Everyone talks about it, but who has time for the glammed-up versions of “self care” we see circulating on the internet? Real self care doesn’t always look like a glass of wine in a quiet, candle-lit bubble bath or yoga at sunrise overlooking the mountains or beach. Those things aren’t bad – but they’re also not realistically attainable and sustainable for most women. In fact, that expectation often leaves them feeling guilt and failure when they’re not “doing it right”. Going to bed at 9pm or politely declining a second glass of wine aren’t super sexy or Instagram-worthy, there’s no way around it. But the daily discipline to take care of yourself in little ways that accumulate over time will leave you with a cleaner headspace, a healthier body, and a more grateful heart.
So how do you ease into a more sustainable, realistic self-care routine that truly makes a difference in your head, heart, and health? These are the first 4 things you should try:
1. Do whatever it takes to get good sleep. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 14 months old – which meant I lived on 4 piecemealed hours of sleep per night. It wasn’t until I started sleeping more consistently that I realized how miserable I’d been! While I couldn’t control how often he woke up, I could control whether I went to bed at 9 or at midnight. For me, staying up late to cheat the system majorly backfired. It left me too tired to get stuff done the next day, and my productivity suffered even more – it was a vicious cycle. We get up at 5:30 in our house, so I do my best to be in bed with the lights out and phone off by 9:30pm. Maybe you need a white noise machine or a fan. Maybe you need a podcast to bore you to sleep. Maybe you need to set an alarm at night to tell you it’s time to unplug and go to bed. Maybe you need to exercise more often to burn off excess energy. Find the roadblocks you’ve allowed between yourself and good sleep, and remove them.
2. Mute (or hide) your phone. Program it to be silent during specific times of the day (for example, my phone goes silent from 9pm to 6am but will allow calls from select phone numbers in case of emergency). Utilize apps that disable social media platforms during your office hours or at night when you’re home with your family. Got a lot to do? Struggling emotionally? Put your phone in time-out and leave it there for 4 hours. Check it, answer any emails or texts that require immediate action, and lock it up again for another 4 hours. We don’t need to be connected every second of every day to every person we’ve ever met – that kind of instant access to each others’ lives isn’t healthy! Do you spend all day driving around peeking into the windows of your friends’ and neighbors’ houses? I hope not, because that’s creepy! Constantly having your phone in your hand to see what others are doing – with or without you – isn’t much different.
3. Be honest about addiction. I have a super addictive personality. When I break one habit, I just replace it with another – and when I’m bored or sad, that’s when I reach for my addiction. Habits that annoy or hurt others are easier to break than the ones that seem harmless – and any crutch you rely on too heavily can easily become as harmful as reaching for a vodka tonic at 9am every day. Once or twice may not hurt anything, but over the course of days, weeks, and months, opting to indulge at every opportunity has consequences. Plus, now it’s going to be even harder to rein it in. It’s the same for everything in life: food, alcohol, exercise, entertainment, work, and relationships. If you can’t identify your weaknesses and commit to change, don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.
4. Take a good hard look at your calendar. It’s called “self” care for a reason. You have to decide you are worth the time it takes to rest, worth the time it takes to exercise, worth the time it takes to prepare nutritious food…even if that means putting other good things on the back burner. If volunteering for one more organization or chairing one more committee means your health takes a back seat, it’s not worth it. If driving kids to practices and lessons every night of the week means you eat nothing but fast food – or no food at all – something has to change. If giving every last drop you have in service to others means you are shortchanging yourself in a dangerous way, it’s not worth it.
It’s not sustainable, and it’s not fair. As women, we struggle to say “no” to others. But setting healthy boundaries isn’t just for relationships – it’s good for our own schedules, routines, and hearts. I often tell my kids, “I’m saying ‘no’ because I love you” – and I’ve learned that telling myself the same thing brings a freedom that makes all the difference.
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