In honour of International Self-Care Day tomorrow, I want to share with my readers just how simple taking a break for yourself can be.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
“When you say yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself.”
“You owe yourself the love that you so freely give others.”
Sound familiar? I bet you’ve heard or seen these phrases before in reference to self-care, and perhaps you might think to yourself “I don’t have time,” or something along those lines. I was once convinced that I didn’t have the time to give myself a break, or felt guilty for putting myself ahead of my kids. But then last year, when I found myself falling into depression again, I finally realized that I need to put myself higher on my list of priorities and that by doing so not only will I stay in better mental and physical health, but I will also serve as a better mother to my children.
I think the problem is that when people hear the term self-care they automatically have this big picture in their mind of what that is — taking a vacation, going to the spa, getting a massage, going to the gym, a yoga or pilates class, having a nice dinner with your spouse or friend — and that they can’t afford the money or time to do these things. While all of those examples would count as self-care, they don’t have to be the only options. The key is to know that there are a variety of ways we can take care of ourselves, body, mind and spirit, and more often than not, it’s in the simplest ways. In my opinion, it’s all about enjoying the little things in life.
“I’m walking on sunshine, woooah! And don’t it feel good?” – Katrina and the Waves
There’s nothing like some fresh air and a natural boost of vitamin D to give yourself a much-need break from your everyday hectic life. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, head down to your local patio (be it a pub or coffee shop) or your own backyard deck and enjoy a beverage in the great outdoors, find a nice spot at the park to read for a bit; whatever you choose and for however long you can (10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour) make sure you really take in your surroundings and enjoy this time outside. They say time spent in sunlight improves our overall mental health as it helps the release of endorphins and serotonin, the hormones related to happy moods.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin
When was the last time you had a good laugh? Perhaps it was something funny your child did, a joke you heard or a line from a movie. As a mom battling depression I can think of days that I didn’t enjoy a genuinely good laugh. I’ve always been someone who takes life a little too seriously, more than I should. I know I need to learn to relax, be more light-hearted and I’m seeing the importance of this more and more. I encourage you to do something that will give you a case of the giggles. Maybe it’s watching a favourite show or movie that always makes you chuckle. Make plans to meet with a friend who you love having fun laughing with. Or perhaps it’s just being silly with your kids while playing with them. You know why they say laughter is the best medicine? Because it decreases stress hormones.
“Let it go, let it go! Turn away and slam the door!” – Elsa from Frozen
Yeah, I went there. Hey, what can I say? I have a four-year-old daughter who’s made me watch the movie dozens of times. The point is, sometimes you just have to let it go and walk away. Have your kids turned your family room into their toy bin? Are you a couple of loads behind in doing laundry? If it can wait a couple of hours, or heck even another day, then I say walk away and take a break. As parents and adults, sometimes we have to pick our battles.
“Inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.” – Unknown
In my struggle with depression, there have been many times that I’ve needed to step away to a quiet spot and just take a few deep breaths. This is my go-to solution when I start to feel overwhelmed. There is something so calming about the simple act of a deep, cleansing breath. This is why I find yoga so therapeutic. The combination of the breathing and flowing through the poses instantly relaxes me, body, mind, and soul. Sometimes, self-care is taking a few quiet moments to yourself to just sit still and breathe. And before you say “I could never do that with my kids around. They’ll follow me.” I totally understand mama. I’ve got two kids of my own. If you can’t take this little deep breath break alone then do it right there with the kids with you. If they’re old enough they might just join in (mine have), and if they’re little ones crawling all over you, well, it might take some practice to find the focus to do this but I encourage it.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot
Be present. Every once in a while, really take in what’s happening around you and experience it. The sights, sounds, and smells. What do you feel, both physically and emotionally? It’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in our busy lives that we often forget to be in the moment. Sometimes I will stop what I’m doing just to observe something cute my kids are doing, like snuggling on the couch together while watching a show. One time while watching my son and daughter play at the park the sound of some birds caught my attention. I found myself listening closely as they chirped back and forth like these birds were having a conversation. It’s funny how this observation led to another, as I took notice of the shapes of the clouds in the sky and how the breeze felt against my skin. I remember thinking what a beautiful day it was and at the same time realized that I hadn’t really taken notice of that in a long time. It’s about the simple moments, the little things that we often take for granted. Stop once in a while, be present and really take it all in.
So, you see, self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about how you look at it and reminding yourself that it is achievable if you just put your mind to it. But the most important thing to remember is that you’re worth it.