Self-care that works for you - in 4 easy steps

Self-care that works for you - busy working moms

Do you ever get stressed out by the idea of self-care? Do you feel guilty that you aren’t practicing self-care enough? Does self-care feel like another thing on your long to-do list?

I’ve been there. In the depths of my dark infertility days, everything I read and listened to said I needed to be practicing self-care. I tried, I really did. I remember asking for a couple of hours to myself while my husband watched our son. I got a pedicure. The whole time I was stressed out. I felt like this was supposed to be some magic bullet to make me feel better. But I didn’t feel better. I don’t even like people touching my feet! So I finished my “self-care” afternoon feeling very unfulfilled.

That year, I worked really hard to figure out how to practice self-care on a daily basis. Yes – a daily basis. Three years later, I can tell you with confidence that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The key to successful self-care is making it REALLY easy for you to do. 4 easy steps can set you up for success.

1.      Understand what self-care is and what it is not

  • Self-care is not be another stressful thing to add to your super long list of things to do. It’s the answer to the question: what can I do for me that will make me happy right now?

  • Self-care is not about self-denial and depriving yourself of taking care of your own needs.

  • Self-care is not about being self-indulgent and spending frivolously, it’s not saying “I’m going to buy these expensive new pants because I deserve them”.

  • If you derive happiness from helping others, that is wonderful, amazing, and fulfilling – but it’s not self-care! This is a constant lesson for me.

2.      Create your self-care list

Find 3-6 things that make you happy. You can find lots of posts with long lists of examples, but remember this isn’t about what makes someone else happy, this is about what makes YOU happy.

If this is enough for you to come up with 3-6, that’s amazing. If not, you can come up with activities in each of these categories.

  • Think of something active – there’s so much research showing that moving makes us healthier and happier. This might be going for a run, going for a walk, going to a yoga class. Anything that gets you moving a makes you happy. I said “exercise” for my self- care acronym, but for me it’s going to a class at the GoodLife gym – bodyflow and bodypump are my favourites. I also love tennis, but I need someone else for that, so I decided that is a fun activity for me, but not self-care.

  • Think of your hobbies – do you like to paint, knit, scrapbook, play scrabble, write stories/poems? I quilt and blog (about my family).

  • Think of something relaxing and possibly spiritual – this includes things like taking a bath, meditating, listening to music, reading. For me this is the hardest one, stopping the “go, go, go” to calm down and be in the moment. I meditate, mostly using the Headspace app.

  • Think of something inspiring – what gets you excited and energized? I love interesting and challenging intellectual conversations. This one is most important to me when I’m spending lots of time with my family and less time at work (I found this especially important during maternity leave).

  • You can add something more expensive (like a manicure) if that makes you happy, but I would limit that to one thing on the list, since the goal is to be caring for yourself daily, and you don't want it to cost too much. All of my things are almost free (I pay for the gym membership annually and for quilting fabrics, but I can go months without needing to spend any money on self-care).

Some of my friends say that they go on Facebook for self-care. I totally see where they are coming from, but research shows that our time on social media makes us less happy – disappointing I know. Social media is a great pastime, but it’s not really self-care.

In fact, I limit how much screen time I include in my self-care activities - I only have one self-care activity that involves screen time (writing our family blog).


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    3.      Make your self-care acronym

    You want to make your self-care list easy to remember. It might seem obvious to you now, but you would be surprised at how easy it is to forget what’s on your list. If you make an acronym you can remember the list easily, especially in those super stressful moments when you really need it.

    Here is my acronym: EBMIQ

    ·         Exercise

    ·         Blog

    ·         Meditate

    ·         Intellectual conversation

    ·         Quilting

    4.      Practice self-care EVERYDAY

    Now comes the most important part. Do it. Practice self-care every single day. Make sure you have things on that list that you can do daily. That means you need things that you can do quickly and without too many other people or resources. I can meditate for 3 minutes anywhere. I can make a point to initiate an interesting intellectual conversation pretty easily. I can blog on my computer or my phone, even if I only have a few minutes – I can upload photos, write part of a post…

    It takes a while to make self-care a habit, but it is completely worth it.

    It’s most important when you are feeling drained and those are the moments it’s hardest to remember how you can practice self-care. That’s why the acronym is so useful – you can just pull it out to help you remember some of your options.

    I know it’s not easy to make time for yourself, but the better you care for yourself, the better you can care for everyone around you. It’s never too late to start!

    Get started

    Now’s it your turn. You can go through the 4 easy steps:

    1.      Understand what self-care is and what it is not

    2.      Create your self-care list

    • What activities do you like?

    • What are your hobbies?

    • What relaxes you?

    • What inspires you?

    3.      Make your self-care acronym

    4.      Practice self-care everyday and get started right now. What can you do today?

    Good luck and enjoy taking care of yourself for a change!


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