Self-care is the foundation of my sanity
My soul is tired. My body is fatigued. My emotions are heavy. The only part of me that has energy is my mind. It doesn’t turn off. It reminds me of the tasks I am forgetting and the work still to do. I am beginning to realize that my mind, the strategic motivated overthinking brain I have nurtured for 37 years, has no interest in my wellbeing.
I’ve been on a work trip that I have desperately been looking forward to as an escape from home life. And now here I sit, at the airport, after four days away from my family, and I am even more exhausted than when I left.
I got to sleep for four straight nights on this trip — no middle of the night wakeups from bad dreams and toddler potty needs. I haven’t had to make different versions of one dinner to appease my two boys with the most opposite palates. I haven’t had to clean said meals up off the floor after each meal. I haven’t had to reason with an unreasonable toddler about getting his shoes on for school. Or intervene in the nightly toddler wrestling session that typically ends up in one or both boys crying.
Instead, I have spent the last four days with colleagues and dear friends I love and respect, in the beautiful utopia of Boulder, Colorado. Every meeting, every interaction was incredible. And yet, I am completely drained. My mind doesn’t shut down and only now do I realize my mistake. The mistake of not correcting a lousy habit earlier: I’ve taken care of everyone, and everything else… except for me.
I have moments, frequently I must add, where I have to reverse the speeding train towards a complete loss of self. I don’t know if it is because of my personality, because of how I was raised, because by nature this is what we mamas do, or just the culture I am surrounded by (probably a mix of it all) — but I have an obsessive nature with performing and doing… too much.
This speeding train of Too Much is bound for the Land of Out of Control. The train starts stopping at stations and picking up passengers that talk incessantly. We pause at There’s Too Much To Do, followed by Don’t Sleep, then Don’t Eat Right and Don’t Stop Work to Exercise, I somehow end up stopping at the overcrowded station of Must Please Everyone, then Guilt For Even Thinking of Myself, and ultimately through the valley of You Don’t Have Time to To Do What Brings You Bliss… In Fact, You Don’t Even Know What That Is Anymore. When the train, which might I add is completely driven by my mind, finally stops, I typically find myself in the Valley of Anxiety. These days I can find my way back out, but it takes me awhile to backtrack and figure out how to offboard all those noisy passengers and find my way home again.
In these moments, those same kids that can cause my anxiety, actually become my greatest gift. They teach me that presence and awareness of my self and my needs remove anxiety. They teach me that the essentials of life are to eat, play, sleep, and move. I watch them and they become my teachers. They aren’t yet at the age of pleasing everyone and living a life for others. They live for themselves, and they live in a state of bliss more often than not. They remind me of the power of filling up on those basic fundamental needs.
And so I remember, I learn from my mistakes, and I readjust my mind and my day.
If I were to redo the last four days here’s what I would do to care for myself during this much needed little break from home life: I would turn off my computer and phone at 9 pm each night and read a fiction book I could get lost in. I would go on a hike in the evenings instead of doing more work. I would make myself a healthy breakfast instead of being too busy and only having time to grab a coffee. I would pause a lot more and look up from my phone or my computer because Boulder is just so damn beautiful. I would ask my friends more questions, dive into the deeper meaning of life, and laugh about how we used to complain about not getting enough sleep before we had kids.
As I return to home life here’s what I need to remember the most: self-care is a practice. (Practice… i.e.: something I have to keep working at!) I can and must forgive myself for forgetting this. Before my trip, we had sick kids for two weeks, spring break, and disrupted sleep. It happens. There are times where self-care gets sidelined, and that’s just the way it has to be sometimes. But for the sake of my sanity and the benefit of my relationships with my family and friends, I have to get back to finding the space for me.
Through the years I’ve realized that my version of self-care isn’t a pedicure, massage, or even a trip away from my life — those are nice indulgences when I have space and money but they don’t necessarily fill me. When my mind and running thoughts take over, it’s an indication that I need to hit reset. When I permit myself to enjoy the day to day small little moments I realign with my fundamental needs. Eat. Sleep. Play. Move. When these needs are acknowledged and given space, I find bliss, I start to like me and my life and can move through the chaos and uncertainty of motherhood so much better.
Living my best life is my choice. And so, I must continually forgive myself for letting my mind become the only driver. I have to keep coming back to the basics, hitting reset, making the time to care for me. It's not perfection, it's practice. This self-care practice gets a little easier each time I find my way back to myself. It's the foundation of my sanity.