Self care is something we all hear a lot about these days, and it’s something we know we need to do.
But for a lot of us who are in seasons where we feel too busy, stressed, depleted, or even in survival mode, the idea of adding self care onto our plates can seem downright overwhelming.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Many times actually.
In early 2017 when my poor health and lack of self care began affecting my ability to show up the way I wanted and needed to in my life, I knew I couldn’t keep ignoring the necessity of taking care of myself.
The problem was, I’d let myself get so depleted over time, that I didn’t even have the energy to figure out what needed to be done, let alone do it. I felt stuck, paralyzed in these patterns of poor self care, and the patterns kept getting worse the more stressed and exhausted I got.
Though I didn’t have the brain power or energy to come up with my own action plan for improving my health and lifestyle, I decided to focus on the one thing I could do: ask for help.
That simple act of humility, as well as deciding that I am worth fighting for and taking of, changed everything for me. And I believe the same is possible for YOU!
What Exactly is Self Care?
Honestly, self care can mean a lot of different things to different people, but I’m somewhat of a purist. To me, self care quite literally means, the practice of taking care of yourself: body, mind and soul.
Things like manicures and massages and having girls’ nights are wonderful, but when it comes to how we feel overall, I don’t think any of those things can compare to getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating nourishing foods and moving our bodies.
Why Self Care is Essential
In case this point isn’t already blatantly obvious, self care as I’ve defined it isn’t a self-indulgent luxury reserved for people with fewer problems, less stress, more time and more money than you.
Self care is a non-negotiable essential part of life that we need to begin treating as such. There is only so long and so far you can go in life ignoring or sacrificing your personal care needs.
You may have heard the old saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and it couldn’t be more true.
If you want to be able to show up the way you want to in your life, to be the kind of wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor that you want, you must prioritize taking care of yourself.
What to Do When Self Care Feels Overwhelming
Sometimes it’s easy to see the necessity of something, but harder to see a clear path to get from where you are to where you want to be.
In a world filled with so many noisy opinions about what is best when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, it can be completely overwhelming to figure out the best path to take.
But here’s a bit of truth I hope you find encouraging and inspiring: you don’t have to know all the right answers or do everything all at once.
Start with one small change, take baby steps, and as long as you keep going, you’ll end up where you want to be!
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The Keys to Simplified Self Care
I by no means have all the answers or everything figured out in the area of self care, but here are a few key principles I’ve found to be helpful in my own journey to prioritize self care.
1. Change your mindset
Steve Maraboli said, “Once you change your mindset, everything on the outside will change along with it.
How we think about things has tremendous power, so if you believe that you aren’t worth taking care of or that you’ll never have the time, energy or resources to make changes, that is likely what will be true for you.
But if you decide to do the work of rewiring how you think about self care, nothing will be out of your reach.
Creating a quick list of daily affirmations for yourself can be super helpful as you learn to value and respect yourself by prioritizing self care.
Maybe even consider setting up reminders in your phone with each of your affirmations to pop up and encourage you throughout the day.
This kind of thought repetition will not only change your thoughts, but also your decisions and your actions, making it possible to accomplish what you want to.
2. Start with the essentials
Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, self care is something that should be intuitive.
I don’t think God designed us to need to be taught how to take care of ourselves. And yet, we live in a culture that has pushed natural boundaries so far that living intuitively is a rare thing to find these days.
So if you’ve decided to make self care a priority but feel overwhelmed by the different choices for where to start, focus on these core essentials first:
Drink enough water: A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day, but I also like to use this handy little calculator to get more specific.
If that number is a big jump from where you are right now, start with a small increase, and gradually work up to your target number!
Get enough sleep: The average adult needs 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Period. Take a look at where you can cut out some other things to allow more time for sleeping at night and make it happen (ahem, you can live without Netflix, you can’t live without sleep!)
Start with 15 minute increments, then work up to 30, and so on until you’re consistently hitting your goal. I like to set a bedtime alarm at night so I’m reminded to stop what I’m doing, wind down, and go to bed at a decent time in order to get enough sleep.
Eat nourishing foods: Don’t over complicate this! Eat well-sourced, real meats, dairy, fats, vegetables, and fruits. Reduce or eliminate your intake of refined sugars, grains, and anything artificial. Find and handful of wholesome recipes you like and stick with those - keep it simple and easy to fuel your body well!
