The Prioritizing Self-care, Health, and Wellbeing Challenge – Week Two: Self-Care Tools

Week two:

This week my challenge was to prioritize my self-care, health, and wellbeing using at least three self-care tools each day.

What does self-care mean to you?

To me, self-care means making time to take care of myself. For a little bit of time, whether it is an hour a day or five minutes a day, I put everything else aside and put myself first in order to reduce my anxiety, manage my stress, even my mood, and be healthier.

Listen to the podcast that inspired this week’s challenge

I think this excerpt from a Forbes article, called Practicing Self-Care is Important: 10 Easy Habits to Get You Started, describes self-care well:

No matter how indulgent or fancy the term may sound, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. You shouldn’t neglect self-care and here’s why:

Know your worth: Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Also, self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too.

A healthy work-life balance: Contrary to common belief, workaholism is not a virtue. Overwork, and the accompanying stress and exhaustion can make you less productive, disorganized and emotionally depleted. It can also lead to all sorts of health problems, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart diseases. Professional self-care habits like taking intermittent breaks (for lunch, calling your mom, or taking a stroll), setting professional boundaries, avoiding overextending, etc. ensures that you stay sharp, motivated and healthy.

Stress management: While a little dose of stress is a healthy way to give us a nudge that we need to meet the deadlines or finish that overdue task, constant stress and anxiety can have an adverse effect on your mental and physical health. Smart self-care habits like eating healthy, connecting with a loved one or, practicing meditation cuts down the toxic effects of stress by improving your mood and boosting your energy and confidence levels.

Start living, stop existing: Life is a precious gift. So why waste it when we have the choice to have a more meaningful existence? Yes, you have a lot of responsibilities— fixing the dryer, mowing the lawn, paying bills. But it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is also your responsibility. Little things like sipping tea while looking at the raindrops racing down the window glass, enjoying a bubble bath, or reading a book are essential for your daily happiness. While things like taking up a new hobby or learning a new language can make your life more purposeful by giving you a new reason to get up in the morning.

Better physical health: Self-care is not just about your mental health. It’s also about caring for your physical self, by eating healthy, taking adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene, exercising regularly, etc.

Forbes Magazine: Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits To Get You Started, Noma Nazish 2017

My week

Sunday

First thing Sunday morning I took my two-year-old son to the local walk-in clinic to get him checked out. I was afraid that he had strep throat, as my daughter, I, and my husband all had had it the previous week. We stood in line for half an hour just to get checked in and then sat for almost two hours waiting to be seen. Two hours sitting in a waiting room with a toddler is not fun, and to his credit, he really did behave pretty well. Thank goodness for smartphones and YouTube!

The rest of the day was spent cleaning house and playing with the kids. Nothing too taxing, but I sure felt worn out.

I have this one that I ordered on Amazon. Photo credit: Amazon $5.99

I took out the food journal that had been sitting on my desk gathering dust and resolved to write in it all week- taking note of everything that I ate or drank. I know that I do fine with food when I am at home; my issue is with stress-eating and emotional-eating at work. When I get stressed out or upset I fixate on eating as a coping mechanism. Work has been somewhat stressful lately, and I know I’ve eaten way too much chocolate. My hope was that if I had to log everything in the food journal I would think twice about binging. I did well and logged everything I ate.

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Photo credit: Amazon $7.99

I have a shallow bathtub/shower combo in my master bathroom and have been dying to have a bath in the tub. I picked up an overflow drain cover like this one to see if I could have a better bath.

The suction cups on the overflow drain cover worked well and added inches to my bathwater. I added some lavender and rose petal bath salts and lit some candles and enjoyed a deeper and more relaxing soak after the kids went to bed.

Monday

On Monday I had to float to a different area and work, so it was pretty nerve-wracking. I have worked in the area before and am familiar with all of the work processes, but due to the crazy cold and flu season, the clinic was swamped. I don’t mind a fast-paced workday, in fact, it can be a great way to pass the time, but I was afraid that I was going to mess up and make a mistake since we were so busy (silly, I know, but I couldn’t help but worry about it). I do want to take a second to point out that I was offered donuts three times while I was working and turned them down each time; that may not be anything big to most people, but as a stress-eater, it was hard to turn down and I was able to.

Afterward, I went next door to Starbucks and ordered a large latte on my way to lunch. A few quiet moments with a hot coffee helped me to relax and the rest of the day was not so bad.

I hadn’t had a chance yet to log the morning (and lunch’s) food in my journal so I also took time to do that.

That evening I called my sister and we talked for almost an hour. It was the first time we’d had a conversation in several weeks so it brightened my day to talk with her and hear how my nephew and nieces were doing.

When the kids went to bed I took out my large foam roller and went to town using it to massage my back, hips, and legs. Sitting all day long makes my muscles feel so tight and the foam roller is an easy way to work out some of the tension and loosen up.

Tuesday

What a crazy day! Even though I woke up early it seemed like the universe was conspiring against me and made me late to drop off the kids at daycare and late to work. I was late to get into the shower, one of the kids’ shoes was missing, my son pooped in his pull up right before we were about to walk out the door, my daughter forgot to brush her teeth and had to be reminded to do so at the last minute… you name it, it happened.

