frees my mind. I don’t think of shoulds, should nots, or problems from work. It is an oasis for me.

    Another important part is to read scriptures and pray morning and night. During the day, I try to read one article out of a religious magazine. It keeps my life in balance and focuses me on the bigger picture.

    I’m still working on not worrying about everything, that will be a long journey.

    • Bonnie says:

      I LOVE that your husband encouraged you to take care of yourself! I so desperately needed mine to, but he never would. Being a giver in a family of male takers is a guarantee it’s never going to happen. (And it’s not fair to include my sons in this, because kids are naturally takers.). Add in the fact that my wonderful mother put everyone’s needs before her own, and it’s easy to see how I ended up at the bottom of the pile. Every time. Still, really. I see the younger women doing a better job at this, or at least it seems that way to me. Kudos to them. They–and their families–will be better off for it.

  21. Sonja N. says:

    I love that you’ve written about this, Anne! For me, right now with my first baby only five weeks old, it means reading a chapter of the Bible in the morning, reading during the hours spent nursing, and taking a nap with baby in the afternoon. Also, going for walks on my own occasionally while husband takes care of the baby.

    • Laura says:

      I have a 1 month old and am figuring out how to care for myself with limited sleep- a nap each day has been key. And taking walks, showering (can’t believe I have to think about this now!) and reading. Anyone have other suggestions?

      • Dawn Reiss says:

        Congratulations on your baby! Every time I had to readjust to a new newborn, I allowed myself the grace to get very little done each day. Make sure the baby is cared for, do a shower during baby’s nap, and do a load of laundry. Everything else is gravy.

      • Katherine says:

        Self care with a newborn might mean taking people up on their offers to help. If it is a vague but sincere offer (“is there any way I can help?” Or “let me know if you need anything”) I respond with “I would never turn down a frozen lasagna or pizza”. We have a trader joes in town, so freezer meals are pretty delicious.

        🙂

  22. Betsy says:

    Thank you for these timely words. I am learning to establish more self care in my life because I know the benefits are beautiful for me and those I love. You are brave and honest and a constant voice of wisdom, Anne!

  23. Ellen says:

    For me, self care lately has meant a heavy dose of novels (Mostly from MMD lists). I get into research modes sometimes and only read for information.

    Seeing bedtime as a luxury and creating rituals to make it so.

    Good drinks, even just special water.

    And I think it will mean cutting out my afternoon coffee soon, though I dread that. I’m finding it’s more hindrance than help.

  24. Simone says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am not very good at self-care, but this has given me such a vision of what that could be for me, that I’m near tears.

    Blessings.

  25. Today, after failing to get into bed early, get up early, exercise, or do my other self-care things, self-care looked like cleaning my office vigorously. It also means getting up early to exercise, drinking coffee (instead of sacrificing it for tea), training my dog, reading non-serious books. Decluttering my house. I’m trying to adhere to The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and have been really inspired by your posts on it.

  26. Kitty Balay says:

    Oh, this is perfect timing. I’m currently listening to Better Than Before. I’ve had more than a couple light bulb moments with this book. Reading your post gave me another one: I’ve been thinking about all of the things I SHOULD do rather than the things I WANT & CHOOSE to do to take care of myself.

  27. Jerri says:

    I really love this post! Until now, I have been nursing or pregnant for the past 10 years. For the first time since I started having babies I have started exercising again. I feel so guilty every time I drop all 5 of them off at the child care room so that I can take a yoga class. I don’t think I will anymore. Now, I should also consider the whole new pajama and underwear thing;)

  28. Sassy Apple says:

    The first ‘lesson’ my therapist taught me was how to say no. She emphasized saying just that one word and not giving a real or false excuse because that gave the other person room to negotiate. It was definitely a game changer and a lesson I’ve passed on to others. 🙂

  29. Liesl says:

    I recently cleaned out my underwear drawer and threw away half of them because they were so old/I never wore them. And it feels great! Pajamas are next!

