For the longest time I equated self-care with being alone.
I’m sure that a few years ago, when I had smaller children, I would have given anything for 30 minutes to take a nap, on my own, with the door closed. I remember what it feels like to just want to be somewhere, alone, with no little people in sight. I don’t underestimate the power of the occasional silent room.
But even then I can remember it not being so straightforward to relax into things. I always ended up feeling that the time I spent on self-care was never enough, and never nourishing. I felt like if only I could eke a few more minutes out of this yoga class, this walk, this cup of tea, I would enjoy it, I would feel whole. Those “few more minutes” never happened though. It always ended too soon. It never felt like enough.
And when I’d go back home after “self-care” it would always be like someone had suddenly thrown me back on the stage, under the spotlight, after having promised me a front row seat.
Self-care never felt like something that would help me handle my life; it only felt like enough of a taste of another person’s life to make going back to mine just excruciating.
Which is why I now believe self-care works best when it fits into my actual life, it becomes part of the way I want to live my life and the person I want to be. Even if it sometimes feels like a struggle, like moving out of your comfort zone.
I also recognize that for me it’s more about feeling alive, rather than relaxing.
Self-care means long long walks, really tough sweaty yoga, reading and writing, starting a sewing project, coffee with someone I love, discovering something new. I’m still adding to the list. It’s not as easy as you might think.
But mostly, it means recognizing that I can do self-care throughout my day without it having to be a thing that I’m dedicating a chunk of time to, or that I can only do when the children aren’t around. Snuggling with my daughter and reading a book together before bed works, as does a quick float in the sea in between playing beach games with the children. A slow, yummy weekend breakfast reading books and chatting. Gardening together. Swimming short laps with my son.
I’m hoping there are humans out there who feel like we need to redefine self-care – to make it look like part of our lives rather than a break from our lives – to take out some of the expectation and find ways to do it more often, less spectacularly, and in ways that are unique and perfect for us.