In social work school, students are taught you dont need to have the same experience as your clients in order to help them. After all, I have treated plenty of heroin addicts without ever using the drug.
But there is one area where, looking back, I just didnt get it: parenthood.
Until I became a mother, I didnt really understand:
- the intensity of the love a parent has for a child
- the intensity of the worry that a parent feels about a child
- the intensity of the exhaustion parents experience.
For years, I felt worn-out all the time. I knew that I should take better care of myself, but I was too depleted to do anything other than sleep when I had a moment to myself.
The idea of self-care became just one more thing on my endless to do list. I knew I should work out and eat well but that felt as out of reach as climbing Mt. Everest. Worst of all, my lack of follow-through with self-care became another way I could judge myself harshly.
After years of letting myself go, I knew I needed help. I started working with a wellness coach, Lisa Grace Byrne, MPH. After reading her wonderful book, Replenish: Experience Radiant Calm and True Vitality, I entered her year-long group coaching program, Replenish 365. (No, I am not a paid spokesperson. Just sharing the resource.)
At first, I was really overwhelmed with informationit was an abundance of riches. Being the dutiful student that I am, I felt like I needed to implement all of the techniques all the time, which of course, is basically impossible for busy parents who have very limited time and energy. Self care still felt like a should.
However, all that information broadened my idea of what self-care is. I began to think of self-care as any practice that contributed to the health of my body, induced calm or recharged my energy level. With this new perspective, I knew that self-care was something I actually could do everyday.
With a renewed sense of purpose, I learned a better way of implementing all that I learned from Lisa. I would focus on one core practice that I could do consistently and then layer on more self-care from that starting point.
For example, Lisa talks about the idea of joyful movement –which is a lot more accessible than working out. Instead of being disappointed with myself that I didnt go to the gym, I could just go for a walk.
The walk became a starting point to layer other self-care practices. On my walks, I would drink 24 ounces of water, take in the beauty of nature, connect with friends either in person or on the phone, listen to guided meditations or my favorite music. When I was feeling really overwhelmed, I would find calm by putting on my headphones and just listening to the sound of my breath.
This method, starting with a core practice and layering from there, worked with all types of self-care. A bath in the evening became an opportunity to layer dry-brushing before the bath, adding Epson salt and aromatherapy oils to the water, switching to cleaner and greener products (like soap, toothpaste etc.) and finding some much needed quiet by listening to my breath as my ears soaked below the water line.
Layering self-care practices helps me to get the most bang for the buck in terms of time and because these practices are easily accessible, I feel successful. These small successes encourage me to continue taking care of myself. They remind me that
even on the worst, most overwhelmed, stressed-out day, self-care is within reacheven if all I can do is drink a giant glass of water and listen to my breath for a moment.