Creating a Self Care Plan that Works for You
Updated: Feb 21
If you have access to the internet and social media, you will see the words "Self Care" thrown around like glitter confetti. It is everywhere and in everything. Not all self care is created equally. Not all self care tips will work for you.
As a new mom, I was told you have to take care of yourself. You have to have time for you. You have to practice self care - otherwise you will never survive. Well, Karen, that you for the advice but how in the world do I take time for myself or practice self care when I am on call 24/7 as a milk machine and comfort provider. I didn't deny my need for some self care, but I didn't understand how to create a self care routine that worked for me.
I tried bubble baths, but I could hardly fit in the dinky tub in our apartment. I tried pushing Addie's stroller around our neighborhood, but I was so out of breath by the time I got up the first hill, that I felt like a failure and quit. I tried going out with friends, but I would get so engorged that the physical pain I would feel in my breasts kept me from being present in the moment.
Self care became this taunting word. If I just practiced enough self care, I wouldn't feel so alone, so anxious, so depressed. I wouldn't feel like I was failing at every aspect of motherhood and wifehood. I started to resent others for the way they talked about self care, how for some women it seemed to actually be enjoyable and not stressful.
If you felt like this, you are not alone. I want you to know, I have been there and I still struggle with being there. I spent hours perusing through Google and Pinterest to find self care plans that would work for me. I spent hours trying other people's self care plans to realize that it was customized to someone other than me, when a single aspect did not work for me, I felt like I had failed and I quit completely.
I wanted to find a way out of this crazy dark hole of self care failures. So I grabbed a yellow note pad and started writing down all the self care ideas/recommendations I could remember. I came up with 52 ideas or recommendations. With most of them, I had reasons not to do them. For example, get a monthly mani/pedi/spa treatment - I can't it costs too much and would take too much time from my family. Set boundaries - I can't because setting boundaries will make my family mad. Get up earlier - I can't because Addie is still getting up in the middle of the night and I need a full 8 hours of sleep.
I got good at making excuses. I am sure you have too. I can't do ____________ because ___________. Could you fill in that sentence? So how was I going to practice self care when everything on my list had a reason for why I couldn't. Did I even need a self care plan? Would finding the time or the resources to practice self care actually benefit me?
Realizing I needed a Self Care Plan:
Aaron came home from work and I was in a puddle of tears. Laundry had piled up. Addie was cluster-feeding, my body ached and did not feel like it used too, you know prior to baby and motherhood. I felt anxious about everything. I felt trapped.
Aaron gently kicked me out of the house. He took Addie and grabbed some bottles from the fridge and said, "Go enjoy some time alone." He meant this in the most sincere and loving way. I walked out of our apartment, purse in hand and sat in the car. What the hell was I supposed to do now.
I realized sitting in the car that I needed to find a way to care for myself physically, emotionally and mentally - or else I would soon be sick, bitter, and resentful. When I started developing a self care plan, I did not realize what I was doing at the time.
1. Identify the aspects of self care that you need. There are a few different areas of self care that we all need: physical care, emotional care, spiritual care, mental care, work/job care, and relational care. We all need aspects from each of these sections, I am going out on a limb here, but I want to say if one of these is out of line, all of these are out of line.
2. Brain storm ideas for each. I used Google and Pinterest for this part. I looked up every possible idea for self care for each of these sections and wrote down anything that seemed enjoyable to me. Even if I already had an excuse as to why something would not work, I wrote it down anyway. I put them into groups by each need.
3. Plan it out. Once I wrote down my ideas, I got realistic. I separated self care ideas into Self Care I can do now and Self Care I want to incorporate into my life. For the self care activities I could do now, I chose one item from each section and scheduled them into my day. I set reminders on my phone and had them repeat every day. I asked three people to help keep me accountable: my husband and two friends.
4. Track It and Create a Habit. I used a tracking sheet to mark of each self care activity I did each day. These self care activities have become regular activities throughout my day. On average, it can take any where from 18 days to 254 days to form a habit. I have noticed that if I can do something for three months, it will become a habit. Meaning, it is easier for me to do it but I still have to be conscious about doing it. Once I start the activity, I fall into a rhythm and complete it without much thought.
5. Re-Evaluate when necessary. Self care is incredibly individualized. Each of us needs to take the time to identify ways that we can care for ourselves that are truly life giving and within our means. It is also important to take time to evaluate what is working and what does not work. One of my ideal self care practices was to hire a house cleaner. After keeping it on my Self Care I want to Incorporate List for a year and a half, my husband and I were able to budget for someone to come clean our home once a month. You guys, it was so exciting to be able to get to a point where we were able to make that happen.
Need some inspiration? Here are my current self care activities that I am tracking to make part of my daily habits:
Physical Self Care: For the last 60 days, I have been taking Usana's CellSentials Vitamins daily.* These are full of core minerals and antioxidants that help me get the vitamins and minerals I need for optimal health. This triple-action cellular nutrition system has helped me improve my health at a cellular level. It is a work in progress still, I have found that if I do not have my tracker in front of me daily, I forget about taking vitamins. My previous self care activity was to get 8 hours of sleep every night. This has become something my body craves, 9:00 pm hits, and my eyelids get heavy, my body has learned to anticipate bedtime making it easier to fall asleep at night.
Emotional Self Care: I journal. I take time out of my day to write down the things I am thankful for and a memory or two from the day before. This has become something I look forward to doing in the morning. I take 30 minutes and write. Again, this is still new and something I forget to do if my tracker is not in front of me. I have found that because I am looking for things to be thankful for, I seem to have more good days - I am searching for the good. My previous self care activity was going to therapy and not feeling ashamed of it. After a few years of going to therapy and being able to see the progress I have made, I am able to look at my time in therapy and be thankful for it. There is no shame in seeking help.
Spiritual Self Care: I take time to read Bible verses each day. Some days it is one single verse, other days, it is multiple verses. What has helped with this is keeping https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-verse-of-the-day/ bookmarked and visit it every day. It takes the mental decision out of it when I can open my computer and see a bible verse pop up.
Mental Self Care: I read one chapter of a book every day. This allows me to spend time doing something educational and enjoyable. I am able to challenge myself and grow in different ways. I am currently reading Lean In from Sheryl Sandberg.
Work/Job Self Care: This one was difficult, but by removing my work email from my phone and leaving work at work, I have felt a huge release of stress and pressure. I have set the boundary that I do not work at home or from home. I work for a boss who understands the value of taking time away from work to rest and am encouraged to leave work at work. I also want to add, this is where I put that I wanted to incorporate help with cleaning out house. As a stay at home mom, work/job consisted of managing my home. I have learned to delegate pieces of managing our home to focus on the aspects I truly enjoy.
Relationship Self Care: I have set boundaries with people. I have said good bye to friendships and expectations that were unhealthy. For family issues, I have set the boundary of family therapy. By setting boundaries, I am able to shame-free say no to things I did not want to do and say yes to more of what brings me happiness and fulfillment. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is a great book for learning how to define who you are and who you are not. It takes a Christian perspective on how to set boundaries and not feel guilty about it.
I am working on creating a PDF Guide on how to Create A Self Care plan that will empower you to take care of your self well in order to better take care of those you love the most. If you are interested in testing it out and providing feedback, please email me at email@example.com.
I would love to know how you practice self care and what your journey has been to develop a self care practice that is life giving to you!
*I am working with Usana to share the benefits of using their vitamins and supplements. I received the CellSentials free in exchange for a mention in a blog post. However, I would not write about them if I did not use them. They came highly recommended by a personal friend and I got to see first hand how using Usana's products changed her life.