There was a day recently when I woke up feeling sad.
There were reasons behind it and layers to it, but I woke up feeling disheartened. I spent the day struggling to get to the end of it. It was made worse because we’re deep into a holiday season, and I was feeling anything but festive. I just got more discouraged as the day wore on—and even though I did reach out to my support system, I was truly only treading water.
Sometimes I forget to take as good care of myself as I do others. As a single mom, my whole life is about taking care of others. My children are young, so I’m still changing diapers and picking out clothes. I feed them breakfast while I make them healthy lunches—and all the while, I’m meal planning dinner, checking the time, and rushing them off to childcare and school. Then there’s the never-ending piles of laundry that I can never quite manage, and the ever-renewing pile of dishes. I make sure my children are clean, well-fed, warm, and I also make sure that there’s a lot of laughter and love in my home. But, sometimes I forget myself in that whole process.
When I’m stressed or sad, I forget to eat well, sometimes skipping meals entirely. I sleep poorly during these times and have even seen a recent recurrence in nightmares and sleepwalking, something I haven’t done since early childhood. I’ve been running, as I’m training for a half marathon, but I haven’t been giving myself the necessary fuel and rest for the energy I’m expending, and then I wonder why I break down.
It’s so easy for us to do, isn’t it? When we take care of others and put others first, we can forget that taking care of ourselves is absolutely essential if we want to have the strength and energy to maintain our care of others. We just barrel ahead, doing what needs to be done without giving ourselves time to pause and breathe through what we’re feeling. Without that pause, it’s difficult to know what we need. How can we figure out what would help us feel better if we’re too busy rushing to the next task on our long lists? With the pause, we can figure out how to take care of ourselves best.
First, we need to stop and take those deep cleansing breaths, particularly in a place that is quiet. Being outside in nature is preferable, but our busy lives don’t always allow for what we’d prefer. Wherever we can find a quiet moment, we can breathe into that space and ask ourselves a few questions:
What are we feeling right now?
Where in our bodies are we feeling it?
What would make us feel better?
What self-care can we give ourselves to meet these needs?
Once we figure out what it is we’re feeling and how it’s impacting us, we can take some basic steps to care for ourselves. Over the previous weekend, I failed to eat or sleep well. Once I realized this, I made myself a nourishing vegetable soup that just happened to be delicious. I made with it some cheddar biscuits. I drank a lot of extra water and ate my soup, and I began to feel a little more like myself.
I had been running miles and miles, so exercise wasn’t a thing I was needing. I did need that extra water, and I even poured Epsom salts in my bath and took an extra long restorative soak for my tired muscles. I hadn’t been sleeping well, so I chose to go to bed early the next couple of nights. I even opted for a nap one afternoon when my schedule allowed for it. For the sad day, I decided to end it with candles lit and a cup of hot chocolate. Then I put on a double feature of some favorite Hallmark movies, because I’m a sucker for a good love story.
How we feel and what we each need will differ. It’s not about a one-size-fits-all method of caring for ourselves. It’s about finding what works, so that we can do all the things we need to do. But it’s not just important to care for ourselves so that we can care for others; it’s essential that we care for ourselves, because we are important too.
Sometimes a lack of self-care signifies a lack of self-love. When we love ourselves, we’re more likely to take good care of ourselves. We make sure that we’re not neglecting any aspect of our health. Our overall health encompasses mental health, spiritual health, the physical health we often think of with self-care—and it even includes all the aspects that go into those categories, like exercise and skin care and coping strategies to help with our stress. When we look at our health holistically, we see that caring for ourselves is multi-faceted, and we’ll feel our best when we make sure that we’re addressing all of those areas as equally as we’re able.
It’s easy to just feel discouraged sometimes and to want to wallow in that feeling. I get it. Sometimes, sitting with that feeling is the healthiest thing that we can do, so that we can experience it and begin to move through it. But, when we’re discouraged day in and day out without relief, this is the ultimate sign that we’re failing to provide ourselves with the necessary care we need.
We can’t expect someone else to give us what we need. We need to figure out what needs we have that aren’t being met and find a way to do this for ourselves, so that we begin to feel better. It may take time, but we have a responsibility to give ourselves the care we so easily give to everyone else. Our lives are just as precious, and it’s time that we started showing ourselves that we too deserve the love and care we keep giving away.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Flickr/David D
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Cat Monkman