Have you ever thought about the difference between self care and self maintenance?
Everyone talks about self care as though it’s a luxury you try to make time for by scheduling a day of pampering or a night out with the girls. But what if self care was an item on your to-do list, as important as changing the oil in your car? You don’t think twice about making time for an oil change. It may be inconvenient, but you know the consequences if you don’t maintain your car engine. Why do we ignore the signs that our body, our minds, and our hearts need maintenance, too? Saying “self care” makes it seem like a luxury. I propose an alternative: self maintenance.
Keep on Top of Meal Times
Such a simple thing, but meal times can so easily be ignored! Your body runs best on consistency, and we have all either skipped meals or over eaten when stressed. The first and simplest task for self maintenance is to set at least two meal times and commit to those meals. Be flexible with this. If you don’t regularly eat breakfast but you want to start, simply set that intention. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to eat. Perhaps a visual reminder is more helpful, in which case you could set out a bowl and spoon, prep a smoothie pack, or set out bread and peanut butter for toast the night before as a reminder. Do what works for you. Fuel your body to avoid a physical slump.
Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
As food is fuel to your body, so sleep is fuel to your mind. No one functions well on inconsistent and limited sleep. Now, those of you with small children who wake at night or teens who want to stay up all night may feel like sleep is out of your control. Even if a good night’s sleep seems elusive, there are things you can do to maintain healthy sleep habits. First, establish a bedtime routine. Limit screen time for one hour before bed. Do something to calm and relax your mind before bed, such as journaling, meditation, or yoga. Doing the same thing every night before you go to bed tells your body and your mind that sleep is coming.
Maintain Connections With People
In the age of Zoom, social distancing, and working from home, relationships can suffer. Make connecting with friends and family a priority. If you haven’t already, try Houseparty as a way to connect! Join or start a book club with a friend. Keep a friend accountable to exercise, creating a social touchpoint daily. Figure out which relationships fill you up, and prioritize those connections.
Exercise Your Creative Self
With so much to handle as moms, so often we put our creativity on the back burner. This needs to stop. You need to find the things that fuel you, that energize you, and put them on your to-do list today. Make a list of ten things that bring you joy, that exercise your creativity, and put them on your calendar. Right now! Self-maintenance is about taking care of your whole self, so that you are living a full and fulfilling life. So much of our life is poured into others. Make sure to maintain a sense of self discovery, growth, and challenge.
Be Adaptable and Flexible
Expect the unexpected! Do your best to find a rhythm that works for you and your family, but anticipate deviation. Do whatever it takes to keep a flexible, adaptable mindset. Perhaps for you, that means spending a few minutes at the beginning of the day in prayer to set your intentions for the day. Perhaps it means getting all of the kids outside for a walk to redeem a bad day full of bad attitudes. Identify a few options for ‘backup plans’ that reset your family. For littles, a bath at any time of the day can be a reset. Piling on the couch with a read aloud can reset preschoolers and elementary aged children. Recognize what you need to reset as well. Making time for a walk, five minutes of quiet (even if that means screen time for your kids!), or trading off with your partner to make sure you have time to yourself at the end of the day are all important.
As parents, we prioritize the needs of others 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your child needs you, you are there for them, no questions asked. This is a good thing! But just as we take care of our cars and our homes, we need to take care of our minds and our bodies. It’s time to stop thinking about self-care as a luxury and start prioritizing self-maintenance on a daily basis.