Back when I was a massage therapist, I was always pushing the necessity of self-care onto my clients. I thought that was what they needed to keep the aches and pains and strains away.
Even back then I knew it was a buzzword, but I strongly believed that it was something everyone needed to incorporate into their lives. It’s taken me a little while away from that industry to see the faulty logic there. Self-care certainly sounds like a good thing, but the problem lies in the idea that it’s not something that is a part of regular life.
Simply put, care of the self should be woven into the fabric of daily life. Our lifestyles should be a complete practice, from morning until night until morning again so that we aren’t someone who practices healthy self-care, we are healthy people who live a healthy lifestyle.
If we live in a healthy way, we won’t have a build-up that we have to finally release-whether that’s stress or muscle tension or whatever. This is especially important for us moms, who need to “perform” at our bests everyday while simultaneously not having a lot of extra time to make that happen, and who can easily fall into overwhelm and frustration.
We need the integration for our sanity. We don’t need to go to gyms to workout, we don’t need to attend a yoga class to stretch, and we don’t need to break free at the end of the week to finally blow-off steam. Know what I mean? Daily life can be all these things.
So here’s what I’m suggesting: days that naturally incorporate movement, stress-relief, stretching, nourishment, joy, and creativity. These can all be done, even with a little baby by your side, which is actually the best way, if you ask me. As much as possible, I aim for integration of all the separate parts of life, because they never needed to be separated to begin with. I’m all for holistic everything, as much as possible.
It took me a few months postpartum to get back into this, but I’m happily a walker again. I wake up early and R and I go for 5 miles every single day. It’s truly an amazing exercise: It simultaneously loosens and strengthens your joints and muscles, gets the blood circulating, increases endorphins, and releases a ton of stress.
Ten thousand steps seems to be the current, daily baseline that experts recommend, which is a solid five mile walk. There’s no getting around it either- we humans have to move in a big way every single day. Carry your baby in your arms or in a carrier, or if you have a little one over 2 years who is slow moving, look into the brilliant Piggyback Rider carrier.
Reframe how you view your home so you can move more:
I use a coffee table as my desk, so I am up and down and sitting in different positions on the ground all throughout the day. Sitting like this also encourages me to do a lot of stretching, and I usually lay out my yoga mat to flow through a quick sequence anytime I get up to pee.
We also intentionally have our bed low to the ground, as much for R as for us. This simple decision means that we’re using more of our bodies more often to get into and out of bed: knees, hips, ankles. Adding to this, I squat while I fold laundry or do other things that are close to the ground instead of sitting on a couch, which is like doing mini-workouts here and there.
Walking through doorways always gives a great opportunity to reach up and grab the top and get a good stretch, and carrying your baby is a natural weigh to build arm strength. There’s so much more I could write about here, and I will sometime soon for sure, but this is good to get you started. And I’ll link below for some articles you can read to explore this idea more.
This is huge, and something that is consistently forgotten for a lot of people. Don’t discount the importance of water. Your muscles need it to stay hydrated, your blood needs it so that it can flow smoothly and efficiently through your body giving you energy, and your brain needs it for optimal function. 2 quart mason jars a day are a really good baseline.
I heard an interview with a lady who talked about “fueling your hustle,” and as much as I can’t stand the idea of hustling (or even the word), I loved the point she was making. If I want to stay alert and feel great throughout the day, I have to be mindful of what I eat. I’m not spouting any individual way of eating, I’m just saying eat well. It makes such a difference. I’ll link the podcast episode below if you wanna listen to it.
This is so necessary, and can be done while breastfeeding, during naps, or while watching the baby play. A daily practice negates any build-up of stress and tension, so you’re not approaching the end of the week tearing your hair out. It’s amazing how the mental act of meditating translates into a looser and more relaxed body. You don’t need a big chunk of time, either. Watch your breath for five or ten minutes here and there, and these mini-practices will be little pressure-release moments all throughout your day.
