Meditation isn’t on this list.
Busy people — workaholics, parents, social butterflies, insert whatever thing that keeps you busy here — are so tired of people telling them to practice ‘self-care.’ If you had the time for these things, you’d probably participate. The pressure to take care of oneself amid of a chaotic schedule simply adds more to an already long ‘to-do’ list; and, quite frankly, it can be exhausting to even think about self-care, despite its importance.
Sometimes self-care can feel selfish, making it a burden. Personally, I find this true in the face of raising children. Before kids, I was all about self-care — gym classes, manicures, dinner with friends, you name it — but after their birth, I ran into the conundrum of feeling like it was more effort than it was worth.
In the past few years — since having my kids — I’ve become creative in how I take care of myself. My time is filled to the brim with important tasks (and, okay, you got me, some aren’t that important, but still…time is limited), and so, over the years, I’ve come up with some ways to de-stress at home without having to schedule anything else into an already busy day.
Music has proven, for me, to be the best form of self-care during any season. More than meditation or exercise, music is an easy reprieve. And anyone who spends time listening to music would likely share a similar sentiment. And the best part is that it does not create that feeling of, if only there were more time in the day.
Music can be an integral part of any day. When I started making time to play music that I enjoyed (versus “Baby Shark,” for example — ugh), I found that I could reach a level of relaxation that didn’t require me to leave my house if I wasn’t up to it. This removed a layer of pressure. (Side note, I still play “Baby Shark” for my kids. But it’s not the only thing on rotation.)
Daniel Levitin, in his book, This is Your Brain on Music, says:
“The story of your brain on music is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes. … When we love a piece of music it reminds us of other music we have heard, and it activates memory traces of emotional times in our lives. Your brain on music is all about … connections.” (pg. 192)
Making connections with music is this dance within your brain. Think about an album or even just a song that you’ve loved for many years. Now think about where you first fell in love with that album/song. There’s probably a memory associated with it. And for me, those memories are like brain food. This is where it becomes self-care. It takes you to another place and time, even when not actively thinking about a different place or time. It’s just a feeling that washes over you. And that makes it a true gift.
A friend once said to me something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t listen to music. I’m just not into it.” And I never understood that, because music is for everyone. Finding sounds you love is half the joy in the listening — you are not required to love everything you hear.
In case you need a little inspiration, here are some ways to enjoy music:
- Listen to your favorite albums in their entirety. Vinyl is big in our house at the moment.
- Create playlists to match your vibe using a streaming service, one of the most popular methods for consuming music nowadays.
- Think about lyrics to a favorite song and think about what they mean to you. Maybe even write about it.
- Listen while you drive and sing like nobody (except maybe your kid) is listening.
- Take a walk and turn up your headphones (but not too loud…because, you know, cars…)
- Concerts — go by yourself or with someone else. Go with someone who will enjoy the show on the same level as you. Yes; going to a show takes time and money, but if you can manage to carve out the time and can set aside the funds here and there, you won’t regret it.
See Numero Uno. Listening to a podcast is just as relaxing as music. Nowadays, you can find a program — oh my, I said program, I am getting old, someone fetch me a TV-Guide — on just about any topic.
Right now my current favorite is Comedy Bang Bang! (you kind of need a certain sense of humor for this one) just so I can schedule a good few minutes of laughter into my day. Although, I do have to be careful with this one now since my kids are old enough to repeat what they hear. This is a nap-time only podcast.
While my kids are across the room playing with toy trains, I am sitting here writing this. And you know what? I am having a really nice time!
Writing is a great way to de-stress and you can take it with you wherever you go. You can use your laptop, but I also find that a handwritten journal is excellent.
I do a lot of my intense thinking on the go, so having a small journal on me at all times is an absolute must. I can jot down whatever it is that comes to mind, and later, I reference it to either write a new story or article.
If you are a member on Medium as a reader, then chances are that you are exploring your own writing already (or you are a bonafide writer, bravo!), so keep those ideas flowing. It is, in my opinion, a true act of self-care, but you also get to share your ideas with others, and in turn, you may help someone else. That is a win-win.
“What really matters is not how we produce a text but its quality, we are often told. When we are reading, few of us wonder whether a text was written by hand or word-processed.
But experts on writing do not agree: pens and keyboards bring into play very different cognitive processes.” (The Guardian)
However you decide to write — on the computer or handwritten — you are taking time for yourself to process ideas that are at the forefront of your mind. Writing also helps us with emotions, even if we are not writing for a wide audience.
Bonus tip: Brew yourself a cup of coffee to sip while you jot down your thoughts. Coffee and writing are basically BFFs.
Ok, so this one is probably not for everyone, but stay with me. I am not a fan of clutter, but I am also not one of those folks who went crazy and started throwing away a bunch of stuff because a book told me to.
However, when things in my home are out of place, I often feel a bit more in control of my environment when I put them back where they belong. Plus, you can do it as you go about your day.
I definitely don’t love to clean, but when my home is tidy at the end of the day, I can sit back and enjoy some television or reading without worry. I feel more relaxed, so I am qualifying the end-result of cleaning as self-care. Just don’t go too crazy with this one: some downsides exist.
Or take a bath. Sometimes you just need a hot shower or a bath in some Epsom salt (high in magnesium). If you want to get really relaxed, play some music and light candles.
Personally? I don’t have time to set a romantic mood, but a nice hot shower is a quiet place where I can’t hear my kids arguing with each other over toys (someone is with them, just not me).
In sum: Are there folks who think the idea of taking care of yourself is selfish? Sure. I, on the other hand, completely agree with the school of thought that says when you take care of yourself, you can better take care of others. I just need to do it from the comfort of my own home.