I recently found myself in a slump of sorts. Trivial things would frustrate me more than was reasonable, and I would fly off the handle without warning. The rational part of my brain knew I was being ridiculous, but I simply couldn't stop myself in those moments. Quotes from self-hep gurus would chastise me - "No one can make you angry. You are in control of your own emotions." Those quotes only made me want to punt a Stephen Covey book across a football field.
It took a lot of prayer and reflection to realize what was going on: I was not practicing self care.
I felt frustrated that it had taken me so long to figure out why I wasn't acting like myself. I should have known! I should have recognized the signs! I had become a cliche, and I knew it. Having one baby had been fairly easy to adjust to. I got so much done during her naps, and I could easily handle her wants and needs. When a second child entered the picture we were overjoyed - but I was also overwhelmed. I had become a stressed out mother to young kids who put the children first, and forgot about her own needs.
But here's the reason I didn't recognize it: I was showering and putting on makeup every day. I was exercising and eating healthy. I even got enough sleep! (Don't hate me! We have blessedly good sleepers so far by the grace of God). My physical needs were taken care of.
So what was missing? And if you're in the same situation, how can you figure out what the missing piece of the puzzle is?
It was a Gretchen Rubin quote that turned on the light bulb for me:
treat yourself like a toddler
Fill in the blank:
I get cranky when...
(Here are my answers)
1. I'm cold
2. I don't drink enough water or eat healthy
3. My clothes don't fit right
4. I don't spend enough time with God
5. I don't have quiet time
6. I feel rushed
(Wow...this list makes me sound really high maintenance)
To me, self care is about knowing yourself and making sure your individual needs are taken care of so that you show up in the world as your best self. Honestly, it's not realistic or financially prudent for me to take a spa day or a girls' weekend whenever I'm feeling stressed. Those types of things are fun and refreshing, but not
. I'm talking about giving yourself a once-over, and making sure you're taking care of yourself not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
Stop rolling your eyes. I saw that. Ok, fine, roll your eyes and get it out of your system. I used to roll my eyes at the idea of self-care, too. I thought it sounded so self-indulgent and selfish. I thought it was for the weak. I viewed life as a competition to see who could handle the most responsibilities, stress, or children without cracking. That was before I had my second child. That was before I saw how detrimental it was to my family to keep shoving down my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. As wives and mothers we set the mood in our homes, and if our relationship with the Lord is lacking, our bodies are not getting the nutrition they need, or we are constantly forgetting to renew ourselves emotionally, we start snapping. And yelling. And being passive aggressive. And banging the dishes around in the kitchen because someone should know that we need help.
So what's the solution? Listen, I'm not going to pretend I know your individual solution. I'm not going to give you a trite list of self-care ideas like taking a bubble bath. It's going to take some introspection and good conversation with your spouse or someone else close to you. Figure out exactly what's making you cranky, and if there's a solution, find a way to implement it.
For example: I was feeling behind on my work, rushed, and spiritually weak, so I sat down with my husband over a glass of wine to tell him how I was feeling. Our solution was for me to get an hour or two on the weekends, uninterrupted by children, to get my school work done, and/or work on my business and blog. It's not much, but it makes a world of difference in my week. Most nights we prepare for the next day together so I'm not rushing around like a crazy woman. I found a Bible app on my phone that I can listen to, and a podcast devotional.
Honestly, it's the small changes, the things that are easy to do, but easy not to do that make the biggest difference in my daily life. I know so many women who are doing amazing things and raising fantastic families, who are themselves worn out, not happy with their bodies, lonely, or just plain exhausted. It is my dream to create a community of wives and mothers who can encourage one another on to better physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Listen, I have no credentials or expertise on this sort of thing (I'm a Spanish teacher by trade...I can tell you with authority how to conjugate the pluperfect subjunctive, but I have no authority to tell you how to take care of yourself), but I do have a passion to be my best self in order to serve God, and to help other women do the same. Would anyone be interested in a private Facebook group/community to encourage one another?
During the months after my second child was born, I felt alone. I felt like every other mother handled that transition with ease. I felt like mothers with 3 or more kids looked at me with disdain. This was all in my head, of course, but it felt very real to me. I can't be the only one who has felt this way!
I'll just leave you with this thought: