I actually hate the term “self care” because it’s been coined as this special thing. For some reason, we tend to view it as a treat that we strive toward…but never quite reach.
It’s really common in our society to say things like “I know I should prioritize self care, but I don’t have the time.” Or “it’s just too selfish and I feel guilty.”
Umm, no. Eff that.
Self care is such a simple, important little thing. It’s kind of crazy how it’s gotten all twisted around and it’s so often viewed as this “special” thing.
I’m writing all about it today because I’m really proud of the way I prioritize self care in my life. I certainly have plenty of things in this life that I haven’t figured out (like, a ton of things), but self care is something I feel pretty good about.
Here are 7 of my best tips to help you prioritize self care so you can live your biggest, best, happiest life.
1. Re-frame the idea that "self care is selfish"
It definitely IS selfish, ok? It is!
I think that if you believe anyone who tells you “self care isn’t selfish” you’ll just end up confused. It IS selfish, and that’s not a bad thing.
Selfish means “being concerned excessively with oneself.”
And that’s exactly how you should be when you’re practicing self care.
You are the one who is in charge of caring for you! So if you don’t take the 30 or 60 minutes each day to be excessively and exclusively concerned with yourself, that means you’re going to end up forcing someone else to be excessively concerned for you.
(Aka someone else will have to be caring for your mental health, picking up the slack when you’re sick, hustling harder because they’ll be pulling the weight for both you and themselves.)
If you can’t be selfish for yourself for a few minutes every day, it puts a lot, a lot, a LOT of pressure on someone else to be concerned about you 24/7. And that’s a lot more selfish than just prioritizing a bit of self care each day.
Self care 100% is selfish! That’s why we don’t practice self care every minute of every day.
I mean, I can’t read books, meditate, enjoy rejuvenating workouts, sleep in, hang out with my friends, treat myself to massages, write in my gratitude journal, and sip wine on the back patio all day every day. Duh.
But I do prioritize it just a little bit every single day.
Self care is your job. You are in charge of taking care of you! Your mental health, physical health, and spiritual health are your responsibility. Others can contribute, sure! This is what mentors, teachers, friends, pastors, therapists, coaches, and guides are there for. And sometimes it’s just a random stranger on the street who smiles or says a kind word.
BUT…those people are best able to give when they’ve cared for themselves first. Same goes for you: your job is to care for yourself first.
Self care is supposed to be selfish. Own it.
2. Understand That Self Care Isn't Always Easy
This has been a big one for me since entering motherhood in 2019.
Certain things make me feel amazing…but it’s hard to get motivated to do them.
For example, here are a few of my favorite forms of self-care that aren’t always easy to begin:
– high intensity/ sweaty Peloton rides
– an hour-long swim workout in the morning
– setting my alarm early to fit in a deep 20-minute meditation before I drink my morning coffee
It’s definitely worth realizing and understanding that a lot of time we just won’t feel like doing the form of self care that we need the most.
(It’s ok! It’s simply our primitive brains trying to protect us from discomfort; drink wine while watching reality TV, or go on a 2-mile walk after dinner? Our brain will always go for the thing that has the least discomfort. You can just notice it and choose the other option.)
So anyway, I’ve noticed this a lot in motherhood. Self care is often marketed as a bubble bath, or a massage, or sleeping in on a Saturday…and all of those are wonderful forms of self care that I enjoy!
But self care is also making sure that we’re taking care of our own bodies.
I want to feel energetic and alive and happy and all of these things come to me when I workout!
But when my alarm goes off early in the morning so I can fit in my workout, I don’t immediately wake up and think, “ahhhh, blissful self care!” Ha. It’s more like a big groan as I roll my body off the bed and get on the Peloton in the dark morning hours before the kids are awake.
But this is self care.
3. Verbalize What You Need
My version of self care has evolved over the years (I think this is normal for most of us…what we need when we’re 18 isn’t what we need when we’re 32), but one thing hasn’t changed:
I always tell my support people what I need.
