I’ll admit it, I LOVE a pedicure. Actually, let me correct that—I love the foot massage that comes with the pedicure. However, I’m not sure whether I’d consider a pedicure part of my “self-care” routine.
Pedicures, facemasks, and even haircuts fall more under surface self-care or routine maintenance. And when you’re in the first months of motherhood, all self-care often moves to the bottom of the priority list. I think I skipped a year of dentist visits after my daughter was born because I just couldn’t contemplate adding another appointment to my already packed days of work and mom-ing. (Also, side note, you do not want to skip the dentist.)
And although marketing might make you think these surface self-care rituals and products are self-care, authentic self-care is harder to come by because it takes some self-discovery and time to put it into practice (even though a massage or fresh highlights can feel so good in the moment).
Self-care can vary greatly depending on what your needs actually are. And taking the time to identify what you need—those secret ingredients that help bring out your best—is a step many of us don’t take the time to do. It may help to think about your needs in three categories: body, mind, and heart.
Try to answer these questions and capture them somewhere—in a Google doc, a journal, or a sticky note. The act of making them tangible outside your head can help you focus and prioritize so you’re spending your precious self-care time in the most meaningful way for you.
How does your body feel when you’re at your best? Are you sweating? Are you outside or indoors? What are you putting in your body? Think about what your body needs to feel at your best when it comes to movement, nourishment, and rest.
How do you feel inside when you’re at your best? Do you thrive with social interaction or prefer solo experiences or time for reflection? Do you need a plan for your days or prefer unstructured time?
What do you value? What do you value about yourself? Are your actions in line with those values? What makes you feel alive? What are your strengths? What connections are you seeking? Who can you be yourself with? Who are the people who bring out your best?
If this self-discovery exercise feels like another item to add to your to-do list, or you don’t have time to go this deep with yourself right now, I get it. Professional resilience coach, Elizabeth Robinson, gave us three tips to add a little self-care and connection to your day in a truly attainable way.
1. Take five deep breaths before you get out of bed
While you’re breathing, set a gratitude intention. Both of my kids have usually made their way into our bed before 6am, and instead of getting frustrated, I try to remember to breathe them in as I count to five. Trading a little extra sleep for a snuggle isn’t so bad.
2. If you start the day with technology, start with love
Some people naturally go to their phones as soon as they wake up. My husband is checking headlines on Twitter before the lights are on. I don’t feel the same pull of my phone, but if you do, try to use technology for love before anything else. Pick a favorite song to play while you shower, send a text to your mom, look at a baby picture before delving into your email or the news stories of the day.
3. Make eye contact with others
This can build more connection with your partner and other people around you. I even started practicing this with my Starbucks baristas. Saying “thank you” while you look someone in the eye as they hand you your coffee just feels good. If you try one thing from this whole article, try this! I promise you’ll notice a difference.