The Forgotten Practice of Self-Care


Good Monday morning, friends!  I hope you had an amazing weekend and you’re primed and ready for the new week!  I’ve got to confess that this girl is feeling a little bit stressed.  Between the extra hours at work, the impending holiday and family commitments, I’m noticing a difference in my person.  My sleep is off, my diet is off, my mood is way off, much to the dismay of the people who have to live with me!  Whenever I neglect myself, my mind, body and emotions suffer, so with that in mind, I thought we would talk about old-fashioned self-care.

No one has to tell you that modern life is stressful, but I think we as a culture take a demented pride in abusing ourselves.  We pride ourselves in the number of hours we put in at the office, how little sleep we get, how many meals we eat on the go, how much coffee we drink to make up for lack of sleep, how much wine we drink to try to relax in order to sleep.  The lack of rest and proper nutrition weakens our immune systems so when we get sick, we get sick, but like the troopers we are, we push through the illness, further taxing our immune systems.  We’ve created these dreadful cycles of exhaustion, illness, stress and anxiety…because we consider it weakness or foolishness to care for ourselves.  So we push harder.

It’s crazy!

Let me tell you, friends, you’re worth taking care of.  I hate sounding like a L’Oreal commercial, but you are worth it.  My Faith tells me that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, a creation so amazing that the Creator Himself declared us very good, better than all other creation and loved with an everlasting love.  If only we saw that worth in ourselves and took care of ourselves as we should!  As we’re in the midst of what may be our most stressful season of the year, how about we discover some simple ways to care for our minds, bodies and emotions?

Our grannies were experts at self-care though they wouldn’t have labeled it as such.  They just knew what their minds and bodies needed to function at their best and that’s a lost practice in our culture.   We relegate it to old wives tales and lore instead of researching the wisdom behind it.

As it’s a broad, broad topic, let’s find easy ideas for self care during the dark winter months.

Drink warm drinks– There’s a reason our mamas and grannies gave us warm milk on restless nights—-it’s a sure-fire cure for most of what ails us!  With winter upon us, I make sure my kids have a hot cup of  something each morning and night.  Tea, cider, cocoa, broth, soup, something.  Not only is it comforting to our spirits, it warms our bodies and keeps us warm for hours.  It’s no different than warming a Thermos or tea pot before we add hot drinks.  Warm the inside and everything will feel warmer!  Hot fluids also hydrate quickly, create inhospitable conditions for viruses and soothe irritated throats and noses.

Dress warmly– I know this sounds like a gimme, but people don’t dress appropriately in cold weather.  We’re more concerned about being fashionable than toasty!  But here’s what I’ve noticed: even though I’m healthy overall, when I get cold, I ache.  My bones and muscles just ache!  Anxiety is exacerbated.  Productivity goes downhill.  Mood worsens.  Typically, my diet suffers because I turn to junk food for quick heat and energy.  There’s nothing we can do about the weather, but we can bundle up in natural fibers, dress in multiple layers, wear fluffy socks, slippers, robes, woolen coats and whatever it takes to stay cozy.  Dont laugh, but in the dead of winter, its not unusual to find me in 4-5 layers of clothing.  Camisole + tee + long sleeved shirt + sweater + Sherpa vest.  And you can expect to see me in Uggs til the spring thaw.  Do what you have to do to stay snuggly, my friends, and save the fashion statements for summertime.

Eat hearty meals– Now hear me, I’m not telling you to gorge yourself on indulgent holiday foods, but winter calls for heavier meals, whatever that looks like in your house.  In winter, we need the extra (beneficial) fats and perhaps a few extra carbs to keep our bodies warm so keep that soup pot full of hot brothy soups, make a big batch of stew or a big cheesy casserole for dinner  (and leftovers for lunches).  For breakfast, a pot of cheesy grits or oatmeal topped with dried fruit will warm your innards and satisfy you much longer than a cold bowl of cereal.

Sleep– Allow yourself as much sleep as you need.  If that means an afternoon nap or turning in at 8:30, do it!  Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary and treat winter as a season of rest and recuperation.   Nest with soft cotton sheets, a thick downy comforter, a handmade quilt, a heated mattress pad….whatever it takes to make it a place of comfort.   Now one caveat: be mindful that the need for extra sleep can be a symptom of SAD, thyroid disfunction and a myriad of other disorders.  If the need for sleep becomes excessive and you never feel quite rested, regardless of the amount of sleep you receive,  it’s time to talk to your PCP.

Take care of your skin– Winter in extreme northern and extreme southern climates tends to wreak havoc on our skin, so treat your skin with care!  Warm baths and showers followed by carrier oils or body butters are the way to go to prevent dry skin, chaffing, chapping and itchiness.  This skin has to last a lifetime,  so don’t be embarrassed to baby it!  During periods of outdoor activity, be sure to protect the delicate skin on your face and hands from windburn with a heavy balm or butter.

Be still– Apart from sleeping, there’s no shame in using this season to just be still.  To take a rest from the busy-ness of spring, summer and fall to simply be.  To read, daydream, write letters, watch movies, crochet a hat, snuggle with your spouse under a fluffy blanket or spend an afternoon drawing with your child in front of the fireplace. Plan a time each day to just be still.

Get outside – Admittedly, outdoor activities are not my favorite in the wintertime,  but I do make an effort to go outside with my children to play in the snow when it’s not crazy-cold.  We fill the bird feeders, walk behind the barn to see if the pond is frozen, move firewood or look for signs of deer in the trees around the milkhouse.  On particularly warm days, we may take a walk down the road.  Believe me when I say there’s nothing like a warm fireplace and steaming mug of cocoa after a busy day outdoors.

As I said, these are just a few suggestions as this topic is a mile wide and twice as deep.  Self-care is going to look different for everyone depending on climate and season of life, but we’re all worth the time and efforts to take care of ourselves!  These are a few of my favorites; what are your favorite self-care tips?

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