  30. Dana says:

    Self care for me is going to Jazzercise 4-5 mornings a week to dance and spend time with a great group of women. Afterwards it is a stop for my favorite cup of tea at Caribou-Earl Grey/Mango. I bring my tea home and read the paper on my sun porch. At night self care is not watching Tv and instead going to bed early to read.
    It is spending time alone in my studio to write, read or paint each day. It is taking myself on Artists’ Dates alone ( from Julia Cameron) to the bookstore or art supply store or a gallery and just wandering around.

  31. “More than anything, self-care right now looks like a state of mind, a paradigm, an attitude. It’s the opposite of overwhelmed; it’s anti-frantic.”

    Yes! I think that is the larger point of self- care: that it is more than what we DO specifically to cultivate it, it is more importantly our state of mind and attitude towards ourselves. For me lately, that is giving myself grace and saying no to false guilt.

  32. Amanda says:

    I love the idea of sleeping away from the phone. It’s currently my alarm clock and that can’t be helpful for my sleep.

    Self-care for me includes as much sleep as I can fit in, walks with my dog, yoga, lots of water, and treating myself to a manicure!

  33. Carrie B says:

    Self care for me looks like spending money we can barely afford on a trainer. My eyes are on the prize. When I turn 40 in a year and a half, I want to be proud of my health.

  34. Erin says:

    The hard way I’ve learnt that my self-care includes much of your wisdom. It also includes nurturing my creative self. This doesn’t come easy for me, but important. It means picking up my camera and getting outside and taking shots of my children.

  35. Karenlynna says:

    Self care for me means getting up every morning and going on a walk or run with the baby in the jog stroller. It means keeping the kitchen clean and the other spaces at least picked up daily. It means enjoying as many cups of tea as I want each day. It means eating an apple and a salad every day no matter what. It means heading to bed early enough to take my vitamins, floss my teeth, write in my one-sentence/five-year journal, and wind down with a book that I want to read, not that I should read or need to read.

  36. Kate says:

    I haven’t commented on your blog before, but it’s become my favorite to read since discovering it a couple months ago…I appreciate your thoughtful posts so much. We share a similar taste in books, interest in all things personality, and from what I can tell, basic lifestyle. (PS…I WISH you’d start a homeschool blog! Or write more about that here. I’d love to hear how and what you do for that!) I rarely listen to music in the car, I frequently turn off my headphones while walking, and I almost daily go to bed about 30 minutes after my kids. (Am I the only one looking forward to it being dark at 7:15 again?!) Self care for me looks like keeping my inbox empty, mandatory rest times for all the kids (reading time for me!), having empty shelves in my closets (less stuff=less work!), and finally sticking to a meal-planning schedule. I’m also slowly reading ahead for our coming school year.

  37. Debra says:

    thanks for sharing what self care is. I had my first child at 18 and now I am 40 and my youngest is 14. Running around like a crazy mom days are over and I feel like what now? I’m going to take care of me! Thanks.

  38. Annie Beebe says:

    I’ve learned so much about myself in the last six months and the right ways FOR ME to take care of myself, not trying to copy someone else’s self-care strategies. It looks like morning Bible reading along with mind-stretching devotional reading of Oswald Chambers, then prayers on my knees. It looks like making my bed, flossing my teeth every day, and going to the gym for “body church.” It looks like loving, serving or creating, so I can look back on the day, and know I’ve done what my God asked me to do. I’ve spent so long not maintaining my body, my spirit, or my mind, I’m paying the price. But God has given me a time of rest, and I’m taking full advantage!

  39. Emma says:

    You write so beautifully – love this.

    Self care for me right now looks like naps in the sun with my cat. It looks like 8pm bedtimes. Like rereading childhood books. Like practicing meditation. It looks like staying in when I want to stay in. And like buying myself flowers for every room of the house. It looks like laughing. A lot. But also crying sometimes. And it looks like surrounding myself with people who inspire me to be my truest self.

  40. Debra G says:

    Great post. Self-care looks to me right now like making the time daily to read my Bible and have my prayer time. It looks like making the time to get the gym 5 to 6 days a week. It looks like making time to read. It looks like making time to go out to coffee with a friend. It looks like taking time to rest and just enjoy life and the people in it.
    May I ask what appointment book you are using? Or is that just a picture for the blog?

