In this blog series I am addressing self-care.

Part 1 discussed setting effective boundaries.

Part 2 addressed how to live with more intention.

The last of my 3-part recipe for starting an effective self-care practice is “treating yourself with kindness”.

Why is it important to treat ourselves kindly? Read on.

1. Change your self-talk

I’d like you to try an experiment. Just for a day, pay attention to the words you use to talk to yourself in your head. We all do it, and sadly, we often do it harshly. The problem is that when we do it often enough we start to believe it. Write down all the things you say to yourself during the course of a day.

Would you say these things to someone you loved? How would you feel if someone else said those things to you?

Here’s one example of what negative self-talk might look like:

You forget you promised to make cupcakes for your child’s school party. Actually you remember, but the memory jolts you out of bed at 3am the day of the party.  So during the night, and then again while you’re driving to the grocery store at 7am, the day of the party, you’re chastising yourself. It sounds kinda like this:

“You’re so stupid! What kind of mom forgets to make cupcakes for her own child’s class party? What an idiot I am.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe its not cupcakes.

Maybe it’s the check you bounced.

Or the doctor’s appointment you forgot.

Or the dinner you burned because you left it in the oven too long because your 4 year old was having a meltdown over his socks not matching.

It could be when you look in the mirror. How often do you tell yourself you’re too fat, ugly, wrinkled, gray…Whatever it is, we often speak to ourselves like we would our worst enemy; With disdain, shame and even hatred.

Why we do it is the subject for a whole other blog post.

The important thing is to change the way you talk to yourself.

And you can start doing it today. Here’s how:

 Identify the language you’re using when you talk to yourself.

I forgot the cupcakes so I notice I call myself a “stupid idiot and a bad mom”.

 Come up with a different way of looking at the situation.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I’m human just like everyone else. People make mistakes. I can fix this. And if I can’t, it’s not the end of the world.

Create a new script and talk to yourself like you would a friend.

Ok, you forgot. It’s going to be okay. You can forget things and still be a good mom. You’ve got this. Use the pronoun “you” as if you’re speaking to someone else. A recent study in Psychology Today magazine showed that speaking to yourself using the “you” pronoun has a greater positive effect than using “I”.

Cool, right?

2. Be Kind To Your Body

Be aware about what you put into your body, and how you treat your body.

Food is fuel. Yes, I’m as guilty as the next American of using food as a celebration, a reward and even a pacifier. But when we make a habit of putting junk into our bodies, we will feel like junk. Eating fresh, real food that isn’t pre-packaged is key. Limit sugar and drink water- lots of it.

In addition to food, if you drink a lot of alcohol on a regular basis, smoke cigarettes or abuse drugs, it’s no secret anymore that you’re killing your body slowly. Get help quitting if you need it. They are often symptoms of a bigger issue in your life that needs attention.

Exercise is another way we can be kind to ourselves. A body in motion stays in motion. Reframe it that way. Rather than that dread that takes over when you wake up in the morning and see your lonely running shoes by the bed, collecting dust, remind yourself that it’s how you nurture your body. You have people who are depending on you to take care of YOU so you can be there for them. There are people who love you and want you around. That’s a good enough reason to take a 20 minute walk a day, if nothing else. Don’t over-think it.

3. Take breaks when you need them

This is especially for the parents, and even more for the parents of children with special needs. Be intentional about getting breaks. Hire a sitter. Get out of the house. Do fun things with friends. Think about what made you happy before you had kids, elderly parents to take care of or a stressful job.

When my kids were little, and I stayed home with them, I made it a ritual to take a bath, with the door locked for half an hour every evening. It was something I looked forward to, and was key to getting through those toddler years.

4. Get enough quality sleep

More and more studies are showing that it’s the quality of sleep that matters more than the quantity. This means we need to be aware of the amount of caffeine and alcohol we consume, and the amount of screen time we spend on our laptops, tablets and phones before bed. Having a bedtime routine that includes turning off the screens (that includes TV) at least an hour before bedtime, gives your body a chance to kick into sleep mode. Your body produces a hormone called melatonin as a result of your eyes noticing that it’s gotten dark outside.

Cool, right?

But we’ve messed with that mechanism when we stay up binge-watching “Orange Is the New Black” when we can’t fall asleep. (I’m not suggesting you stop watching OITNB, I’m a Netflix fan too… just keep a balance.) Watching TV and spending time on your phone playing Words With Friends could really be messing with your ability to take care of your body effectively.

I realize all of these things are easier said than done. It’s not easy to take care of ourselves, but it is crucial. Especially when others are depending on us to take care of them.

When we see that self-care component as a “must” and not a luxury, we can live happier, more fulfilled lives.

5. Ask For Help

Lastly, ask for help if you need it. I am a firm believer that we were not meant to do life alone. We are social creatures and we have the ability to learn from one another’s mistakes.

If you’re not sure where to start, or feel like there isn’t anyone in your life who can help, contact us. It’s what we do.