What is self-care?
Self-care is what people do for themselves to achieve and maintain a level of optimal health, well-being, and happiness. The Self Care pillar focuses on taking excellent care of your physical body. But wait! You’ve heard this before and if you’re like me the phrase “taking care of your body” can spark feelings of frustration or guilt. Don’t worry though! Over the next few minutes we’re going to break down in simple steps just how easy it is to care for yourself—and trust me if I can do it, you can too!
Most of the problems people face feel seem very complex to them. If they’ve come to see me (a therapist) to get help with these challenges, then they most certainly feel unsure how to resolve them on their own. I have learned through decades of experience, that the small and simple basics have the amazing power to help us understand our most complex issues and emotions.
So, before you throw your hands up in the air, take a minute to put your hand in mine and trust that I am leading you somewhere wonderful, restorative and powerful.
In the Self-Care pillar, we’ll look at four areas that make up the foundation upon which the majority of your health and happiness are built.
Let’s agree to view these simple things in a whole new light, a light that will illuminate everything in your life and bring with it a renewed sense of love and respect for who you are and the miraculous body that you were blessed with.
I invite you to spend thoughtful time taking these basics seriously. I have confidence that as you apply this knowledge to your life, you will see physical rewards as well as begin to develop feelings of empowerment and confidence. You are worth taking good care of! Let’s go.
Your Amazing Body
Your body is a truly a work of art, a genius creation that continues to mystify and awe even the greatest scientists. Did you know that your heart beats 100,000 times a day? That is 40 million times a year your body keeps oxygen and nutrients flowing through your veins, giving you energy and strength. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It guards you night and day from infection, signals you, when you need warmth and automatically cools when you are too hot. It’s crammed full of delicate sensors that send important messages to your brain as you interact with the world. Speaking of the brain… yours is only about 3 pounds, but within that small organ is an astounding 100 billion nerve cells that are not only in charge of all of your complex reasoning and memory, but also those automatic and unconscious processes that occur every second of every day in your body.
Truly complex in design, yet elegant in function, the human body—your body—is something to celebrate
But hold up… When was the last time you actually celebrated your body?
You may have to stop and think very hard to answer this question. More likely than not, you will be able to clearly remember the last time you criticized your body. It may have been while trying on those pair of jeans or admiring someone else’s curly hair, or while standing on the scale, or in front of the mirror after getting out of the shower. We are often very quick to judge our body harshly when it gets sick or is tired. We usually demand a lot and usually offer very little in terms of gratitude and love for our bodies.
Hopefully, what we talk about today will help you begin to change this.
In my private practice, I specialize in working with women who usually also happen to be mothers. I have the best job in the world because of the kind of women that come into my office every day. They are bright, accomplished, incredibly talented and very competent.
And yet, almost every one of them is running on fumes. Only a handful can see themselves as the competent person I see when they walk through the door. What they tend to see is a tired, worn-out woman who is having trouble taking care of herself.
In many ways, they are absolutely right. They are tired and worn out from their demanding schedules and taking care of all the people who need them. They’re good at taking care of those people and not so great at taking care of themselves. They question their abilities, are often very critical of their bodies, and they are last on their list for most everything, including eating, playing and even going to the bathroom!
Recently I was visiting with Carrie, an awesome mother of five children who had come to see me about 6 months earlier when she’d started having trouble with anxiety and increasing thoughts of despair. That first session she told me of the hard time she was having.
“I know I’m a good person, I think… It’s just that I don’t feel that way most of the time. I can’t get anything done during the day, just the basics that keep the kids fed and their homework done. When it’s almost time for bedtime, I can hardly wait for the day to be over. And then after they are in bed I stand at the door and look at them sleeping in their bed and I cry because I know they didn’t get the best of me that day. Every day I wake up determined to try harder to give them my best, and every night I end up crying in their doorway.”
What struck me about Carrie was her competence and her deep and tender heart. It was evident how much she loved her children and her pain was almost palpable. She was so tired and disheartened! Our first session, we spent time talking about what we will lay out in this pillar. It is simple stuff; so simple it almost seems silly to talk about. But in actuality, it is the foundation for everything important in her life, and in yours.
We talked about the basics of self-care: nutrition, hydration, sleep, movement and what I call body connection. Simple things to talk about, but not always easy to implement. We started small and for six weeks, Carrie focused on taking one step at a time. As she walked in for our final session in my office, she appeared to be a different woman. Of course, she was still just as competent, and certainly just as busy. But she was calmer, less frazzled and less anxious. She reported that she felt better in ways that she hadn’t anticipated…
“I still have really busy days that can overwhelm me, but they don’t upset me or exhaust me like they used to. I know how to take care of myself and that has given me a different perspective that has helped me a lot.”