  41. Sanja says:

    Hi there, I’m currently doing a series of very short interviews with Mums who work. Would love to include your balanced view here if you are interested in sharing?

    Best wishes,
    Sanja

  42. Judy Morrow says:

    My self-care this evening was reading your inspiring post, Anne, and all the wonderful comments that followed. I loved the sense of community around this topic. The best thing I’ve done over the years is to start my day with a cup of coffee and reading my Bible and some devotional books. I often sing a hymn before praying.
    I noticed some wrote about also reading devotional books in the morning. You were so dear to mention my latest book on your blog when it first came out in late 2013. I continue to receive such sweet comments from readers–including a lady in the grocery store today–who appreciate the daily readings. I’m still in awe that my journal entries ended up as a book, but for those who may be interested it’s called The Listening Heart: Hearing God in Prayer.
    Now I’m headed for some more self care with my evening walk in my sweet mountain town. 🙂 (And blessings to all of you new moms and those with children at home. That busy season will pass more quickly than you can imagine, and I’m glad you are being wise to care for yourself in the midst of it.)

  43. Anna says:

    I’m taking this more seriously after some minor health problems due to stress. Self care for me means many things right now: exercise scheduled in my day, and a valid reason to say no to other requests; eating well, even when I don’t want to; computer/internet/work free day on Sunday; carving out some quiet time for myself and family; reading for fun; creative projects. And I think a big part is just realizing that I will never get everything done, and that’s OK. There is more to life than work and tasks. 🙂

  44. Kim says:

    Self care for me is going to the dentist. It’s embarassing how long it’s been. My husband has been, my kids have been, not me ?

  45. Melinda Stanton says:

    I love this! I’ve gradually figured out what I need: a long time in the morning over coffee and relatively brainless internet reading, lots of margin in everything: time, money, etc; quiet/alone time to recharge after high energy events or ones with lots of stimulation, “white space” between events. I’ve also figured out in what role I function best: a supporting one. Stepping into a starring one is far too stressful!

  46. Joy says:

    This is lovely, and inspiring, and just a little bit guilt-inducing… For most of my life, I deemed myself unworthy of care, which led to a whole pile of awfulness, including depression, obesity and relationship disasters. While my eyes have been opened to the truth over the past few years of pretty intense self-discovery, I’ve never succeeded in consistency in this important area. Your poetic yet authentic descriptions have encouraged me; I thank you 🙂 (Just clicked over here from Red and Honey – so glad to have discovered the treasures of this space!)

  47. Cori says:

    self care with a newborn (baby #3) means letting go of “self care” things I can’t seem to fit in my schedule right now and embracing a more simple self care regimen; like going to bed early, showering, eating 3 meals per day, etc…Right now I simply don’t have the time to read the latest fiction novel I finally got my hands on. Today I noticed a certain book has been sitting on the counter for over a week making me feel guilty every time I walk past it unread. I guess what I’m saying, is that for me, it means embracing this season with another baby and letting me of my lack of “me” time…it come again sometime soon.

  48. Liz says:

    I like your bit about actually doing the stretches your therapist shows you. I’m a massage therapist, and once I was working on a dentist, who told me that he doesn’t need to stretch because he gets a massage twice a month. That’s all well and good, but I asked him what he would say to someone who claimed they didn’t need to brush and floss every night because they got a professional cleaning once a month. 🙂

    Good for you for doing your stretches!

  49. Thanks for a good reminder, Anne. It’s so important to take care of yourself in order to have more to pour out to others!
    Right now self-care looks like getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep, taking early morning walks, reading in between teaching piano lessons, and watching Psych with my husband when we have an evening at home.

  50. Emily says:

    I was near tears reading your self care mantra (as I’m calling it)… I may have even printed it off! 🙂 I really do believe it’s in the small gifts that we find joy and I so often don’t allow myself to experience those gifts. Thanks for sharing your practice of self care (and so beautifully)… it’s inspired me to improve mine.

  51. Elizabeth says:

    I’m super late to the game reading this but it reminded me that self-care has been on the back burner lately and maybe that’s why I feel the way that I feel: exhausted, moody, run down, exasperated. Thank you for the reminder. Self-care will be moved up the to do list immediately.

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