As always, I hope this email finds you well. If not, then I hope this email serves as a reminder that you’re allowed to take a few extra minutes for self-care today.
It always amazes me how a little focused self-care can fix a magnitude of problems.
The issue is remembering to give ourselves care in overwhelmed moments. Instead of feeling like we have to solve all the problems first, we are allowed to do self-care first. This is because these stress-induced problems are a lot like the game Whack-A-Mole. They only increase in frequency and speed. The more we smack at them, the more they pop up.
Self-care means pulling the plug when the game stops being fun.
Remember, you always have the right to pull the plug. Even if you are really busy and your problems are very big, you can take five minutes away to regroup and re-ground. I promise this will help some problems go away, or at least give you access to the part of your brain that comes up with solutions when you have to plug back in.
Taking these micro-recharge breaks is a foundational self-care practice. To our inflated egos, small pauses feel inconsequential. We tell ourselves that in order to calm down, we need a year’s sabbatical, a long weekend away, or at least an extended yoga workshop.
It’s not that these aren’t wonderful self-care practices. A few times a season, year or lifetime, I hope you can find a large chunk of time for a deep dive into self-care. Taking these self-care breaks can deeply refill your overdrawn well and give your life a whole new focus and vitality.
(This is why I offer my seasonal Self Care 101 programs. If you are interested, I just decided that I will offer another round this spring, as well as a Self-Care Mamas support circle. More on these offerings very soon!)
However, it can take a lot of energy to organize a sabbatical, a weekend trip or to find the yoga workshop that we want to sign up for. And when you are very stressed out, you often don’t have this extra energy to burn.
In these times, the self-care instinct feels more stressful than helpful. You brush the whole idea of self-care aside and go back to work, perhaps more depleted than ever.
Let’s make it easier than that. Think: In these overwhelming moments, how do you regroup quickly and clearly? How do you really take care of yourself when you don’t have a lot of extra energy to spare?
In the days and weeks of being a new mother, I have been asking myself these questions a lot. I often feel like I am using up every last bit of my energy each day, often dipping into my reserves. In these moments, I have an immense respect for everyone out there who is pushing themselves to the limit in order to provide for their families. It’s so hard for me, and I have so many privileges that make it much easier than it is for others.
So, for them and for me and for you, here are 10 of my favorite quick self-care practices. They aren’t revolutionary, but they will help you recoup a little bit of energy so you can get through the day with as much ease and humor as possible.
Five-minute Self-Care for Everyone:
Find some kind of food-grade oil (olive, coconut, safflower, non-toasted sesame) and rub it onto the soles of your feet. Put on socks and go to bed as early as you can.
Make yourself a giant cup of non-caffeinated tea. Cup your hands around it as it cools down. When it reaches that perfectly drinkable temperature, sip as slowly as possible.
When you get home in the evening, ask your loved ones for five minutes before they request anything from you. Then go into your room, lay down on the bed and breathe slowly for five minutes.
Put on shoes and go outside. Look up at the sky. Take three pictures of the clouds with your phone, just to notice the ever-shifting nature of beauty.
Grab a sweet potato. Poke it three to five times with a fork. Put it in the oven while it preheats to 415 degrees. Go back to work for 40 minutes. When you can poke a fork easily into its flesh, cut it open and slather it with butter. Lunch!
Bring an uplifting book on your commute. As soon as you can, put your phone in your bag and take the book out. Even if you are too tired to read it, hold the book as a totem of your own self-care. You’re doing it!
Go into the bathroom and give yourself the gift of a good cry. Don’t worry about solving anything - just cry. Then, splash your face with cold water and give yourself a genuine smile. It’s ok - even wonderful - to feel all of our feelings and allow ourselves a bit of conscious emotional cleansing when we feel overwhelmed.
For procrastinators: Write down five tasks that are stressing you out on five different post-it notes. Then, eliminate two of them. Ask someone else to do them, or just don’t do them. For the other three, write down the rewards you’ll give yourself when you do them. See if you can do one a day for the next three days, and make sure to give yourself that reward!
Set a timer for five minutes. Then, for five minutes, straighten up and organize as much as you can (your bedroom, desk, kitchen - wherever you are). Make it a game - it’s fun! After five minutes, go back to work. Notice how taking a bit of conscious control over your environment makes you feel.
Ask for help. Call a trusted friend and tell her you only have five minutes. Tell her that you’re overwhelmed and that you just want her to know that. Nothing will get solved in that phone call but asking for help is an action of self-care in and of itself. It affirms our self-esteem. You are worth other people’s time and concern - 100%, absolutely.
Ok, there you have it! Again, these actions don’t include anything revolutionary, but yet, they can be the easy steps that set you up for self-care success. Even big change starts with a few well-measured actions. Simple steps can create an awesome momentum.
We position ourselves correctly, gently build our energy and get ready for that moment when the damn is ready to break. These breakthroughs - both the little and big ones - are the gifts we give ourselves. They help us through challenging moments and give us energy to offer to others.
They aren’t selfish. Simple self-care is how we get through the day. The more we give ourselves permission to care for ourselves, the more we build a culture of self-care where everyone is allowed to do this.
So, let’s start now. Five minutes. Set your timer. Get ready for everything to get a little easier. Get ready for the bigness of small change.
1. I love that at 36 years of age, I am still discovering new musical instruments. For example, I just experienced the beauty of the handpan when I was in Asheville over the new year. Check out this gorgeous video to hear for yourself.
2. Serendipitously, I came across this book by an American mom about the German art of raising resilient children. I try not to read too much about parenting - I’m spending my life living it, after all! - but I do like this one. I’m halfway through and very inspired by different cultural ideas on trusting children to guide their own growth and learning.
3. As my body continues to shapeshift postpartum, these colorful, well-packed undies are affordable, comfortable and all-around lovely.
4. Oh, The Crown! I resisted it at first - the pacing felt SO slow - but after watching two seasons, I am in love - totally sold - and can’t wait for the third season. It’s extremely good storytelling matched with wonderful acting and a great dose of modern history.
5. These lovely, heartfelt drawings about miscarriage and self-care are important for us all to read. I wish we were more open about early pregnancy so we could remember how normal miscarriage is (one in four) when it does happen.