Last night I slept on a baseball. It was the next best thing to a backrub. Well, it was the closest thing to a back rub that I could come up with at midnight when I realized that nothing would make me happier than a massage.
I just placed that ball right in the curve of my back, laid down, and shimmied from side to side working out all the aches, the parts that get strained as I give piggyback rides to my kids in between conference calls.
It might sound a little sad when I describe my baseball massage to other people. It might sound a little bit like a “How did it come to this?!?” moment.
But it was actually an empowering act of self-care.
What is “Self-Care”?
When you look up self-care, it does not read: “Self-care is a massage given by a licensed professional.” It does not say, “Self-care is a yoga class followed by a quiet cup of tea.”
Don’t get me wrong, both of those things sound AMAZING. But…
Self-care is simply defined as: “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
What that means is that my midnight baseball back rub totally counts! And so do lots of other little things.
Self-care does not have to look like it does in the magazines. Self-care can be improvised, it can be momentary, it can be “catch-as-catch-can.” And that’s okay. It’s actually great! Why? Because it means self-care is actually possible.
Shifting my definition of self-care away from the beautiful pictures I see in magazines, away from a notion of what it “should be,” has allowed me to find some great self-care strategies that I can do, even at home, while quarantined, working full time, with my three kids running circles around me.
Here are some tiny, unconventional, “not going to see it in a magazine” self-care strategies that are REALLY working for me lately:
One thing I do is I stare at the wall. I LOVE staring at the wall. The wall is so stable. It’s completely unflappable. The wall makes me feel calm. Sometimes I even drink a glass of water while I do it. As I stare at the wall with my glass of water, I try to think about pleasant surprises and tiny victories I’ve experienced in my life. Like that time when I was nine and I won a goldfish at the school fair. Everyone said it would die in a day, so I shouldn’t give it a name. But I didn’t listen to them. I named that fish Tracy. And you know what? Tracy the goldfish lived for six years. That memory always makes me feel good, like absolutely anything is possible.
The other day I wrote in a sharpie all day. I took all my meeting notes in big, bold, non-erasable letters. I felt very powerful, very sure of myself. I felt like all of my ideas were great. I felt like making decisions wasn’t so hard after all. It reminded me that I really ought to trust my gut more often.
Sometimes I say the word “toast” over and over in my head. When I was a child my mother always swept in with toast when I felt yucky. She promised “Toast makes everything better.” And though I never liked the taste of toast, I have always found the word to be very soothing. “Toast, toast, toast.” Saying it just feels good, it reminds me of all the people in my life who are part of my support network. Sometimes a single word, attached to a someone I love, can be all it takes to settle my more tumultuous emotions.
No matter what is happening around me I can always take three deep breaths. I can always fit in a little shoulder roll. I can always stretch up to the sky. I can sneak in a moment to glance at photos of my kids doing funny and adorable things. I can hum. I can wear that one hat that makes me feel like I’m camping. All of these little things matter. They are all acts of self-care.
It’s great that all these little, do-able self-care strategies are out there, because I need self-care now more than ever. And I am not alone.
Self-Care Moments Matter
In my work as the director of content and curriculum at Ready4K I’ve had the opportunity to host listening sessions with parents and providers across the country. In these sessions we work to uncover areas where parents want more support. In every listening session, in big cities, rural towns, and everywhere in between, parents say, again and again, “I’m not good at taking care of myself. I need more self-care strategies.”
And so, I’d like to encourage all of you to share your self-care strategies with the families you serve. Share the stuff that they aren’t going to read about in magazines. Share the awkward stuff, the silly stuff, the stuff you think no one but you might do.
And encourage parents to share their strategies too. We can all work to remind each other that no matter what is happening around us, we can always, ALWAYS do little and big things to take care of ourselves. And when we do, everyone wins. We feel better, our community grows stronger. As a result, our kids get to be surrounded by more patient, healthy, resilient and strong grownups.
Here’s to a summer of self-care!