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Self care is not selfish.
My mom has told me this for years: “You can’t draw water from an empty well.”
Sometimes people think “self care” means indulging your every whim and therefore think it’s inherently selfish. Not so. Self care simply means taking a few minutes out of your day to assess the state of your body + mind + soul. When something is lacking, you address that need. It doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive; it simply needs to improve your personal well-being.
In essence, self care is making sure there is enough water in your personal well to meet the needs of everyone you serve each day.
That can be hard sometimes. I get it. Babies have so many immediate physical needs, and schoolchildren have homework + extracurricular activities, and work hours are long + stressful, and money is tight, and someone is always getting sick, and dinner has to be made + laundry has to be washed + floors have to be swept + IT. IS. EXHAUSTING. I get it.
But you can’t draw water from an empty well.
Self care is not selfish; it’s what you do ensure that you can do what you gotta do without losing your dang mind.
Everyone is different, so your self care might look different from mine. If you need some ideas, though, here are a few things I do to help fill my own well when I’m feeling a bit drained.
Get a shower + get dressed.
Truth: this is my number one every day need. When I feel gross + stinky, I don’t want to do anything. And if I don’t change out of my pajamas or exercise clothing, all I want to do is be lazy on the couch all day. Showering makes all the difference in how my day goes.
Also truth: I only wash my hair a couple times a week, and I shave my legs even less frequently. Most of my showers are five minutes long. I pull my hair up, soap up my body, maybe wash my bangs, then call it good. It’s great for two reasons: 1) I feel better for not being stanky. 2) Every shower that is more than five minutes feels extra luxurious.
Drink some water.
This goes double for anyone who lives in a desert (*raises both hands*). Sometimes I get so caught up in taking care of the physical needs of my little ones that I don’t take care of my own. Then at dinner I sit down and chug a huge glass of ice water, thinking, “Dang! I was thirsty!” OF COURSE I AM THIRSTY I HAVEN’T HAD ANYTHING TO DRINK ALL DAY. And that daily afternoon headache? Dehydration + stress.
It’s so obvious and yet I do it all the time.
Each of my kids has a special water bottle or sippy cup; I was long overdue to get one for myself. My Contigo AUTOSEAL® Chill Bottle has been so good for me. Tepid water grosses me out, so I’m a huge fan of the Thermalock™ Vacuum Insulation that keeps my water ice cold for up to 28 hours. My Contigo water bottle is also spill-proof AND leak-proof, which means it doesn’t soak everything in my bag if it tips over.
Plus my kids don’t know how to use it without my help so they can’t abscond with it.
(You just push a button on the back, but I’m not telling them that. Mwahahaha!)
Some evenings when David is running late after work and the kids are driving me bonkers, I quietly slip out the front door alone. I’m only out there for a minute or two, but breathing the fresh air—and enjoying a moment of quiet—helps me center myself. Having some comfortable chairs on the patio has been really great, because I can go outside with my laptop and work while the kids play. Sometimes I’ll put the little ones in the bike trailer to take Margot to preschool. And every day we walk Mila to + from school.
Maybe like me you’re not hiking mountains or running marathons or spending the day at the beach (don’t I wish!), but every minute outside still makes a difference. Look at the sky. Feel the wind on your face. Smell a flower. Blow a dandelion. Take a minute to appreciate how beautiful the world is.
Stretch + move your body.
I can always tell I’m not taking sufficient care of myself when a spot in my lower back starts to get tight + sore. Twenty minutes of yoga usually relaxes it. A short walk or bike ride helps too. You don’t have to join a gym or deadlift your body weight, you just need to get up and move. You’ll be glad you did. Your family will be glad you did. As Elle Woods wisely said, “Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
Make time to be by yourself.
I’m speaking as an introvert, but this probably goes for extroverts too. Sometimes a few minutes without small children talking at you or climbing on you or needing ALL THE THINGS can be a huge relief. Ideally, I get a babysitter for a few hours. My mother-in-law has been great about giving me some time to myself nearly every week. I’m also part of a babysitting co-op which I’ve used a few times during the day. If I’m feeling desperate, though, I’ll either send my kids outside while I hide in the kitchen with a cookie or four, or I’ll sneak into the bathroom and lock the door.
Hey. We all do what we gotta do.
Make time to be with people who build you up.
Socializing can be exhausting if it’s not with the right sort of people. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I really understood the value of quality girl friends. Now I have many whom I can count on to make me laugh, listen to my worries, and help me feel lighter after spending time with them. If your people aren’t close by, call them or video chat or text each other silly memes. Knowing you have someone in your corner is important.
Get lost in a movie or book.
When my life feels overwhelming, sometimes I like to escape into someone else’s for a bit. I love to set aside half an hour to read during the day or binge on Netflix after the kids are in bed. It help my brain stay active + interested in things that aren’t my kids.
And yes, this book is called A Great Aridness. Yes, I really am reading it…it’s fascinating, if a bit dry. Yes, that pun was intentional, and no, the irony of including it in this post is not lost on me.
I don’t consider myself artistic. I do, however, enjoy dabbling in different types of “art.” Hand-lettering, knitting, baking, writing, photography…whenever I flex my creative muscles, I feel less stressed and more present.
Make music. Sketch floor plans. Rearrange a shelf. Bust out the watercolors. Take a ceramics class. Do something you haven’t done since high school or try something you’ve always wanted to. The act of creation is therapeutic, even if the results aren’t anything special. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Do something that makes you think, “I look goooood.”
Beauty standards are completely subjective, but isn’t there something satisfying about feeling pretty? A fresh haircut or pedicure, or even just a swipe of mascara + lipstick (since I usually go barefaced) can be so good for my soul. I love to save my favorite shirts to wear on days when I feel extra blah. If I wear scruffy clothes when I’m already feeling scruffy, my attitude tends to spiral inward + downward. But when I wear something that makes me smile (looking at you, avocado tee!) I automatically perk up.
Maybe it’s shallow. But I think there’s value to be found in catching a glimpse in a mirror and liking what you see there.
Have something that is just yours.
I mentioned above that all my kids have their own water bottles but I didn’t until I bought my Contigo. It’s silly, but I love having a water bottle of my own. I mean, I’m always sharing my food, my bed, my personal space with my family. There’s not much that’s only mine. Spending a few dollars on something I needed anyway that I don’t have to share felt like a great investment.
And it helps that it’s so pretty. I’m in love with that matte black.
If your self care involves a solo visit to Target (can I get an amen?), you should stop by the housewares aisle + pick up your own Contigo AUTOSEAL® Chill Bottle. It’s only $19.99 for a limited time. Look for an end cap with all the pretty variations, including a few designs (like mine) that are exclusive to Target.
You gotta take care of yourselves, friends. Because I like you. And because you can’t do much when your well is empty. So repeat after me: self care is not selfish.
Now go do something nice for yourself. You deserve it.
Are you a self care advocate? What kind of things do you do to “fill your well?”