Instagram is flooded with images of people practicing ‘self care.’ Commonly, this looks like toes sticking out of the end of a bathtub filled with rose petals and scattered with candles on the edges. There may be a glass of wine or some journaling happening.
For me, self care has always been hard to grasp. What is self care? I found myself feeling pressured by Instagram to turn self care into something beautiful and content-worthy. Maybe I should sage my apartment, meditate, take a yoga class with crystals, or buy the perfect bundle of eucalyptus.
When I did try these things, they didn’t work. I didn’t enjoy practicing this type of ‘self care’ and they did nothing for me. Why not? Because self care isn’t the same for everyone and although Instagram makes ‘self care’ seem like it should be glamorously zen, it isn’t the case. Or at least it isn’t for me.
Today, I realized for the first time that my ‘self care’ isn’t about relaxation or quieting my mind. And now that I’ve found out self care looks like for me, I can’t wait to start practicing it!
Self care is not one size fits all.
Let’s start with my breaking point, my point of realization. Every morning, Luca generally wakes up around 6:15am. That’s when my day starts. We lay in bed with him for 30 minutes, half asleep. Around 7am, I get out of bed and hurriedly wash my face, put spandex on, and start feverishly preparing the apartment for the day – cleaning up whatever was left out the night before (the dishes, wine glasses on the coffee table, groceries not yet put away, toys out, mail unopened, trash not taken out.) During this time, Lu plays with Luca in bed. I bring him coffee and I listen as Luca giggles and coos with Lu while I’m putting away chickpeas in the pantry. At around 7:30/7:45am, Lu has to hop in the shower to get ready for work, so I get 15-30 minutes with Luca before the nanny arrives and then I have to start work.
And each morning, as I do this, I ask myself, “Why didn’t I do this last night?” Well, because I was exhausted, laying on the couch with my husband. But all it takes is 15-20 minutes out of that night (of this “self care”) so that I can enjoy the morning and not stress about the unwashed dishes or packages I didn’t open and put away from the night before.
What I realized from this is that self care, for me, is taking care of things that stand in the way of me doing the things that make me the happiest, like playing with my son, or that reduce my stress levels. For me, self care is taking care of the things that keep me from happiness and balance.
It’s not glamorous. It’s doing the dishes or taking 5 minutes to clean my makeup brushes so the next time I sit down to do makeup I don’t feel gross. It’s doing my laundry so I can wear those yoga pants that make my butt look the best. It’s spring cleaning your pantry so you can save money and not keep buying the same spices because you can never find anything and then feeling wasteful and guilty. It’s working a few extra hours that week so you can take a personal day and not feel stressed and overwhelmed, but rather, enjoy the day. It’s laying out your workout outfit and setting the coffee machine the night before so getting up to make that early morning workout is that much easier.
Now that I’m viewing self care as this preliminary act to achieve happiness and balance and not the exact act that brings the happiness, my perspective has totally changed and I feel motivated to practice self care.
So for those of you, who, like me, have tried a dozen times to chill out in a bath to “practice self care” but have never made it to the bath or get in the bath and say, “Now what?”, I encourage you to try taking care of the things that keep you from living your best life every day. Maybe that’s meal planning. And UGH, who wants to meal plan when you can binge watch a series on a Sunday? Well, if you meal plan on a Sunday, you can spend less time stressing about what to make for dinner, make healthier choices, and be able to spend that extra time on something that brings you joy, like talking to a friend or heck, taking a bath with rose petals in it.
Life is precious. I don’t want to miss out on any time playing in bed with my son because I didn’t have the motivation the night before to clean up. More time spent with Luca brings me more happiness, centers me, fulfills me, lifts me up on the toughest of days, and fills my heart with love and happiness. And those are the things I want to be able to spend more time on.