No, I didn’t turn into my mother (as I was afraid I would);
Instead, I learnt to parent myself,
In new and creative ways.
I learnt to say yes, and sometimes to say no;
I learnt that I would always have my back;
No matter what I faced, or how old I grew.
When realisation dawned about Self-Care
Eight years ago, I was rocking my red-in-the-face, wailing, newborn daughter, while the breakfast lay burning on the stove. The dirty clothes lay piled up like a mountain range around the living room. My house guests were busy chatting and my husband sat sipping coffee.
I hadn’t bathed in three days; couldn’t remember the last time I had brushed my teeth; and what’s more, it looked like I had turned invisible as well! Anger and frustration bubbled up inside, as I felt overwhelmed with my circumstances. I squeezed my infant hard, as hot tears flowed down my face and into hers.
Startled and breathless, she stopped crying for a second; and, with unfocussed eyes, looked at me.
“How will you take care of me if you can’t take care of yourself?!” she seemed to ask.
That moment became the defining moment; when I realised that, in order to be a parent, I had to
(i) take charge of myself immediately and,
(ii) learn to parent myself in the best way possible.
I’ve come to learn that, there was a term for what I needed to focus on that day. It was self-care – my physical (‘bathe everyday!’), emotional (‘some down time, mama!’) and spiritual wellbeing (‘don’t lose sight of this beautiful moment in front of you’) that I was sorely neglecting.
Self-care is a commitment that I make to myself, each day, to take care of my mental, physical and emotional health.
Putting Self-Care into practice
Over the next several months, as I started to practice self-care, my efforts were met with mild amusement; and, to downright indignation from family and loved ones.
I started handing over the baby to my husband, to get some precious hours of sleep. I hired a help to do the cooking and started saying ‘no’ to visitors who simply ‘had’ to see the baby past our bedtime or mid afternoon! I resumed my exercise routine, 20 minutes at a time and purchased a rocker that would amuse the baby, while I had my bath and brushed my teeth!
In time, as my family got used to the ‘new normal’, they seemed to finally appreciate that, by taking care of myself, I was able to bring the ‘best of myself’ to them.
They liked this version of me, although it was several months and years in the making; and I stumbled terribly from time to time.
My journey in self-care has taught me several things…
- Awareness of ‘self’ is the precursor to self-care.
- Self-care is anything that creates a feeling of wellness in the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.
- No matter how old you are, or what your circumstances, it is never too late to start practicing self-care.
- One can practice self-care and yet be being respectful of others and others needs.
- Self-care doesn’t require a huge monetary investment or hours of your time. Your self-care routine can be tailor-made to fit into your life’s circumstances.
- Your self-care routine can change from day to day. It is not cast in stone and is as fluid as your changing needs.
- Self-care does not mean selfishness! That is nothing farther than the truth. When you take care of yourself, the people around you benefit too (and sometimes the most).
- There is no one-size-fits-all in self-care. I’m reminded of a close friend who’s idea of relaxing was, gathering ten friends around her and exchanging the day’s gossip; while mine was, slinking away to read my book in a corner. Both worked wonders.
- The only permission you need, to begin taking care of yourself, is your own!
How can you be practicing self-care?
Here are some thoughts & ideas that can help you get on the journey to better self-care!
1.Am I important to myself?
Do you prioritize yourself enough to commit to your well being?
Do you think you deserve to take care of your self?
2.What needs to change? What are the signs?
Is it a physical symptom? A nagging feeling that doesn’t go away?
Irritation at a work situation? Overwhelmed with the routine?
Awareness of self precedes self-care.
3.What is possible for you at this time?
Where are you at this moment of your life?
How much time can you dedicate to self-care or self?
What are you restrictions (monetary, time, place, work). Where can you make changes?
4.What do you have going for you right now that you can leverage?
A park close by to walk in?
A work environment that gives you flexible hours?
A supportive partner? Family that can chip in with routine chores?
5.What’s stopping you?
What are your own barriers to making the changes you’ve charted for yourself?
Are there barriers of other kinds?
How can you address them?
Some Ideas on Starting a Self-Care Routine
- Prioritizing sleep and following good sleep hygiene.
- Prioritizing exercise, daily.
- Eating; balanced, nutritious meals.
- Drinking adequate water.
- Becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings and needs.
- Mindful breathing.
- Daily affirmations.
- Practicing gratitude.
- Daily journaling.
- Regular personal therapy.
- Connecting with people and community who support you.
- Cutting off from toxic situations/relationships that no longer serve you.
- Setting boundaries, saying no.
- Making time for activities that nourish your soul.
You are not alone in your self-care journey!
Connect with the self care community at: Self Care Community
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