As women, we often put ourselves last, ensuring first that everyone (and everything) else is taken care of before we think about tending to our own needs.
We put on a happy face and tell the world, “I’ve got this” – even when we feel like we’re failing.
We get plenty of reminders to put ourselves first: you can’t pour from an empty cup, put on your oxygen mask first, etc. But many of us don’t take this advice to heart, and even fewer of us make the time to care for ourselves.
We’re here to remind you how important your health is: mental, emotional, and physical. It’s not just okay to take care of yourself; it’s a necessity.
Here are six easy self-care ideas:
1. FIND YOUR SANCTUARY.
Create a cozy nook in your home where you can unwind. Spaces with plants and natural light are ideal for relaxation, as are the soothing sounds of a fireplace, fountain, bird feeder, or fish tank. A special chair or rug can help define a sense of “place.”
2. RECLAIM YOUR DAY.
Herbert Benson, MD, has conducted extensive research into what he calls the “relaxation response.” It shows that regularly engaging in a hobby – knitting, playing music, meditating, or “anything that breaks the train of everyday thought” – can induce anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory changes that combat stress in the body.
Allow yourself time to play. While it can be tempting to use any downtime to catch up on chores, you can also take a few of those minutes to read, work in the garden, play with pets, bake, sew, paint, dance, sing, or anything else you enjoy.
And don’t underestimate the healing power of a bath or a leisurely shower. Add plants, aromatherapy, relaxing nature sounds, or candles to create a spa-like atmosphere in your bathroom.
3. PURSUE A PASSION WITH YOUR PARTNER.
Our lives are so busy and full it’s easy to forget to focus on our relationships. Healthy relationships take work, time, and intention. Resentment can be quick to surface if you and your partner stop communicating, especially about the individual qualities you love about each other.
Psychologist Melanie Schilling says, "…find an activity [you] can do together that celebrates shared values." Maybe you love cooking, so you plan to make dinner together once a week; if you enjoy exercise you can learn a new sport together. Even committing to a screen-free night to focus on each other can make a huge difference.
4. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY.
Eat: Always be kind to yourself and focus on eating wholesome food.
Drink water: This may seem like an obvious one, but many of us are so busy we forget to stay hydrated. Try putting lemon or cucumber slices in your water to add some variety. Always carry a water bottle with you.
Exercise: Exercising can fill your days with more energy and enthusiasm. If going to the gym isn’t an option, online workouts are a great alternative. Just remember to start slowly.
5. RID YOURSELF OF MENTAL CHAOS.
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Some days it can feel like your wheels are just spinning: that scattered, fragmented, exhausted feeling when you’re doing more than one thing at a time, but nothing is done well. Hours pass “getting stuff done,” but there’s no sense of completion or accomplishment.
Focus on one thing at a time: It sometimes feels like the to-do list goes on and on, and it can be frustrating to feel like you’re not making a dent. When days like this happen, the best thing you can do is pick one task, finish it, and move on to the next.
Let go: Give yourself permission to let go. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, order pizza instead of making a gourmet meal, let the laundry or dishes sit, and don’t worry about answering emails or keeping up with social media. Everything will still be there in an hour (or the next day).
Do a brain dump: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to write down everything that’s running through your mind. Whether they’re items to add to your to-do list, ideas for work projects, or moments you want to cherish, writing them down helps clear the clutter so you can get focused again.
Talk to Siri or Alexa: Try using virtual assistant software like Siri or Alexa to remind you to complete certain tasks. For instance, you can say, “Siri, remind me to text my sister back in an hour,” or “Alexa, remind me at noon today to change the laundry.”
Take time for reflection: Find a few minutes each day for reflection and meditation. You can do this first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Reflecting on your daily struggles and triumphs enables you to grow in amazing ways.
6. BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
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It’s normal to feel sad, negative, or angry sometimes, so don’t be hard on yourself about those feelings. Focus on the things you can control and celebrate small victories. Remember that a tough moment does not make a tough day or a tough life.
Also, remember that part of happiness lies in setting realistic expectations. Be gentle with yourself and try not to judge yourself by what others are doing. And remember: you are an important part of your family, and caring for your family includes caring for yourself.