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What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?

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We hear a lot about self-care nowadays, and how we should be taking care of our own needs. As important as it is, it’s hard! It’s hard to find the time, or the resources, or even the motivation to carve time out for yourself. I get that, and I struggle with it every single day. Life is crazy and hectic and so busy, at the end of the day I just want to shut it all off and go to bed! But you know what? That is a form of self-care! Once my kids are in bed, and the house is (more or less) put back in order, I choose to be done. Done with work, done with responsibilities, done with the day. I make the conscious decision to not give a single fuck about anything else, and just relish the quiet before going to bed early.

Some days, that is all the care I can manage for myself, and on those days, that has to be good enough. Self-care is whatever you need it to be, and will look different for every one of us. There is no right or wrong way to take what you need for YOU. We’re all just doing the best we can, and all of our needs are different. Hell, sometimes my own needs are different from day to day! So what does self-care look like? That all depends on you.

Self-care can be pampering, it can be rest, it can laughing, or it can mean setting and enforcing boundaries.

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Image: Giphy

Caring for yourself means more than just tending to your basic needs. It’s more than eating when you’re hungry, or taking more than one shower a week (although that can be downright luxurious sometimes). Self-care is what we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical needs. Here’s the thing: as women, we routinely neglect our own needs in order to meet the needs of others. And doing that for too long can wreak havoc on our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. We are conditioned to believe that putting our own needs first is selfish. It’s not, but even if it was, sometimes selfishness is necessary to our overall health!

I’m a single working mom of two young girls. My needs are so far down on the list, they might as well be on a different page.

From the moment I wake up until the moment I finally pass out from exhaustion at the end of the day, my life is 100% dedicated to doing for others. And for a long time, I trudged along, depleting my own reserves in order to fulfill my obligations. But then, I crashed. And I crashed hard. I had an anxiety attack so severe that I genuinely thought I was going to die. I didn’t, obviously, but it was a huge wake-up call! I was giving too much of myself away, and not taking enough in return. So I stopped doing that, and focused more on my own self-care. Here’s what that looked like for me.

First of all, I said no. A lot. To everyone. Even my own kids.

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Image: Giphy

I set boundaries, and I stuck to them. Could I take on this extra assignment with a quick turnaround? <scans calendar> No, I cannot. Could I help with the bake sale/book fair/class project? Yeah, no. Mom, can you put this giant toy together today? Nope, sorry kiddo, today I cannot do that. It’s amazing how good it feels to say NO. No! Say it out loud. Nooooooooo. And don’t apologize for saying no (I mean, I apologize to my kids, but they’re my kids). Don’t ever be made to feel bad for prioritizing your own needs above those of people who are not a priority in your life!

Carve out some time every week, and do something for you. Whatever you want! WHAT you do doesn’t matter as much as doing it.

Like I mentioned earlier, my form of self-care is choosing to ignore what needs to be done for others at the end of the day. A few nights a week, I shut down my laptop, I put my kids to bed early, and I sit on the couch in the dark and quiet with a glass of wine. Sometimes I scroll mindlessly through Instagram, and sometimes I read a book. Most of the time, I just sit and stare at the ceiling, and let the weight of my life fall slowly off my shoulders. Then I go to bed! It’s not fancy, it doesn’t cost anything, but it helps. Self-care is whatever is going to help you feed your own mind, body, and soul.

I turned off the world sometimes, and I didn’t feel bad about it.

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Image: Giphy

This is particularly important given the never-ending news cycle of gloom and doom. Yes, we want to stay abreast of what is happening in this country. But you don’t need to open yourself up to all the bad, all the time. It’s OK to turn it off and ignore it for a while. You can be a social justice warrior and still take mental health breaks. At least once a week, I read an article or a headline that is my breaking point, and I walk away. I walk away! I stop absorbing all the negative for a little while. It helps me stay sane and recharge.

Treat yourself with the same respect as you do others, and prioritize your needs. You need it. We all need it! But more than that, YOU DESERVE IT. Decide what self-care looks like to you, and make it a priority.

(Image: iStock / RossHelen)

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