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.
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.
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.)
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?