I struggled with this until around R’s five-month B-day when I finally felt strong enough to get out a walk for miles. Now that I’m up early and out before 7am, I wind down hard in the evenings and am asleep by 9 or 10 and sleep really well all night long. (I do co-sleep though ((highly recommended)), and this helps tremendously because I don’t wake completely or get out of bed when R needs to eat)
Our spirits shrivel when we don’t create, so this has to be something that we practice everyday. It gives us an outlet of self-expression, connects us to our inner selves, and makes the world a more beautiful place.
Now that I have R, I do most of my crafting and writing on the floor right next to her while she explores and plays. I don’t set aside a separate time to this-I do it with her nearby. This is a really important distinction because a lot of us think that we need a space and time to be creative, and this is just not so. Weave it into the fabric of daily life and you won’t feel the frustration of never having time to create. There’s always time, we just have to arrange it in the right way.
Read real books:
Very, very important, because this means that we’re not scrolling through internet feeds, and anytime we’re not doing that is a win for humanity. Reading books is a relaxing, rejuvenating practice that grounds us while simultaneously adding to our knowledge and wisdom.
It’s so easy to pick up our phones during breastfeeding or anytime boredom creeps up, but we can choose a real book just as easily, and we’ll reap amazing, calming benefits. I firmly believe that the farther we get from the internet as a tool to simply pass time, the closer we get to an uncomplicated and contented life. Fit good reading in during nap times, breastfeeding sessions, and right before bed.
And gosh, as much as possible, get away from the Amazon algorithm. It keeps feeding us the same-same, and we forget there’s so much more out there. In fact, some of the best books to read in any given genre will never even be an Amazon recommendation.. My favorite places to find books have become thrift stores, because software isn’t dictating what I find, and I end up finding the coolest books ever.
None of these are groundbreaking or radical, but when you live your days like this, you’re going to feel gooooood. Like really, naturally, good. Your body is going to be loose, you're going to feel well-nourished, well-hydrated, well-read, grounded, healthy, well-rested, and grounded in reality.
You’ll be living a life of self-care, not using it as a separate practice that you have to remind yourself to do. I’m a lifelong bath-lover, and it’s a huge stress-relief for me. I don’t consider it self-care. I consider it a thing I love and do on a regular basis. I also love alone-time, and make sure that I have some every so often. But I don't consider that self-care, either. It’s just who I am. See the difference?
You might say it’s semantics, but I say it’s a shift in perception that makes a world of difference. Make your life a healthy one where you’re naturally moving a ton throughout the day, taking in good foods and lots of water, and practicing short meditations to release pent-up stress, and you won’t have a need for “self-care.”
And as always, I’ve got some really good reads and listens for you if you want to go a little further with this stuff. Enjoy :)
Read: Movement Matters
From the book: “Each day, in addition to the tasks required for work, are those must-dos on my list: spend time with my family, educate my children, source wholesome ingredients, feed my family, move my body, move my kids’ bodies, and expose our bodies to nature (sunlight, the sounds of nature, temperature variations, etc.)
….When I look at these to-dos as a list, I start calculating the time necessary to accomplish them all. I require at least a few hours of daily movement. I need to shop and cook, which takes a couple hours as well. Playing games or reading books-designed with some learning schema for kids-can also take an hour to facilitate.
Right away, each day, I’m overwhelmed because I do not have the extra six hours in the day to facilitate what I consider to be essential tasks alongside the reality that I must work….Nature is a good teacher, and I have learned quite a bit about efficiency from observing it. In nature, functions aren’t plotted side by side, each holding their own personal space in time.
Nature accomplishes many tasks at the same time. With this in mind, I changed the way I thought about and scheduled my own life. Instead of breaking up my obligations and allotting time to each fractured component….I organized my life essentials so that the same portion of time fulfills multiple obligations. I call this way of relating time to essential tasks “stacking your life.”
Okay, now I want to know what you think. What are your thought on self-care versus a lifestyle that naturally cares for the self? Tell me in the comments below :)