Put Your Mask On.
We are told to take care of ourselves. We are also expected to do all of the things. To begin, maybe we don’t even fully understand what self-care is. Are you telling me to have a spa day? (I don’t have the cash for that). Are you telling me to take a shower? (Uh…that’s necessary and normal, thanks).
So what is self-care? My view of self-care is layered. It starts small and moves out from the center. Self-care is meant to serve you, not to feel like one more thing has been added to your to-do list. The end goal is to feel connected to yourself. When we are well cared for it’s much easier to show up in our lives.
Let’s start with the first layer: basic self-care. Yep, let’s look at your basic human needs. How well are you eating? What is the pace of your day? Are you getting enough rest? Ha! Writing these words reminds me of all of the things I watch out for in my kids. Do you know who is watching out for you? You are. You are taking the reins and learning how to care for yourself like only you can.
I know that basic self-care seems simple, but how often do we not follow a healthy routine? When we’re too busy we often skip meals or grab quick food that doesn’t work sit right with our bodies. We stay up too late and we don’t sleep well. We’re rushing around on empty and gritting our teeth. The mere idea of self-care seems like ONE MORE THING.
But what if self-care was the thing that would influence everything else? When flying on planes with my young kids I used to get annoyed at the flight attendants for telling the adult passengers to put on their oxygen masks first. I thought to myself, “I would never put my mask on without securing my child’s mask first.” However, I then learned what happens when the cabin depressurizes…you pass out. Now imagine you’re unconscious and so are your loved ones, because you didn’t secure your own mask. Put on your mask, Girl!
The next layer of self-care is nurturance. This layer takes us back to ourselves by following practices that feel good. It’s preparing healthy or comforting foods. It’s slowing down to light a candle and soak in the bath. It could be buying yourself flowers simply to have beautiful things around you. This type of self-care is soothing. It reminds us that we’re loved and gives us the idea that we’re going to be okay.
The nurturance also translates to how we speak to ourselves. When we’re hurrying we’re often harsh and impatient. Our inner voice tends to follow that energy and all of a sudden we’re mean. The expectations are high and our level of grace is low. However, when we use the self-care of nurturance we’re slower with ourselves. We soften our voices and trust that we’re doing the best we can. We learn to believe there is enough time and that it’s all going to work out.
Now for the next layer: rest. There are two parts to rest, namely how much rest you’re getting and how much rest is built into your day. Most of us need 7-8 hours of sleep. When we get far less than that our weight, metabolism, health (diabetes, hypertension, mental health), and mortality are impacted. When we don’t get enough rest it’s like walking around with our mask off. If anything tips the scales we’re likely to pass out. This is not good for us or our people.
Now consider how much rest is built into your day. Are you rushing from thing to thing or do you have some pause built into your day? When we’re zooming around our stress levels sky rocket. For me, I start thinking, “There’s not enough time! I have to hurry!” Every thought has an exclamation point. Everything must happen, “NOW!!!!!” When I think in exclamation points I act with exclamation points (this isn’t pretty). It’s like I’ve taken a deep breath and I’m waiting to burst.
However, when I build rest into my day I feel differently. My schedule doesn’t change, but my perspective does. Resting throughout the day for me looks like taking short walks, pausing to breathe, writing myself love notes, eating slowly. Some of the activities might include active rest while others utilize stillness. In your current schedule where might you build in some rest periods into your day? As a bonus to you, here’s a short 7-minute meditation for you to practice.
The final layer of self-care is protection. Your time and energy are incredibly important. You have a light to shine, a purpose to live out, and people to care for. All of your days will be filled up by the work that you do, your family, and your priorities. We choose how to spend our time and with whom. Your time is invaluable. For this reason you need to fiercely protect it. You decide how you will fill your time. No one else gets the power to mess with your schedule.
Protecting your time can be one of the most challenging actions we take. At times it might feel weird to ask ourselves, “What do I want?” Instead of bending to whatever someone else wants us to do. Initially, we may have trouble saying, “No, that doesn’t work for me,” but with time it will happen. Then it will keep on happening, because it will feel so good to be in charge of our own lives.
We’ve moved through each layer of self-care: basic, nurturance, rest, and protection. Take out your schedule or a piece of paper. Write down the four layers and answer the following questions:
What are some basic self-care practices that I can follow every day?
What activities or foods would feel nurturing to me?
What time could I go to bed to get eight hours of sleep? During what parts of my day can I build in moments of rest?
What do I want to focus my time and energy on this week? What things can I say NO to in order to protect my priority?
Once you are clear about how you’ll incorporate self-care into your life, put it into practice. We’re going to do it imperfectly and that’s okay (it’s real life after all). When we focus on loving ourselves all of these practices will begin to feel more natural. Like a sensitive scale, we’ll know when the balance is off and gently return to ourselves. Over and over we’ll come back to self-care so that these practices become the new normal.
You have a light to shine, Love. Make time to take good care of yourself every day. Protect your energy and nurture yourself like only you can. Leave your mask on, Girl. We need you.
Now I’m heading off to lie down on my couch and rest. Maybe you should, too.
With Love and Backbone,
For access to the short 7-minute meditation, click here.
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Nice Girl Uprising, Jennifer Padilla-Burger