Let’s start with this scenario: Your girlfriend calls you after weeks of playing phone tag and says the following:
“I’m on my way to Lassie’s vet and grooming appointment even though I haven’t had time to shower in the past week. I’m two months past when I was supposed to go to a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I passed out yesterday because I was so busy with the kids and the house and the deadlines at work that I forgot to eat.” She chuckles, “Oh you know, it’s just life! I’ll get through it.”
And your heart sinks, because this dismissal of self-care is all too common. Dr. Garritano says, “It just shouldn’t be acceptable for women to embrace this level of activity and keep chugging along.”
Self-care means, quite simply, taking care of oneself. “As women, many of us prioritize taking care of everyone and everything else first ahead of our own needs. This thinking has to stop for both women’s mental and physical health,” says Dr. Garritano.
Self-care is more than the basics of eating when you are hungry, drinking enough water, and showering regularly. (However, if you aren’t doing that, then this is a good place to start.) Self-care is setting time aside for you every day to maintain or improve your mental and physical health. It’s meant to recharge your mental and physical batteries so when you are taking care of someone else, you are not left feeling completely drained.
Dr. Garritano recommends these six ways to jump start your self-care routine:
- Your number one priority is to make time in your schedule to make – and keep – necessary health care appointments. Make an appointment with Her Wellness. See your primary care doctor. Go to the dentist. Get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine. Get your bloodwork done. (Yes, even when you have to fast.) Make and attend any follow-up appointments. While this isn’t “you time,” it’s a critical first step to taking care of yourself. You cannot put your health last.
- Delegate when you need room to breathe. It could be as simple as asking your partner to pick up groceries so you don’t have to go out. It is ok to ask others to help with necessary but not critical tasks. If you need a minute to breathe at work, give yourself permission to ask someone else to run a report.
- Give yourself your first 15 minutes of the day. We know that for mothers with small kids, this might mean waking up earlier, but it is well worth it. Whatever you need to center yourself: drinking coffee in silence, reading a book, doing a short yoga routine, or meditating are all ways that you can start the day focused on you and your needs so you can give the rest of the day your best.
- Find time to do something creative without screens. This could be journaling, creative writing, painting, coloring in a coloring book for grown-ups, needle-point, welding, carpentry – whatever gets your mind firing creatively. Disconnect from technology and create something that makes you happy, without worrying if you are “good at it”.
- Schedule time with friends and family. This doesn’t mean the folks who are going to ask prodding questions or seem to always need a favor; choose friends and family who you can sit down and laugh with over tea. Being around people who relax you and bring you joy is the best medicine for nearly any situation.
- Just pause and do nothing. Do not scroll through social media or shoot out an email or binge watch that (albeit lovely) cooking show. Pause in the middle of your day, breathe and literally just stop everything. Concentrate on your breath deeply filling and emptying your lungs. Consider that your blood is flowing and your heart is beating. Bringing your mind and body to a halt amidst the chaos of life will bring down your cortisone levels and your blood pressure and will relax you. It will also help you identify what you need to do next for you.
A great way to think about self-care: If it’s something you would encourage the person you love most to do, then you should do it too.
Self-care sounds “easy” but it can be very difficult for women. Ease into taking care of yourself, finding the balance and activities that work for you. Just like each woman is unique, her version of self-care will be unique as well.
Get started on your self-care journey by scheduling your annual appointment with Her Wellness today. Call 203-409-2539 now.