One year into the pandemic, in January 2021, my mental health was suffering. The pandemic had taken away my tried-and-true coping mechanisms and so much of what made me feel like myself.
I had lost a job that I was excited about, I hadn't seen friends in months, my usual methods of self-care and relaxation weren't available anymore. Then pile on three four-day weekends in quick succession with my kids during Thanksgiving and the holidays, with almost no time for myself and a method of birth control that wreaked havoc on my hormones....
I had turned into a person I didn't recognize: quick to anger, irritable, anxious, too exhausted to take care of myself. I didn't like who I had become.
It was in this season that my husband and I instituted Self Care Saturday (and weekly therapy) for me and Self Care Sunday for him. For the last two and a half years, we have protected these days ferociously. Almost every Saturday without fail, barring sickness, travel or a birthday party, my husband has taken our kids to his parents' house on Saturday morning from 9 am-ish to 2 pm-ish. On Sunday evening, it's my turn to take our kids to see my parents.
At first, I couldn't remember what I used to enjoy doing for fun and relaxation. Being alone and having time exclusively for myself had become so foreign to me. Who was I when I wasn't actively mothering, wife-ing, or working? What would I do when no one was demanding a single thing from me?
My self care days started slow: a shower, breakfast, TV and a nap. Some chores or errands that I had been putting off. Eventually I fell into a rhythm of asking myself every week what would make ME feel most cared for in these hours that I had. I developed a sort of self-care recipe that works for me and I thought I'd share it with you in honor of World Mental Health Day in case it gives you a few self care ideas too.
The 7 Elements of Self Care with Ideas
Having time dedicated to self-care after a season of only taking care of others can feel overwhelming especially when there's so much you'd like to do and not enough time to do it OR you don't know where to start. Remember that you shouldn't fit all your self-care into a single day. Try to arrange a couple hours every week that you know is exclusively your time for yourself.
Some days, I mix together all 7 ingredients of my self care recipe. Other days, especially when I have less time, I do what I did today: make myself breakfast, eat it while watching an episode of The Bear, take a long nap with no alarm, eat leftovers for lunch and write this blog post.
In addition to a longer Self-Care Day (or morning or afternoon), I make sure to incorporate moments of care into every day. I go to my favorite Zumba class a couple times a week, I take a nap during lunch if I haven't slept well, I have therapy once a week, and I take the hour between school drop off and work to prep a delicious meal and drink my coffee HOT.
Prioritizing caring for myself has been a game changer and not because it has made me a better mother, wife or employee (although that is definitely the case). Caring for myself has made me happier, more resilient and more fulfilled so I can truly enjoy my life as a whole human being.
Do you have self care days? What are your favorite ways to take care of YOU?