Move your body: Again, don’t over complicate this! Something is better than nothing, and some minutes of body movement is better than no minutes. Make it a goal to move your body in some way every day, whether that means stretching for 10 minutes, going for a walk around your neighborhood, running up and down your stairs, having a dance party in your living room, or going to your favorite workout class.
The possibilities are endless….just figure out what works for you and is something you enjoy, and commit to starting somewhere.
Get fresh air and sunshine: Many people underestimate the power of fresh air and sunshine, but it can work miracles for your body, mind and soul. Aim to spend even just 5 minutes outside soaking up some vitamin D, breathing in some fresh air and enjoying the beauty of nature.
Have some fun: Remember to do the things you enjoy in life, whether it’s taking a bubble bath once a week, spending some time reading a good book, getting together for coffee with a friend, or doodling in a sketchbook. Come up with a handful of simple things that you enjoy, and decide to do at least one of those things every week.
3. Practice consistency
As my good friend Dr. Meghan Birt says, “We get healthy in consistency.” All the worthwhile things to be accomplished in life require discipline and practice.
Self care is no different….it isn’t something we can just wake up and suddenly be better at overnight. We have to practice, which requires us to choose to keep showing up ready to honor ourselves and make better choices.
No matter how many times you slip up or revert to old habits, decide that you’re worth honoring and taking care of, and do the simple things that count.
Words Of Wisdom From Women Just Like You
Here is what our amazing panel of contributors for the Simplicity Sessions had to say about how they strive to simplify prioritizing self care in their own busy lives as wives, mamas, women and business owners.
"I believe we live the healthiest versions of lives when we do the small things consistently. For example: Consistently reduce the amount of sugar we eat. Consistently be gluten free. Consistently move our bodies. Consistently eat whole foods. This will look different for everyone, but we get healthy in that consistency. That doesn't mean perfection, because there's no such thing as perfection. When you feel like you are in the habit of one thing, you can move onto adding in another small thing. Before you know it you're doing 25 new things, but it didn't feel overwhelming to get there." - Dr. Meghan Birt, Chiropractor & Founder of the Just Enjoy Health Podcast
"Find a form of exercise that is enjoyable. If you dread it, it will feel like a waste of time and will be a constant mental battle. Don't over-commit. Set realistic goals for yourself based on your unique season of life. In my younger days I could spend an hour at the gym and train for half-marathons. In this season, I aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise 4-5x per week. Sometimes I accomplish that and more, sometimes I don't. And that's okay. Remember that self-care can be as simple as closing the door for 20 minutes and reading a book. It doesn't have to be expensive, time consuming or glamorous." - Robin Long, Pilates & Barre Instructor & Founder of The Balanced Life Online
"I believe you have to treat self care like an appointment - an important appointment that you cannot break. Often times, we push ourselves to the bottom of the list and then feel guilty because we did not take time to take care of ourselves. If it's scheduled into your day as something that's important, you'll find that you begin to treat it as such... and taking care of yourself IS important. You have to make sure you put on YOUR oxygen mask first." - Tonya Dalton, Founder + CEO of inkWELL Press, Co-Host of the Productivity Paradox Podcast
"Start with the basics! If you aren't getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, do not spend oodles of time that you don't have figuring out super foods and supplements that will add only marginally help compared to sleep and water." - Valerie Woerner, Founder of Val Marie Paper & Author of The Finishing School
"Self-care and healthy living used to be non-existent in my world. I sometimes went days without drinking a bottle of water, I’d get my hair cut once a year, and I didn’t even buy fruits or vegetables...my self-care was in survival mode. I set an intentional goal to lose 20 pounds of baby weight in 3 months. I had to become obsessed with this goal and make my life revolve around it for that short season of my life in order to achieve such a big goal. Now I’m a little more relaxed with my health goals, but I still make sure to put things like drink water and eat fruit on my daily goals list. It’s just like with time management: your daily self-care actions reflect your priorities. If it’s important to you then you have to make it a daily goal." - Sami Womack, Budgeting Coach & Founder of A Sunny Side Up Life