As a little girl, I remember watching those airplane safety videos and feeling confused (and even slightly resentful) when the adults were instructed to put on their oxygen masks first in the event of an emergency.
My mother gives me the last bite of her dessert and buckles me into the car first, I remember thinking to myself. Why wouldn’t she put my oxygen mask on first, too?
But of course, we know why.
And now, as a mother of two myself — who always put my sleep, health, and happiness behind my children — it wasn’t until recently that I finally realized it was time to put on my oxygen mask.
As part of my New Year’s resolution back in January, I promised myself a year of life-saving and life-changing self-care practices. Not huge ones I couldn’t commit to, but small, every day ones, that when they all added up, would really make a difference. And so far, they have.
They look a little something like this:
1. Getting checked out.
It seems ridiculous, but the most obvious oversight in my own self-care involved my physical health. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d gotten a checkup. So this year, I scheduled a full tune-up: a physical exam, eye exam, gynecologist visit, and even a skin check. As it turns out, that checkup with my dermatologist may have just saved my life. Do it.
2. Moving my body more.
There are a gazillion and one reasons to move your body more. And every time I take a walk, a bike ride, an exercise class, or dance with my kids, I am reminded of them.
3. Taking the weight off.
I joined Weight Watchers a few months ago because I was sick of feeling big. Having spent my life on different weight loss plans, I’ll admit I was skeptical of their “eat anything” approach. But now 15 pounds lighter, I can tell you losing the weight is the best thing I’ve done for myself all year.
4. Getting back to nature.
Before this year, I didn’t know much about the Japanese practice of forest bathing (being around trees), but now that I do, I’m convinced there’s something to it. Every time I walk in nature, I just feel better. In my ongoing effort to take care of myself, I go for walks, hikes, and beach bike rides weekly — sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and sometimes it is the only “date” I can fit in with my husband. Exercise is always time well spent.
5. Making time to meditate.
For years, people have told me to start meditating, and for years I half-heartedly tried on my own. But this year, I stepped it up. I signed up for meditation classes and downloaded a meditation app called Headspace. Now my husband and kids meditate with me, proving that self-care doesn’t have to mean time away from the family.
6. Using a “gratitude jar.”
Every night, I up my own happiness by writing one thing I’m grateful for on a little card, and sticking it into a jar. On tough days, it might just say, “I wasn’t in a car crash” or “I don’t have the flu that’s going around,” but most days, I write a lovely reminder of something to be glad about. At the end of the year, I plan to paste the cards into a binder and reflect back on them.
7. Treating myself.
Hot baths, monthly pedicures, getting my roots done, buying new lipstick — these are all ways I take care. (And every once in a while, I even take a glorious nap!) When I look good, I feel good.
8. Removing Facebook from my phone. (Yes, really.)
This was a game changer for me and my kids. Facebook was addictive for me in a pretty bad way. Not only was the app not bringing me joy, but it was making me anxious. I deleted it off my phone to take back my happiness, and I’m telling you, it seriously worked. My kids are thrilled I no longer have my face buried in my phone all the time, and so am I. Now I only check Facebook on my laptop a few times a week. I feel free.
9. Buying clothes that don’t just look good, but feel good too.
I said goodbye to the days of squeezing my body into tight clothing and teetering around in uncomfortable heels. Instead, I invested in some flattering leggings, knee-high boots, ballet flats, and soft sweaters. And every day I can focus on work or my kids instead of my outfit, I’m SO grateful.
10. (Literally) changing my view.
For the places I spend the most time, like my desk, car, kitchen, and bedroom, I made a few shifts to bring little bursts of joy. I now have a scented candle and plants that I love sitting on my office desk. My car gets washed regularly. My kitchen gets stocked with healthy food. I also decluttered my bedroom and bring in flowers weekly.
Considering how much time I spend in these places, these little changes make a big difference.
11. Spending time with friends.
I’m not a fun-seeker, so I needed to give myself permission to have more fun in my life, including time with friends. I was in a habit of prioritizing work, home, and sleep. Now, I try to schedule time with friends that involves going out or exercise. (But when I really want some fun, we go to karaoke.)
12. Asking for help when I need it.
Asking and accepting help from others is hard for me. And when they don’t offer to help in return, I trudge through tasks on my own, feeling their full weight.
But not this year! When planning my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, I invited friends over to help me get all the decorations done. I invited another friend over to teach me how to create the video montage. I needed help, so I asked and loved accepting it. Lesson learned: I’m never alone in any task that feels too big.
13. Prioritizing family time.
Our family does a pretty good job of eating a meal together every day, but we also try to schedule family time on the weekend. Usually, this is just a day at the park or beach, but sometimes it’s an outing to the wildflower fields an hour away, or the Renaissance Faire, or even a weekend trip somewhere. If we aren’t spending enjoyable time with the kids, what’s the point of parenting? Being a good parent helps me feel good about everything else.
14. No longer guilting myself.
I’ve grown comfortable with my year-long mission to take care of myself. No longer will I feel guilty for asking my husband to take the kids to school so I can meet a friend for a hike in the morning. No longer will I regret missing a bedtime with the kids so I can take a meditation class. I’m done apologizing for spending a little money on a massage when I’m exhausted and spent. If we don’t fill our own love banks with a little self-love, we will continue to feel depleted, drained, and depressed.
So, my friends, schedule a little self-care. Start small, but do it. And keep a list. That way, you can remind yourself of all the wonderful things you’ve done on your journey to become the best you can be.