I felt all keyed up all morning long, so I decided to try three things to calm myself and hopefully feel better. I rubbed on some lavender essential oil, made a large cup of hot tea, and took ten minutes for quiet time at my desk during lunch. I just bought this Rose & Mint Herbal Tea by Bigelow and I really like it.

Image Credit: Amazon $16.03

Wednesday

Wednesday turned out to be a pretty uneventful day. I mostly sat at my desk all day working on a project. I noticed around lunch time that my right hip was hurting from sitting so much so I took a short walk and did some stretching.

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My officemate was out of the office so I was able to turn on Spotify and listen to music. It helped the time pass and I sang quietly to myself (with my office door shut!) which really lightened my mood and kept me from feeling bored while looking at spreadsheets all day long.

After the kids had a bath and went to bed my husband and I watched some TV together, which doesn’t happen very often. I brought out my massage therapy balls to try to work out some of the knots in my back and also to try and loosen up my tight hip flexors. I was sore afterwards but felt better the next day.

Thursday

Thursday was another non-stop busy day at work and honestly, I felt down in the dumps all day long. I had a productive day but my mind kept flitting to how much I wanted chocolate and how much better it would make me feel- which I knew wasn’t really true. I tried to distract myself and stay busy, but eventually gave in and bought some chocolate… and ate it all. Then I had a big sugar crash and felt even worse, physically and emotionally.

I ran into my mom in the hallway later (we work in the same facility) so it was nice to briefly talk to her and get a much-needed hug.

My mood lightened considerably after I left work and walked to my car. I listened to some music and sang on the short ride to pick up my kids. The “Mom!” and “Mommy! Mommy!” plus hugs made me feel even better.

I cooked a HelloFresh meal for dinner and it took longer than I expected. By this time the kids were grumpy because they were hungry and kept asking when the food would be ready.

When we sat down to eat both kids didn’t like at least one or more food on their plates. My son refused to eat anything and kept asking for a banana. Milk was spilled. Sippy cups dropped on the floor. If you’re a parent, you know the routine.

After the kids were asleep I sat down on the couch and snuggled into a blanket with a nice big cup of tea.

After my tea I took twenty minutes to do some full-body stretching and meditation before going to bed.

Friday

I woke up with a headache Friday and just generally was not enthused to start the day. Before taking my morning shower I got out my quote jar and went through each quote and note to myself in the jar.

I’ve written about the Quote Jar Curator on my blog before, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Quote Jar Curator is a subscription service where you receive inspirational quotes, stationery, tea, and other small items in the mail each month or twice monthly. You should check it out if you’ve never heard of it. I really enjoyed receiving my envelope in the mail each month.

Over my lunch break I decided to splurge a little bit and went to have a fifteen minute chair massage. I know fifteen minutes isn’t very long but it was nice to get away from my office, relax, and treat myself.

Later that afternoon I spent a break time with a friend and was able to talk with her, vent a little, and get a few laughs in.

Saturday

Saturdays tend to be a little more stressful than other days of the week because I spend the day at home with my kids while my husband will generally work part of the day. I love being able to have quality time with the kids but usually by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around I need a break. There’s only so much Muppet Babies and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one can watch, a limit to the number of times you can break up arguments over toys or a fight over who gets to have all thirteen red crayons, and how many complaints about not having a “good” snack that a person can handle.

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After lunch, we tried to all three do yoga together and have some “quiet” time. That lasted about twenty minutes but was a nice respite from all of the morning’s craziness.

We colored about one hundred pictures, played restaurant, “folded laundry” together (I folded, my son knocked it all on the floor over and over), and finally decided to go to Hobby Lobby for a change of scenery and to get a little walking in.

That night I put away all of my devices to spend some unplugged time. I went into my bedroom to dove into a book for a couple of hours until I was too tired to read any more.

The takeaway

It was a stressful week overall, which is semi-normal, so I think having several go-to self-care tools at my disposal helped me to feel more calm and composed. I know that some of the stress is definitely situational and some of these self-care tools, like taking a break, calling a friend, receiving a hug, will work the best in those situations and may not work for everything.

I will admit too, that it was hard to remind myself that I needed to step away or to make sure that I did indeed take time for myself. I am so used to not doing so that it was a hard habit to break. I know I need to work on thisl

Meditation, stretching, device-free time, and walking helped me the most I feel. I am going to continue to explore other self-care tools and how to incorporate them into my everyday life, because who couldn’t use a whole self-care toolkit in their arsenal?

The whole experiment really made obvious the need to take more time for myself, the need to ask for help when I need to in order to make that happen and the need to slow down, breathe, and do what I can to take care of myself in order to take care of others.

More reading

Here is an article from Psychology Today with great suggestions for self-care tools: 25 Simple Self-Care Tools for Parents and another good one from Her Campus: Self-Care tools A to Z.

I hope you’ll come back to read about next week’s challenge, which is to get in an hour of exercise all seven days!

What are your go-to self-care tools? How do you make time to take care of yourself? Do you ever feel guilty for taking time out for yourself?

I would love if you’d join in the conversation in the comments section!

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