This is the first guest post in a series called “Your Life in Progress.” In this series we will hear from other women like you and I – women who are learning to love and care for themselves well. They are taking risks, making mistakes, trying new things and letting others go, sometimes struggling, but ultimately living beautiful, gentle lives.
I’ve spent the past week delighted and honored that Krista asked me to write a guest post about self care on her wonderful blog. I’ve also spent the week wondering what to write! Self care is talked about so much, especially among women online, that I wondered, what angle should I take? I’ve written quite a bit about this topic—so what can I say that’s new? Does it have to be new? Those kinds of questions have been popping around in my head and honestly, I haven’t come up with anything earth-shattering.
But is self care supposed to be earth-shattering? Does a post about it have to be something entirely new and original? I’ve come to realize that no, it doesn’t.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about caring for one’s self is that it can be routine, comfortable, and small.
What would it mean for you to think of self care as small acts of kindness for yourself? So often we say, “I don’t have time or money for it” or “I don’t even know what it means, much less do I practice it.” But is that the truth? Do you brush your teeth? Do you bathe and get dressed? (If so, you’re practicing some forms of self care. If not, start right there, right now!)
What if we were to think of self care as something we already do, and just shift our focus to make it more intentional? Here’s a simple thing I started doing that has worked wonders for me: taking a nightly shower and letting myself linger in the warm water. Taking showers is something we all do, right? But it was when I intentionally shifted my shower-taking from something I hurriedly do to get clean before getting dressed, to something I do to take good care of myself; massage out the tension in my neck under the hot water; and help myself to feel all warm, cozy, and clean before bed, that my showering suddenly felt elevated to a whole new level. It became a pleasure, a treat, and I looked forward to it every night.
After my evening shower, I use my favorite lotion and remind myself to move slowly and kindly as I rub it in. This seems really simple, almost silly to write about, but this kind of intentional action turns a boring routine into an act of kindness.
What routine do you have that you’re rushing through? Is there a way to slow it down so that it can become a more loving action for yourself? Even more importantly, what do you need to do to take really good care of yourself right now?
Here’s another idea along those lines: I’ve recently set my phone alarm to chime every two hours throughout the day, from 8 to 4 on weekdays. I got this idea from Jen Louden, an author who writes a lot about self care in her Woman’s Comfort Book and Comfort Secrets for Women. I picked an alarm tone that is very zen-like, and every two hours it goes off and I am reminded to take a deep breath and check in with myself. What do I need right now? A drink of water? A few minutes with my eyes closed? To get off Facebook and do something else? Or maybe to take a work break and get on Facebook? Sometimes I’m right where I need to be when my alarm goes off, and the chime then makes me smile and say yep, I’m on track.
This is another simple act of caring, awareness, and mindfulness that I’ve managed to sneak into my everyday life. I’ve found that I don’t have to go away for a spa weekend or retreat, or buy a new product, or join a gym, or start a diet, or do something all that different as a means of self care. All of those things can be good, but the truth is I can practice small acts of kindness right here, right now, through simply thinking about it and bringing some intention to what I do. And those small acts make all the difference in how my days go.
Krista asked me a great question as we were preparing for this guest post: Have you wrestled with perfectionism, anxiety, or self-esteem issues? And my answer is yes, all of the above. I have made tremendous strides in all of those areas by intentionally working on them, seeing a homeopath who also functions as my therapist and spiritual guide, moving my body and eating as well as I know how, and taking time for myself in big and small ways. I would never discount the big actions and say we shouldn’t do them if we can and if they’re helpful. But I think that for those of us who are perfectionist/anxious types, finding small and easy ways to practice self care is especially important.
We perfectionists tend to think things have to be a “big deal” and “really good” to be worth it. We practice “all or nothing” thinking. If I can’t do it all and do it well, it’s not worth doing so I’ll do nothing. Do you ever think that way?
But in actuality, with self care, it’s in the slowing down and simply checking in with myself that I often find just what I need.
Thank you, Lisa, for this guest post!
Lisa Zahn is a wife and a mom of two teens, and a homemaker who also works as a writer, copyeditor, and life coach. You can find her writing about self care and other topics at www.lisazahn.com.