When you think about self-care, do you have visions of massages or pedicures and facials? Total self-care also includes eliminating self-criticism, not overscheduling, releasing the need to be perfect, saying no, refusing to do things out of guilt, and giving yourself much-needed rest and downtime to refuel. Learning to attune and respond to your needs and desires — practicing self-care — impacts every aspect of your life. Nurturing yourself is not selfish — it’s essential to your survival and well-being.
My friend Erin, a self-employed mom and busy parent of two, recently shared how frustrated she was feeling. Exhausted from staying up until 2 a.m. to do laundry, she had skipped breakfast and lunch, was surviving on nothing but coffee, and had been beating herself up all day about not getting a homemade meal over to her neighbor, who had recently lost her father. As she and I visited, it dawned on us that we would never imagine denying our children sleep or nourishment, being judgmental of them, or allowing them to ignore their emotional needs. Yet, as parents, we often do this to ourselves on a daily basis.
What Qualifies as Self-Care?
What qualifies as self-care? More than anything, it’s about cultivating a new mindset in which we slow down, tune inward, and respond to what we need most in the moment. Self-care could be asking for help, doing less, taking a nap, or having lunch with a friend. As parents of infants know, even taking a shower or going to the bathroom when you need to is a form of self-care!
Listed below are suggestions for how you can nurture yourself and make self-renewal part of your everyday life.
• Nourish your body by staying hydrated and eating healthy and energizing foods that make you feel great.
• Get enough sleep, take naps, and build in time for rest.
• Exercise to replenish your energy and manage stress.
• Take time to enjoy and appreciate your body: take a hot aromatherapy bath or give yourself a foot massage.
• Have a heart-to-heart conversation with a close friend or mentor.
• Have kind and loving thoughts about yourself: try not criticizing yourself for one week.
• Seek out support from a therapist, coach, social worker, or counselor.
• Write down your feelings and thoughts in a journal.
• Go on a fun date alone or with your partner, or organize a monthly girls’ night out.
• Take time to be by yourself to think or write.
• Take a walk in a park or out in nature.
• Meditate, pray, or just reflect on what you’re grateful for.
• Do something creative: paint, draw, dance, or sing.
• Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about.
• Read a good book or see an intellectually stimulating movie.
• Develop a favorite hobby or skill or receive training in a professional area.
• Participate in a class, group, or workshop on a topic that interests you.
• Challenge yourself to learn something new — get out of your comfort zone.
Barriers To Self-Care
Last year I spoke to a group of career coaches about self-care. When I encouraged them to take some time for themselves each week, they agreed they really needed to, but then they each offered a list of reasons why they couldn’t: “I just don’t have the time, the money, the family support, the space on my calendar,” and so on.
In our Personal Renewal Groups for moms, women are asked to voice what they perceive as the barriers to self-care. Some say they are afraid others will see them as selfish or otherwise bad moms if they put their needs first. Others say they don’t have the time or money for self-care activities, while some dismiss their value. Some feel, regardless of the benefits, self-care will just become one more thing to add to their to-do list and worry about.
Self-Care Makes Good Sense
Most people understand that self-care makes good sense. We understand its importance on an intellectual level. But for real change to take place, you’ve got to dig deep and answer, “Am I willing — when necessary — to put myself first?”
Recently, two of my girlfriends took extended breaks from their families while their husbands were traveling with their young kids. When I ran into them during their time alone, they had a sense of levity, vitality, and joy that I hadn’t witnessed in a long time. It wasn’t that they didn’t love being around their kids, but the break helped them re-charge, reconnect to their essence, and enjoy the incredible gifts that come from listening — and responding — to our needs.
When was the last time you took a break from your family and from being a parent — whether it was for thirty minutes or three days?
How Would You Benefit by Making Time For Self-Care?
Take a moment to think about some of the reasons that self-care is important for you. How would you benefit by making time for it? Use the list below as inspiration, particularly when you feel pressured to forgo self-care or too exhausted to follow through.
Over the years of leading retreats and women’s circles, I’ve seen and experienced a number of benefits:
• We feel more generous and can avoid building resentments toward others who demand our energy and time.
• We validate and honor our own worth, which in turn enhances true confidence and self-esteem.
• We feel alive and whole, so we are able to function at our best and do all the things we want to do.
• We renew and restore our energy and create energy reserves so we’re able to weather unforeseen challenges more easily.
• We feel more loving and gentle toward ourselves, which helps us to be more present and calm and to respond wisely, intuitively, and effectively in any circumstance.
• We own our personal power and begin to realize our potential; the more self-accepting we become, the more self-assured we are.
• We feel more loving and playful, which makes us better friends, partners, and parents and more fun to be around!
• We experience heightened well-being and vitality.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA 94949. www.newworldlibrary.com.
©2013 by Renée Peterson Trudeau. All Rights Reserved.
Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life
by Renée Peterson Trudeau.
About the Author
Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life balance coach, speaker, and author. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and numerous other media outlets. On the faculty of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness, she leads life balance workshops and retreats for Fortune 500 companies, conferences, and organizations worldwide. Visit her website at http://reneetrudeau.com/