Health & Wellness, Uncategorized

Self Care and the High Maintenance Myth

It’s been a busy month since my last post! Work at the Day-Job continues to move at a crazy pace, we took a (well deserved) family vacation, and school with IIN is in full swing. July has brought me to some high highs but also a few very low lows where I began to wonder if I could handle it all. It seemed like this month was such a delicate balancing act, where the slightest upset or deviation from the plan would spiral out of control and rather than bounce back quickly, I would find that I had wallowed in the slop for hours or days.

I’m sure that so many of you new and/or soon-to-be moms out there can relate to this. In a world of busy we end up being so over scheduled that a single problem had a domino effect, which in turn makes any little thing become a huge stressor in our lives. We end up having our lives run us, rather than running our lives. We just want the power to pause time for a minute, an hour, or even a day so that we can take a second to come up for air.

I’ve come to the realization that I actually don’t want to be running my life, I want to be enjoying my life. This goes back to the vision I have for our family: to build a life that we don’t need a vacation from. I thought about this phrase a lot while we were on our much needed vacation. I was so tightly wound up before leaving that it took me over a week to finally truly relax for the first time! (A week and 12 hours to be exact.) That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. What have I been doing to myself? To my kids and husband, if I’m THAT stressed out???

On the way home, I was determined to find a solution to the stress. Not a sit-on-top-of-a-mountain-and-meditate type of solution. Not an up-your-organization-and-hustle-to-get-more-out-of-your-time solution. Something that could be implemented today. Something that would not add an additional stressful to-do item to my already overflowing list. Something that would provide immediate and tangible results.

I’ve begun to take a two pronged approach to tame the stress: self-care and cognitive remodeling/mental positivity (which I think may actually be two sides to the same coin). I’ll leave the mental positivity/cognitive remodeling to another post and focus on the self-care aspect here.

Now often when we first read the words self-care, not very positive images come to mind. You may think of some prissy, high-maintenance person who “needs” her mani-pedi and $6 latte. You may think of someone who spends 2 hours daily doing their shower, hair, and makeup. In general, media images of self-care evoke someone who lives in a bubble: either in a penthouse on 5th avenue or in a yoga monastery. It’s construed that self care is a privilege for other people, or that it is actually a way of justifying being selfish, or that it is done by someone who isn’t real and doesn’t have “real-life” to deal with. It’s even depicted as something that only someone with privilege can have (and then enter in all of the reasons why having this privilege should make you feel like a bad person). Who wants to be high-maintenance? We should all strive to be the opposite, right.

My image of self-care is changing. It is actually the opposite of high maintenance. It is an essential thing for a healthy life, especially for us new and or soon-to-be moms. Self-care is the equivalent of putting on your oxygen mask before you help others with theirs. No one demonizes the oxygen mask, or the need for one. Self care also absolutely does NOT have to be any of the images portrayed by social media (or media in general). If baths and massages are you thing and you make the time for them, then more power to you! But self-care can be anything, at anytime, that helps you to de-stress and lower your cortisol levels: 2 minutes of deep breathing, a 5 minute walk, dancing like crazy in your car to your favorite song… anything.

But the most important thing about self-care (and I’ve found this is the way it actually begins to benefit you the most) is to be consistent in implementing it. This may sound like another thing to add to your to-do list, but here is what I’ve learned: self-care actually helps you to trim down and effectively handle that to-do list. The return on investment for a few minutes of self-care is immense.

I was in such a stressed out state that the first second that I could, I was crashing in my bed and going to sleep for the night. I thought that the 5 minutes of extra sleep were needed more than anything. Things were piling on, and I began to cut out the few self-care items I had established, like taking 3 minutes to wash my face before bed, the 30 second trip to fill my water tumbler for my nightstand, and skipping my breakfast and vitamins in the morning. Fast forward two weeks when I felt like life had completely spiraled out of control and I couldn’t figure out why. I was less patient, more irritable, and definitely more stressed. This meant more battles with my family, co-workers, and life in general. This also translated into less (and poor quality) sleep! The one thing I was trying to get more of…

This week, I got back to the basics of self-care. I learned a few tricks about how to improve sleep quality and decided to implement the two easiest items, without excuse: 5 minutes of movement/exercise each morning and sunshine exposure first thing in the morning. Even though my kids wake me before the alarm goes off every day, I can get 5 minutes of exercise in (with them even! My 3 year old has the attention span to exercise with me for 5 minutes and I can do squats or lunges while holding the baby, if needed). We can all go outside for 5 minutes of sunshine together (weather permitting). I also went back to my habit of drinking a huge tumbler of water as soon as I wake up in the morning (which is something that I found to wake me up more effectively than coffee and to start my day off on the right foot).

In the evening before bed, I decided to try a new sleep routine: refill my water tumbler for the morning, wash my face (something I find to be ultra relaxing), apply some magnesium oil spray (this one to be exact) which helps your muscles to relax, and attempt 10 minutes of meditation. The entire routine takes 16 minutes (if I wash my face slowly). So far, it’s been a week since I started both of these routines. I noticed better sleep the first night and it’s still improving! I’m also much more capable of responding to stress in my life positively, which is why I say that mental positivity and self care are really two sides of the same coin. It is hard to have one of these without the other.

Establishing new habits can be difficult, but it is definitely easier when you see some immediate results. It’s time for me to see if I can make this self-care routine become a permanent part of my life. These small things are often the first things that we let go when parenting or life get too busy. But letting them go would be like taking off your oxygen mask during a plane crash. I doesn’t make you a better person or a better mom, in fact, it hurts you more than you realize.

What are your thoughts on self-care? Leave a comment below!