Self-care strategies for a busy life

Adrienne Koznek, IBCLC

As a mother to a young child who is also working outside the home, self-care is of the utmost importance – and often one of the first things to go out the window. ?But you cannot pour from an empty cup, so we have to take care of ourselves to be our best selves.

Here are a few things I like to do for myself when I need a refill:

  • Warm beverages: I cannot start my day without a warm cup of tea or coffee. ?I love the ritual of brewing, pouring, and stirring.
  • ?The moments I get (sometimes peace is included, sometimes not) while drinking a nice hot beverage prepare me for the day.
  • Yoga: I make time to go to yoga 3 times a week, even at the expense of the laundry piles. ?Yoga is both physical exercise and a spiritual activity for me. ?It grounds me, refreshes me, and fulfills me.
  • Coloring: yes, I have joined the adult coloring book bandwagon. ?It feels great. I highly recommend it.
  • Reality television: ok, this one is kind of embarrassing to admit, but we all have our things. I particularly enjoy reality television as it?s like cotton candy for my brain – totally terrible but really fun.

When practicing self-care, find the things that bring you joy. ?Then do them. Refill that cup.

Alicia Hart, ND

Loving yourself is such a hard task to get to, but like Adrienne referenced, you cannot pour from an empty cup. When I start feeling overwhelmed, snappy, and exhausted I know it?s time to step back and focus on myself so that I can take care of others again. ?Here are my top self care rituals:

  • List making. Breaking down large tasks into small steps is a little bit of solace I can build for myself. Taking that extra 5 minutes to figure out what I really need to get done from A to B can also have the effect of showing me that I?m trying to do too much at once, and having visual confirmation of that can help me let go of what is unrealistic to plan- or it can help me be more efficient to really get those activities done.
  • Clean something that?s bugging me. I?often?always have cleaning left to get to. Sometimes it feels like a little vacation to reorganize the bookshelf instead of vacuuming. It seems like something of a boring ritual, but honestly reframing cleaning as self care has been a huge help to me, and it helps me get to the tasks that only I care about more often than when I?m just running the list of things that need to be done.
  • Sleep. 10 out of 10 doctors recommend sleep. It fixes so many things. Getting to sleep can be a challenge for me, so I?ve developed a pretty hardcore regimen of sleep hygiene from charging my phone outside of my room to lighting conditions to herbal and supplemental remedies when needed to get that respite that I need.
  • Tea on the back deck. It only counts if I get to drink it warm and no one is touching me and yelling ?mama!? while I drink it. Note that with the 3 kids under 5 I have, that can mean literally locking myself on the back deck for 5 minutes with a cup of tea. You are allowed to take mini-vacations. A 5 minute escape once a day is completely within the bounds of normal needs.
  • Reading a real novel. I?m a voracious reader and pre-kids I averaged probably 20+ books a year even in medical school that I was just reading for fun. Somehow this turns into rereading ?Fox in Socks? until I don?t even need to look at the pages anymore. While I love reading to my kids, I really missed reading for fun- and wouldn?t you know it, when I read or have an audiobook on, I am much happier to go through the day to day. It?s important for my wellbeing?and?my ability to get stuff done to do things that make me happy.

Don?t get trapped into thinking that self care takes away from the time you need to get things done. There is a vast amount of evidence base?showing that as you contribute to and plan for your own well being, you are more able to accomplish tasks and care for others.

Stacie Wolfe, ND

This blog topic comes at a perfect time, as I found myself just the other day having a very sweet conversation with a mentor of mine on just this very topic. The crux of the conversation was that all too often we view self-care as a luxury, something that we advocate for in the lives of others but seldom take time for in ourselves. I have seen burnout in myself and in those I admire, the slow crush of all the hard work we do grinding us down until we no longer are able to muster the love for our work (or parenting, or whatever it is you do) that keeps us going. I see self-care in a different light, as something that is crucial to our well-being and just as necessary as medical care.

There are a number of ways that you can engage in caring for your heart, a great many of them easy to fit into a busy life. One of the things that brings me incredible peace is the ocean. Among my favorite memories is waking with the sun in Tanzania and swimming out past the wave break to the calm waters of the Indian Ocean. There, I would float on my back and watch as the sky went from red to the blue of the day. Since I can?t just fly to east Africa any time I am feeling stressed out, I have found ways to bring this moment into my life. If I can find the time, I take myself on dates to aquariums. I put in headphones (aquarium self-date music recommendations: Warpaint, Daughter, and Torres?are my go-tos) and stare dreamily at the jellyfish, losing myself in the ethereal blue light. As my free time is scarce, I recently purchased myself a small desktop aquarium and placed it next to my bed. Those silly little fish and the blue LED light are a much welcomed break in my day and a way for me to enter that serene mental space for even just a moment.

Self-care can mean anything you need it to. For me it means creating space for sweet memories, for others it may be massage or baths or screaming at passing trains. So long as what you do is nourishing (and not harming) your soul, you get to define self-care for yourself. The important thing is that you prioritize yourself from time to time and honor your right to practice what you preach.