You know this common scenario:
A mother finds herself hiding behind a locked bathroom door, crying and shoveling chocolate down her throat. It is all she can do to keep it together. She’s exhausted, depleted, she feels as though everyone is chewing her up and spitting her out. She’s been working her hardest to make sure everyone else is taken care of and while she never meant to neglect herself, that’s exactly what has happened. Now she is crumbling and feels like everyone in her family is just unappreciative and none of them care about her.
My sister and I half-jokingly refer to times we’re pushed to go to the hospital or doctor as ‘hospital vacations’. This is an admission that our lives have spun out of control to the point that we don’t feel like we can afford to take time to take care of ourselves. The only way we seem to be able to receive the nurturing we need is when we’re stuck in hospital or taking a breather in the doctor’s waiting room because we’ve pushed ourselves too far and are finally paying the price. It’s a sad state of affairs, really.
We may lose sight of why we’re even doing this in the first place when we’re stuck in the trenches. but clarifying our values brings focus to how we mother. Yes, it is vitally important to us that we nourish and nurture our families. And yes, it is vitally important to us that we nourish and nurture ourselves.
It is an inbuilt part of who we are, something we must do to feel complete, whole and satisfied. In fact, for most of us we will recognize that our need to nurture extends to not only our own families, but to those around us. It is simply in our nature to nurture. So the answer is not to stop taking care of those we love.
Yes, we’re all very busy. We use every moment we can to try to make things better for our loved ones. But in the face of the endless tasks on our to-do list, we often lose ourselves. Only when we’ve reached a crisis point do we stop and desperately try to soothe ourselves. We push ourselves until we run out of the fuel that keeps us going.
When we hit a personal fuel crisis, things are not pretty. We may experience depression, sadness, anger, frustration, desperation, total burnout and the desire to just run away from everything. We may retreat to unhealthy comfort behaviors like binge eating, drinking, crashing on the couch watching Netflix for days on end.
We are much less in these moments than we have the potential to be and it is not satisfying for us to live this way, knowing that we’re capable of so much more. But we’ve got our backs against the wall at this point, because we’ve driven ourselves too hard for way too long.
Our last minute efforts of desperation may help us feel better temporarily, or get us out of an immediate emotional bind so that we can continue on in the same way a little longer. But this is not how we should be living our lives, from one desperate moment to the next.
We need to go ahead and ask ourselves the question: how do we keep from getting to a crisis point in the first place?
In order for us to begin to fully believe and accept that we are nurtured and cared for, we have to begin by nurturing and caring for ourselves. Take a good hard look at your standards for taking care of yourself:
- Do you shower every day?
- Do you brush your teeth at least once a day?
- Do you wear clean clothes every day?
- Do you brush your hair every day?
- Do you wash your hair as often as it needs?
- Do you eat well every day?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you take time to rest every day?
- Do you take your medicine every day?
- Do you respect your need for sleep by getting to bed at a reasonable time every day?
If you answered no to any of these questions, discern whether this is because these are not your own true standards, or because you feel like you just can’t do it. Are you not doing these things because they’re not important to you, or because you are not important to you?
Being nurtured begins with you, with your regular, daily self care. Your first step in turning this thing around is to commit yourself to doing each and every item on your daily self care list. These are the self-care items that really matter to you. Determine that there will be no excuses.
Set up routines that allow you to practice self care every single day, and then be committed to the point of obsession to do each and every one, each and every single day. This is easiest to initiate by writing down a simple list for mornings and evenings. Mine look like this:
- get dressed
- take medicine
- brush teeth
- apply moisturiser
- apply lip balm
- spritz fragrance
- brush and tie back hair
- eat a simple but healthy breakfast
- do yoga
- take a shower
- wash face
- brush teeth
- take medicine
- apply night cream
Neither of these lists take very long to complete. Even the yoga workout is generally between 15 and 30 minutes and I often do this with my children.
Taking care of your physical health sends a powerful message to yourself that you are valuable and important. It is a wonderful first step. But of course, you also need to take care of your emotional and mental health.
It is vital to give yourself some space to process things mentally and emotionally on a regular basis. For me, this requires alone time, and because my husband understands this need of mine, he is helpful in letting me get out of the house by myself once a week. If you do not have this luxury, you will have to be more creative in getting this need met. Do not let it just go by the wayside, though. Build this time in somewhere and then be doggedly committed to living it out.
Another excellent way we can take care of our emotional and mental health is by daily writing, which gives you an ever deepening understanding of yourself, your needs, your values and your desires and allows you to start to change unhealthy mental patterns by speaking truth to yourself.
It can be difficult for some people to find time to fit this in. I personally have created space for doing this by getting up at 5:30am every day and while this took some adjustment for me, it has become my favorite time of the day. If you are determined, you will find a time to do this. I can’t recommend it highly enough as my daily writing practice has completely revolutionized the way I live my life.
Living true to your core values sends yourself a message that you are important. In fact you are so very important that you are committed to being authentic and true to yourself no matter the obstacles, and you will do what it takes to achieve your own goals. This isn’t selfish, it is merely living up to your own potential and making the best use of the gifts that you have been given. In doing this, you improve the lives of those around you while bettering life for yourself. How clever are you?!
Feeling loved and nurtured starts with yourself. I can’t overstate how important it is to take care of yourself. Create space for self nurture every single day and see how that internal pressure eases off. Observe what happens to your emotional state when you’re constantly reaffirming your love for yourself through small daily actions of personal care. You will find yourself locked in the bathroom with the hidden stash of Oreos much less frequently and your family will benefit from a you that feels cared for, protected and loved from within.
Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. — Lucille Ball