(Btw, “support people” is a phrase that was used a lot in pregnancy, but I’ve added that phrase to my everyday life to describe the people closest to me: my husband, my in-laws, my sisters, my best friends, my parents.)
I say what I need. I tell Nate, “I really need you to get the kids out of the house for 2 hours on Saturday morning so I can read a book on the couch and re-charge.”
Or I’ll tell my friends “I’d love to have y’all over for wine night, but I really need to go to bed on time so I want to wrap it up by 9:30 pm.”
If you can tell the people closest to you the way that you want to prioritize self care, they’ll be happy to help you with it.
If you don’t say anything, they won’t know how to help.
4. Know What Fuels You
Do you know your favorite form of self care?
It takes a little bit of inner work. Some of us don’t even know what to do when we feel burned out and exhausted!
I think that I get to know myself a bit better every year. I have a healthy bag of self care “tricks” that I can use when I can tell I’m getting depleted.
A few of my favorites in my thirties are:
– an evening walk with a motivating podcast
– consistent workouts
– a 10-minute meditation that focuses on breath
– having my house to myself for a few hours of quiet and peace
– organizing a small space (a drawer, a pantry shelf, a rod in my closet)
I takes some time and experimentation to figure it out, but it has deeply served me to find the things in life that help me to care for myself.
I also know the things that I don’t enjoy:
– I’m not a big mani/pedi person.
– A glass of wine in the evening isn’t a super common form of self care for me because I know I won’t feel my best the following morning.
– I love being around people, but if I’m feeling depleted I typically want to recharge by being alone, not spending time with people. (I like spending time with my friends when I’m already energized!)
5. You can literally prioritize self care
Not that you need my permission…
…but yes, you’re allowed to prioritize your own self care over other things.
When I can tell that my physical health is getting shaky, or I’m starting to feel a bit anxious or down, I have been known to prioritize my own self care over other things.
It looks like this:
– telling my husband that I really need him to wake up with the kids (for the second morning in a row) so I can sleep an extra hour.
– bowing out of a social gathering when I know that I really need to spend an evening reading a book alone.
– bowing out of a workout when I know that I really need some girlfriend time instead of a workout.
– the truest (and, unfortunately, hardest) way that we often prioritize self care is turning off the TV and going to bed on time. Or putting the phone down in the evening and reading a book instead. This is a form of prioritizing self care, and it’s hard.
Which leads me to…
6. You might need to put your phone away
*Insert the wailing face emoji here*
Y’all, it’s hard. I don’t know anyone who’s naturally good at this, and it seems to just be getting harder and harder because our phones are so dang fun. And there are more and more fun ways to spend time on an iPhone every year.
But having the strength to put away my phone (or delaying reaching for it first thing in the morning) is a form of self care.
Like I mentioned before: sometimes the best forms of self care are actually really, really hard to do.
But I know that when I wake up and get in a workout before I ever check my phone, my day is off to a better start. That 60 minutes of selfishness by prioritizing my own health instead of reading emails that people have sent to me means I’m in a better position to face my day.
And I know that when I leave my phone in my bedroom while I go out to the couch and watch a show with my husband, ignoring texts that might be coming in, means that I can actually enjoy the evening with Nate instead of being distracted by whatever texts and conversations are going on in iMessage land. (Tip: you don’t owe an immediate response to everyone who texts you at every hour of every day.)
7. Decide you are good at self care
Say it out loud.
Say it to yourself.
Tell people around you.
“I’m really good at prioritizing self care. I have to be good at it.”
The things we consistently say become our beliefs.
Our beliefs become our thoughts.
Our thoughts become our habits.
Our habits become our reality.
I really do know that the things I keep telling myself eventually become true. I told myself I was really good at self care long before I actually was, and now I know that I actually actually good at prioritizing my own well-being.
I know that it helps me be a better mom and a better wife and a better friend.
It’s a message I’ll never ever stop preaching. I know it’s important.