Do you recognize that often in busy times one of the things that automatically falls off the list is taking care of yourself?
You might be wondering: But how do I make time for self-care when this is happening? It’s just all so much, all the time!
I undertook the research journey in my own everyday life after a particularly packed weekend. I asked myself the question, what does practical and authentic self-care look like for me?
With the following, I do not intend to present what is “right” – may it rather serve as an explanation of how I define and practice self-care for myself, and perhaps be an inspiration to explore further in your own everyday life.
Self-care may, of course, mean booking a massage or taking half a day off. It might also be us parents going out to eat and the kids being taken care of by grandma for a few hours. But these concrete time windows have become very rare in recent months, and they are always dependent on the outside world and the willingness of others.
Self-care in everyday life – without additional time requirements
So, what is left? What remains is everyday self-care that is completely independent from the outside.
Here are a few examples:
- Hoovering after the visitors have left. If the house was full of people, eating and drinking, and there was a flurry of activity in and out, then the house will look rather unclean and full of crumbs. After the visitors had left, I was tired but happy and ready to put my feet up. However, I first did a quick hoovering of the living room and the kitchen. Why? Because I know that my needs for cleanliness and coziness complement each other and relaxing on the sofa is only effective for me when the room is reasonably clean and tidy, leaving me feeling comfortable in my own home. (Of course, self-care for you could be doing the exact opposite of this!)
- Emptying and refilling the dishwasher in the evening. For me, self-care often means emptying and filling the dishwasher in the evening before the day ends. (It silently turns itself off at night.) Why? Because I know that I often must keep an eye on the clock in the morning, I must make sandwiches for the lunchboxes, get tired kids to brush their teeth, etc. It does help a lot to not get greeted by dirty dishes in the sink first thing the next day. Doing this work in the evening bothers me less than it would in the morning. It therefore lowers my stress level and doesn’t make me start the day with leftover work.
- Sandwiches for dinner. Twice a week, my son has soccer practice and on these days I’m also on the road for my daughter’s hobby. At the end of those days, I don’t feel like or have the energy to cook, and then we eat sandwiches. Some family members would prefer a hot meal, but that’s the way it is. Why? Because on these days it is me who carries the most time pressure and then I allow myself to be quite self-caring after the work is done.
- Listening to Podcasts while doing chores. Self-care also means making the things I need to do as enjoyable as possible. While I’m chopping vegetables, cleaning pans, or hanging laundry, I listen to podcasts. Why? Because I feel the need to be informed, inspired, hear new stories and ideas, and experience moments of joy – even while sorting wet socks.
Self-care from me and for me
There are many more such examples, all with something in common: I don’t have to carve out time for it, nor do I have to ask anyone for permission. It is self-care from me and for me, because I know myself and I know what I need – in general and in the respective moment.
No, I don’t always clear out the dishwasher; sometimes my husband does that as well. And the kids have to do the laundry, too. It doesn’t become a routine (“Mom will do it, she doesn’t like it dirty.”), and it’s just as much a part of self-care to not let myself be taken advantage of.
When things get left behind because other family members clean the table later than I’d like, it’s a good opportunity to practice being with what is. Reflect on the thought, “This is how it is now, even if I don’t like it. How do I deal with it? What are my thoughts telling me? Can I feel the impulse to do it myself quickly – and let it pass?”
The last act of self-care in a day is also completely independent of other people; I don’t end the day reading the news (on my phone or tablet) but with a few pages from a good book or reflecting on the good and nourishing experiences I had in the day.
Finally, an important note – nothing is perfect, not even the topics above or my listening within. Sometimes I get upset (inwardly or visibly) because I feel like I’m doing more than the others. Sometimes I don’t feel like or have the time to check the news until the evening, and then I have the phone in bed. And sometimes I also don’t feel like eating sandwiches for dinner. But life is just not perfect, and there is always a new moment to check in, “What do I need, right now?” And then I start again.