Thursday, October 30, 2008

Practicing Extreme Self-Care

Since my last blog entry, I have been run down and tired. I am noticing this each day as my patience, calm and resolve are inevitably impacted by the fatigue. It's been a busy week. The kids have been demanding. Long nights with frequent wakings by both of them. One has the sniffles and the other one might be on his way too...

Remember what I said a few entries ago about practicing self-care - especially during stressful time? Indeed, that is proving to be a real priority right now. I also mentioned in that entry that I would get back to this. Some of you might be wondering what this whole self-care thing is all about. You might have visions of self-indulgence and needless luxury. You might even be wondering how self-care might be a way to justify selfishness (god forbid).

Renee Trudeau in her book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal says, "self-care is about nurturing yourself on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—so you can live, love and parent optimally." I like this definition of self-care because I realize that I need to care for my whole self so that I can be my best. Being my best means I can care for others effectively. The two are not mutually exclusive. I also know that each of these aspects of self-care are inter-related. If my body is weak, how will my spirit be steadfast?

This business of self-care is tricky. I have had few role models of women who took care of themselves effectively. I learned at an early age that women are expected to sacrifice themselves for others -- their partners, children, workers, employers, friends and so on. The image that comes to mind is of a candle that lights other candles while it weeps its own life away drop by drop. There is little room for self-care in this version of what it means to be a "good woman." I am sure there are some patriarchal elements to this whole dynamic too. So, a woman who takes care of her needs without guilt, remorse or apology is hard to come by. I want to be this woman.

This means that I do not live my life as the candle that weeps its life away. I am still experimenting with a fitting image that captures the idea that I nurture myself first so that I can nurture others even more effectively. I fill my cup so that I am overflowing love, encouragement, support, patience... for others?

I have learned that a little external accountability helps keep me on track with a personal goal or project. Since practicing self-care is a priority for me right now, I have worked out a support structure by creating a forum in which a group of women is actively discussing, sharing and working on this collectively. To that amazing group of women, myself especially, I posed an Extreme Self-Care Day Challenge:

“An extreme self-care day is a stretch of time (preferably 8 hours, but 4 will do) where I'm completely devoted to nurturing my physical/mental/emotional/spiritual well-being. My only job is to become attuned to the needs of my body, mind and spirit--and then to nourish myself accordingly." (Renee Trudeau)

Having completed a brief self-care spot-check questionaire, I realized that although I am faring well in the mental, emotional and spiritual realms, my physical self-care needs some work!
My one simple self-care goal is to be extremely kind to my body (the vessel of my spirit). To practice this, I will eat an energizing breakfast, stretch my muscles, meditate/ do yoga, rest my weary bones, look on the outside the way I feel on the inside...

I am excitedly planning my Extreme Self-Care Day! It is taking shape beautifully, inspired by days B.C. (before children) when I would take retreats by the ocean and spend my days completely enjoying my SELF. Relishing my own company was the primary goal.

Some of the elements of my day that are directly motivated by my self-care goal:

*Reading and meditating
*Leisurely breakfast at one of my favorite cafes
*A massage (and maybe a mini-facial too)
*A long overdue haircut and highlights
*A walk and some rest
*A relaxing trip to Whole Foods...

And did I mention that I am doing this on Election Day as a means of defraying some of the "frenzy" of the day. I plan to step into November 5th renewed, energized and ready for whatever comes!

So, are you up for the Extreme Self-Care Day challenge? What is your self-care goal? What will your day include?