Self Love for the Win!

You’ve got you meals all planned out, your water bottle filled, and your exercise schedule is going really great. This time around, you’re really going to make those changes and reach the goals you’ve dreamt about for so long! But, a few days or weeks into your healthy lifestyle change, you find yourself tired, losing motivation, and stressed. It’s happened to all of us; we start out so focused, on the top of the world, so determined, so proud of each little accomplishment, but than reality sets in, and we slowly find ourselves sliding downward, into bad habits and just simply lose our momentum. But, there’s a fix for that, and it’s called self-love, or, self care. 

The average adult is TIRED. Family, work, and responsibilities-all fill almost every second of our day, and for many, especially women, finding and taking any amount of time for ourselves is so difficult. Everyone NEEDS something from you, all the time, and saying no, or taking a step out for your own self can seem selfish, right?

WRONG! It’s not selfish at all. Think about the process of preparing to fly; the flight attendant tells you all of the emergency procedures, and the most important one is to put your oxygen mask on FIRST. Without taking care of yourself first, it may be impossible to take care of those you love when needed. This applies to your entire life! Without taking care of YOU first, there is little energy to take care of others properly.

Now, I know-you say you are too busy. A work project is due, dinner has not been planned, the kids are climbing up your leg, your husband can’t find his keys, your phone is buzzing, and the dog just peed on the floor-WHAT THE HECK IS SELF LOVE???

I’ve been there; I’ve SO been there, and I honestly didn’t find time for self-love. I woke early to find four kids needing every second of my day, a house to constantly clean, homeschool lessons to be done, and a schedule so full of soccer, football, basketball, art class, co-op, and music lessons, there was simply not a single half hour block left in my planner. I was tired, stressed, and not the most patient person. My energy levels were spent by 2pm, and I found myself moving from one activity to the next without really noticing what was going on around me. Life became one long to do checklist.

In 2006, I suddenly became a single mom of four, determined to continue homeschooling, looking for a job and a place to live, completely and totally stressed to the max. Surely, the idea of self-love was not anywhere in my thoughts. This was a mountain to climb, and I had no clue how high it was going to be. But then a friend took my kids for a few hours-I’d never had a sitter (11 years, no sitter!) and I had a few hours to myself. For the first time in 11 years, I sat on my front porch, alone in silence, and did absolutely nothing. It was absolutely awe-inspiring! A few months later, my children started spending weekends with friends and their dad, and I found myself able to spend more time on myself, reading, writing, planning, and daydreaming. My patience level went up, my sleep got better, and my energy level improved. Although I was now working more than fulltime, still homeschooling, and doing 100% of the child rearing, my life was suddenly better that any moment before. I began to blossom into a new person, a happy person, a calm person. I had found some self love. 

So, what IS self-love, or self-care? Self-love is doing things deliberately and regularly for your physical, emotional, and mental well being. The most important word in that definition is “deliberately”; one needs to be absolutely aware of one’s well being in order to achieve a true sense of self-love. Being aware leads us to a sense of clarity and acknowledgment to the fact that we are, indeed, taking care of ourselves. It leads to a super healthy relationship with your own self, at which point, it easily translates to those around you. In short-you become the best version of YOU, and those around you benefit from your energy, happiness and joy. 

There’s so many things that we can do for ourselves to begin a journey of self-love and care, the important thing is that start with something small, and begin that journey now. How can you begin the journey? Here are some ideas:

*The Power of “NO”

One of the biggest changes I ever made in my life was learning to say, “no.” “No” is a complete sentence; it does not require details or excuses, or even an apology. 

As a young mom, I wanted to be accepted, admired, and liked. I took charge of everything-and I mean EVERYTHING. I ran classes, wrote curriculum, hosted activities in my tiny house, coached sports, brought the snacks, rallied the other parents to help…until one day when I realized that my hand was subconsciously going up in the air all by itself-even before the person asking for help even finished their request! At that point, I was already known as the “do it all” lady, and I did upset a few people with my first action of saying “no.” I moved to a new state soon after, and used “no” quite easily once the expectation was gone. I only said “yes” to those things I truly wanted to be involved in, and in return, was able to enjoy things far more easily. Instead of running things or “working”, I was able to build new relationships and be more truly in the moment of what I was involved in. 

Learn the word “NO.” Again, it is a life changing complete sentence!

*Make Your Physical Health a Top Priority

Exercise is a love/hate thing with most people. We love it and do it, or we hate it and don’t do it. Or, in many cases, we do it, find we love it, and still find times when we hate the idea of it. When we find time to do it, we find that we love the way we feel when we are done. We feel accomplished, strong, and healthy. But, for most, that feeling is short lived, and getting the inspiration to do it again is not so easy. 

Find some form of exercise that you LOVE. Something that makes you want to move, something that makes you happy. Maybe it’s dancing while you clean, or taking a long walk each day before the family wakes up. Maybe it’s a team sport, or a line dancing class where you can socialize. Find something-anything-and, as Nike says, just do it! Exercise gives us more energy, helps our blood pressure, clears our heads, and gives us body confidence. Just do it!

*Sleep is Your Friend

The Sleep Foundation reports that 35% of Americans rate their quality of sleep as “poor”, and 20% of Americans stated that they had not woken up refreshed a single day for the last 7 days. Sleep is not friendly for many, many people. Poor sleep leads to a myriad of physical and mental issues including obesity, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and more. Some of the culprits for lack of sleep are: using screens before bed, caffeine or alcohol use, eating heavy meals before bed, lack of exercise, worry, and poor health in general. It’s important to look at the factors that may be keeping you from getting the rest you need, and take action to make change. 

*Be Grateful!

It’s time to change your mindset and start looking at what it is that makes your glass more than “half full”. Negative thoughts weigh us down, create depression and anxiety, and even make us eat more and exercise less. 2020 has been an enormously emotional year, and people have handled in in very different ways. HOW they approached this crazy year’s ups and downs is what seemed to make all of the difference.

I did an informal poll in a Facebook group comprised of mostly women, asking them how they handled the pandemic. 500 people responded almost immediately, and added comments about their personal situations. 

~21% said that their experience of lockdown has been awesome, and they were doing really well. Commenters spoke of enjoying their time with family, working out more, spending more time with children while home educating, and taking up new hobbies. 

~50% responded that they had been “up and down, and in survival mode” Reasons included uncertainty about jobs and difficulties with home education.

~23% stated that they were either essential workers or had already worked from home, and they did not experience much of a change.

~3% said their lives had changed quite a bit, and they were still working on living within those changes.

~3% were not shy to report that they simply were not doing great and had pretty much “lost their minds”.

There’s a lot of factors that play into this scenario, of course, but after reading the comments, it seemed that those that did really well were the people that took some self love into consideration, and really made themselves conscious of making sure they were doing ok. They found new ways to enjoy their family, made home education more creative, got more exercise, and developed new hobbies to fill the extra free time they had in recent months. This is “being grateful”. “Grateful” beats out anger, boredom, frustration, and uncertainty, and it leaves us with a feeling of joy, instead of despair or defeat.

These are just a few things you can start to focus on in your journey to find you wealth of self-love/care. Self-love is a deeply personal endeavor, and holds great rewards, and what works for one person, may not work at all for another. Find things that inspire you, excite you, and make you feel alive, and then be sure to take the time to be present for them. Make a commitment to yourself, just as you do for others, and then show up for your own self. Go, and live your best life!

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