When we talk about self care, we often talk about grandiose gestures we'd like to do for ourselves--a spa day or splurge. Self care becomes something we find time for when the situation becomes dire. You may realize you need self care when you notice yourself becoming irritable with your partner or drowning at work.
In my early days of motherhood, I remember a day I was being particularly irritable with my partner. Saying I was being particularly irritable is putting it nicely—I was being a full on jerk. I was snapping at him until he snapped. “Why don’t you just go to a movie?!” He exclaimed. Why don’t I just go to a movie?! Yeah—why don’t I just go to a movie?! So I went.
As I sat in the theatre alone, without a care in the world, munching on popcorn and experiencing the beauty that is Jennifer Lawrence, I realized it was just what I needed. I was finally getting what I needed, but why did I wait until I hit my breaking point to get it?
What if I told you self care is self maintenance rather than self preservation?
If we wait until we’re drowning to grab on to the lifesaver dangling in front of us, it may be too late. In the case of self care, this might mean when we get to the actual self care act, it may exhaust us more than it uplifts us. If you’re running on empty but know you need to get in a yoga class to boost yourself up, the class may have the opposite effect. Between the act of driving to the class and the actual exercise, you may leave feeling exhausted rather than energized.
This is not to deter you from the large acts of self care, we need those too! This is to say, when we work in small acts of self care to our everyday lives or acknowledge the acts of self care we have already weaved in, we give ourselves the fuel we need to run on.
So, what are small acts of self care?
Small acts of self care go just beyond meeting your basic needs. When we meet our basic needs we satiate our thirst, hunger, and need for sleep.
If you struggle to meet your basic needs, which often happens for those of us struggling with anxiety or depression, meeting basic needs would be a good place to start working in self care. For you, this might mean going to bed early, or allowing yourself to sleep in, packing yourself an exciting snack for work, or pausing throughout the day to drink water.
Acts of self care that go beyond meeting your basic needs may include treating yourself to a snack you don’t usually eat but enjoy (you may see me popping in for fro yo once a month). It may include treating yourself to a latte rather than your regular coffee with milk—or even a coffee from your favorite place. If you’re a parent, you may be sick of listening to kids music, for you self care may include listening to a favorite podcast (My Favorite Murder anyone?).
As we slowly remember to work in these small, easily accessible acts of self care, we are building our energy and self compassion. As we enjoy these small acts of self care, it is important to be mindful while we do the act—to remind ourselves this is something I’m doing just for me.
Before working in the larger acts, I encourage you to think of the small acts of self care you are already doing for yourself. Recognize them, be mindful of them, and use them to build larger acts of self care in to your routine.