Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Need for Self-Care

Originally published at The Mirror Magazine

Last Sunday, I drove two and a half hours to a beach in Alabama with my husband and a friend, chatting and laughing and singing along to the radio and our CD collection. A couple hours later, we were driving back to New Orleans, with white sand stuck to all the crevices and skin (and in our hair), sunburns, and conversations that would dwindle off as a favorite song came into play.

Once we crossed back over the border into Louisiana, I asked my husband to drive because I was so tired. The waves had been strong and full, white-capping and carrying our bodies forward and onward. It takes strength to stand up against the tide, even when you dig your feet into the sand and swear you shan't move. But moving isn't the problem - it's where you end up. Let yourself get swayed, and you'll end up 20 feet down the beach. But maybe that's where the adventure starts? As I sat on the sand in the late afternoon and watched the sand crabs dive into their holes, I thought: this is self-care.

Self-care "refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development." Self-care starts with self-awareness.

What are you able to do? What do you want to do? Why are you feeling this way?

My husband likes reading on the beach between swims, and our friend took at least one nap on her towel, but as I was less than two weeks away from my due date (a week now!), I cannot lie on a towel without needing Will to physically help me up again or sit comfortably near the hot sand for so long. So, I thought, what do I want to do? And it was a wonderful feeling. I went and sat on the lower part of the beach, and let the waves wash over my legs and my belly, where my baby pokes me and teases me.

It's taken me nine months to get to the point where I can sit in the sand. I've never taken leisure time very seriously. There was work time, vacation time, quality time (with friends and/or family), chore time and productive time. Even sleep time got the short end of the stick, more often than not.

Leisure is not the same as self-care, but it can feel that way to me. Instead of being optional, however, self-care is possibly one of the most important things a person can do for herself. Self-care is a recognition of your limitations, a want to improve, and a desire for sanity. If a person does not relax, their body will become ragged and force rest upon them in forms of sickness or exhaustion, mental and physical.

Self-care can come from necessity - my pregnancy forced me to re-evaluate how I never took time to rest. Self-care must become a habit, verses a special occasion.

I've focused my self-care on four areas: daily prayer, daily exercise, daily writing, and naps.

I've taken small steps - morning prayer, and daily mass once a week. Exercise for 30 minutes. Writing without publishing.

I learned to nap. I learned to sit down and watch. I learned that it was okay being passive, as long as you didn't get stuck there. I learned that it was okay to let people help you, and admit that you can't handle a work load.

This week, I think I'll paint my nails. I've organized the closets and re-written the chore and grocery list, for my own peace of mind. Now, to finish a few bigger projects and book reviews!

How do you self-care, reader? Do you self-care? Why or why not? What is holding you back if you're not?

1 comment:

  1. Glad that you had this realization before the baby! Self-care is SO important, and ultimately helps us to serve others better! For me, it starts with enough sleep, and journaling is one other way good for me.