Self-care is a trending topic.
First made popular by the undeniable appeal of rewarding yourself with spa treatments and luxury splurges after an especially stressful day, this version of consumer self-care is promoted heavily by companies selling self-care services and products.
We’ve been well conditioned to conjure up images of tub soaking with luxury bath bombs as a route to happiness.
Lately, however, a new self-care movement has begun.
The idea that the true meaning of self-care is not about spa treatments, but about making choices to build a life we don’t need to regularly escape from is surfacing as the current hot topic.
Thoughts of sand between my toes, hair gently tousled by salty ocean breezes and not a care in the world, at first glimpse, I fell hard in love with this vision.
Reality though, like an early morning alarm, shut off the dreams as I learned more about the concept.
Apparently, we can build this idyllic life by forcing ourselves to do certain things that may be hard or take courage, but reap long term rewards.
Not procrastinating, eating healthy, living within our financial means, removing toxic people and situations from our lives, or replacing an unfulfilling job are all suggested.
“If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with making choices for your long-term wellness.” – This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake
Not quite a carefree ocean stroll, but a realistic plan for achieving a less stressful life. In fact, I often remind myself of this sage advice with a quote:
Turning wishful thinking into action
Many of us exhausted parents have to wonder, how is it possible to simply build a life we don’t – at least sometimes – want to escape?
When often the things little people that stress us out the most are part and parcel of a job we can’t quit.
Our kids, some of them young or with high, challenging or even special needs, are a constant. What to do if the sheer magnitude of caring for them is contributing to our longing for an escape?
When our life is already built upon something (parenting) that we can’t simply cut out like a toxic love relationship, we need more guidance than simply, ‘make the hard choices’ and voila! our perfect life will appear.
To maintain our sanity, I propose these three, true (non-consumer) self-care steps… possible even in the absence of baths with luxury salts and scented fizz.
1. Reassess what’s up for elimination
We know we can’t take the kids off our list, so what CAN we eliminate? Often, there are many things we do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that we assume we can’t change, just because, that’s the way it’s always been done.
Upon closer examination, some of these things could be delegated or even eliminated with no negative, and likely a positive outcome to our lives. It’s that dreaded fear of change that keeps us overextended.
As we reduce the overall chaos of our lives, sometimes suddenly, our kids can seem much less stressful. Think about how much more calm life with kids is when you aren’t running late and rushing out the door, trying to find everyone’s misplaced items.
Reducing our outside demands is a foundation for building that life we don’t want to escape.
Often the best way to slash our responsibilities is to begin with a clean slate. Grab a blank sheet of paper, and start anew! List tasks that are absolutely critical. Food, shelter, transportation, child care…
The tasks and outside obligations that didn’t make the list are now up for elimination! Try using the Marie Kondo method… Do they spark joy for you or for your family? Is that joy in proportion to the amount of effort they require? If not, perhaps they need to be slowly phased out.
When our plate’s too full, we need to step away from the never-ending buffet. Adding one small bite of creme brûlée in the name of self-care simply can’t deliver lasting happiness.
Some people truly enjoy sending holiday cards, others dread it. Some thrive on being a room parent, others do it out of a sense of obligation or fear that if they don’t, no one else will.
When I think back over the years to some of the things I stressed about when I could have just skipped doing them entirely, I admit, I’m ashamed. I caused myself so much stress. It wasn’t really my daughter. It was the other things I thought we HAD to be doing.
We also don’t need to keep up with everyone else who has a seemingly perfect life. Because 1. they don’t and 2. photos on Instagram appear happier than reality.
Self-care is granting yourself permission to NOT try to do it all, or even close to it all. Self-care can be quitting. Saying no to anything that isn’t contributing to your family’s core needs
We have plenty of obligations in life that we can’t eliminate. It’s time to say no to those we can!
2. Master the art of saying no gracefully
Learning to say no – to people other than our kids – is a practiced art form.
The more we do it, the better we get, and the better we feel about it. Soon, we’re empowered to say it more and more until we’ve paired down our life to a point where we can breathe again!
I used to be terrible at saying no. One thing that helped me is getting permission from other people to do so! An excellent podcast on the topic is episode seven of Productivity Paradox.
It’s a reminder that everything we say ‘yes’ to, also involves saying ‘no’ to something else. Oftentimes reducing family time or simply peace and quiet for ourselves aka, self-care!
The host, Tonya, also offers advice on how to decide what to eliminate, how to better delegate tasks, and offers many ideas for graceful excuses to have on hand! If your schedule is too jam-packed to listen to it, then you are exactly the intended audience!
If you can make time for this 20 minute episode, I promise you’ll be glad you did!
3. Boost our natural support system
Because no matter how diligent we are about reducing our obligations, there will always be things that cause us stress, I cannot highly enough recommend certain vitamins and supplements to help.
When it comes to stress-reduction supplements, there are countless choices. I’d like to narrow the field with a recommendation for my three favorite, don’t leave home without selections
I take them every day and feel a noticeable difference when I don’t. For me, they truly make the sun shine even on the cloudiest of days.
Omega 3’s, as you’ve probably heard, have many amazing health benefits. In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are 17 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are supported by science. Just a few of them are: fight depression and anxiety, improve brain health including attention and ability to complete tasks, decrease inflammation and age related mental decline, reduce wrinkles and improve sleep.
Talk about self-care in a bottle! I take 2 soft gels per day and you can buy it almost anywhere supplements are sold.
*Note: Because a balance of omegas is important and our diets generally contain too much omega-6, and omega-9 is naturally produced, it’s best to take only omega-3, not a blend with 6 and 9. [R]
A lesser known supplement is the amino acid, DMG. This adaptogen works to counteract the negative effects of physical, emotional, and metabolic stress and to help prevent and overcome degenerative diseases.
It positively influences mood, energy, well-being, alertness, concentration, and visual clarity. You can read more in, DMG: An All-Natural Wellness Builder
My daughter and I both have taken 250 mg for years. I have seen that forgetting to take it makes a significant impact on mood and energy levels. You can find many brands on Amazon.
Lithium is an essential micronutrient that plays a significant role in healthy mental function, including support for healthy mood, emotional wellness, behavior and memory.
It’s present in all organs and tissues in the body and has a long history of supporting healthy mood and behavior by affecting dopamine and serotonin and increasing our natural detoxification enzymes in the brain.
Supplementing with low dose lithium orotate (not to be confused with any other forms) can very positively impact your well-being. Read much more about it in: Lithium Orotate: A Powerful Neuroprotective Supplement
Many brands are available on Amazon. My daughter and I both take 5 mg and especially like Pure Encapsulations because it’s formula includes NAC (N-acetyl-l-cysteine), an antioxidant in the brain that adds to the effectiveness.
Although the concept of true self-care requires more effort than consumer self-care, the dividends are exponentially higher.
A life in which we feel genuine happiness, serenity and contentment, and salt baths are simply a welcome luxury, really can be ours.
If we thoughtfully create our list of essential obligations, courageously eliminate the rest, and add a few supplements for good measure, we will be well on our way to a life where we don’t go through the day, thinking, ‘how can I escape?!’
And when we do find our bath salts and have a moment to relax, our thoughts won’t gravitate to the looming obligations and commitments we wish we didn’t make.
We’ll be thinking how proud we feel for creating a more tranquil, satisfying life for ourselves and our loved ones.
For showing our children how to slow down and value quality over quantity.
And for demonstrating the actual meaning of self-care as a way of creating a better reality, not as sneaking in a short-lived escape from it.