I asked her what kinds of things were different for her and she laughed
“Well first off, I go to the bathroom when I have to go! I didn’t used to do that. I would wait and wait until I almost forgot that I had to go. I’m better at listening to my body. I eat breakfast in the morning and take time to rest in the middle of the day for a few minutes. I’m better at a lot of things actually, and most of them are all about me. I used to not think about these things because I didn’t think I had time to. But what’s really weird is that it actually makes me feel like I have more time to do the really important things I care about, like taking care of my kids and loving on my husband.”
What Carrie was able to realize in her busy life are the same things you can too—the very real benefits of simple self-care. What she found and realized was that her body didn’t have to be the enemy—by taking care of herself she was able to reestablish a relationship with her body and befriend it.
When you ask a woman how she feels about her body, you learn a lot. I do this often with the women and moms I work with. I want to know what kind of attitude she has toward the human frame she lives in. It is her home, where she gets her strength to carry out tasks and where she feels pleasure and pain.
Your body is a vehicle and it should be your friend. It has a job, actually, many jobs. But unlike a car or an appliance, it is a complex creation that requires constant care or else it will begin to slow or break down. The break down may not be evident at first. Your body can strain and struggle for years as it tries to keep up with life’s demands before faltering or showing signs of neglect.
I remember as a young mother, pushing myself to stay up late to get things done and getting up early to get my kids fed and dressed. The only way to meet all of the demands on my schedule was to let go of my sleep. It seemed to work fine for a while until signs of fatigue started to creep into my daytime hours affecting everything else in my life.
The body doesn’t know how to regenerate properly without enough sleep, nutrition or movement. But no one told me this… As a young mother, I was certain that I could will myself to function in the way I needed to. That came to a screeching halt after my second child was about a year old.
I started to get sick—a lot. At first, it was strep or a virus, colds and sinus infections and then a bone-weary fatigue that kept me on the couch throughout most of the day. My doctor said I was healthy, for the most part, and that he couldn’t tell me why I got so many sicknesses or why I felt so tired all the time. I felt like my life was out of my control and I was scared. Instead of running a million miles a minute like I used to, I could hardly get up and take care of my kids.
Though it was one of the hardest times in my life, it was also one of the most instructive and life-changing. I had to learn a very difficult lesson, one that I consciously work to remember each and every day.
I learned the absolute need to take care of myself.
It started with changing my priorities. It wasn’t drastic. I didn’t neglect my kids or walk away from all the things on my list. It was more subtle than that. I just started putting myself ON the list. I had never really been on my own list of priorities! Most of us aren’t. So how do you put yourself on the list? You start by looking at why it is important.
Why do we do anything? Hopefully, it is because we believe that what we choose to do is worthwhile. Well, you are worthwhile! Your presence on this planet matters. You matter to your family and your friends. You are valuable! But do you recognize this truth? Do you let this truth give you permission to take care of yourself?
One of the greatest challenges in my work as a psychotherapist is helping women to see their value and be able to stand in front of a mirror, look themselves in the eye and say:
“You matter. You are important. I care about you.” This is no small thing. It’s everything.
Unfortunately, most of us struggle with this. And that’s OK. We are in good company. All that means is that we have some work to do as a sisterhood of women. We need to learn to be good to ourselves!
That’s my mission and the entire purpose of takecareofmom.com. My passion is to remind women that they are important, that they’re not alone, and that they deserve to be taken care of too.
Practicing good self-care results in many practical benefits you can begin to realize (again) in your life:
1. If you have a great self-image, good self-care keeps you feeling healthy, balanced and able to face challenges with strength and creativity.
2. If your self-image is struggling a little, good self-care is the first step in restoring your confidence in who you are. Just like a child who is fed and nurtured, you will respond with growth and confidence.
3. If you’ve had severe mistreatment in your life, either as a child or in your adult years, good self-care is actually the foundational step to healing those wounds and the start to making powerful changes in your life.
So regardless of your current status, your self-care begins with how you treat yourself, not only in your actions but in your thoughts, the way you see yourself and the way you speak to yourself. This shift does not rely on having extra money or finding extra time. It’s a fundamental internal change in how you view your importance and value. When you value something, you take good care of it.
Most of us have grown up valuing work and production. In essence, we value what we do, not who we are. As we entertain the idea that our individual worth is established separate from what we do, we begin to experience empowerment.
If you’ve said at any point during the past few minutes “hey that sounds like me!” Then get excited. Why? Because this is completely under your control. You got this. Good self-care is something you can begin doing right now. I’ll be here to help you every step of the way.
Excited? Intimidated? Nervous? Skeptical? Whatever you’re feeling right now, recognize it, validate yourself then give yourself permission to begin your journey to better self-care. Click here to head over to the building blocks of self-care, where we’ll discuss how you can begin making changes to improve across the four areas:
- Exercising (which we’ll call “movement”—more on this later!)
- Body connection
Remember, I’m here to help you take care of you!