In my early twenties retail therapy, manicures and coffee shop sit and sips were my thing. I had my hair blown dry a few times a month at the salon and power walked along the seawall a few times a week. We were stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California and apart from the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments, life felt almost as breezy as the coastal town we called home. Things shifted when we PCS’d and became parents. Our responsibilities grew and the margin for personal interests and intentional care practices became thinner. By the time we had our second and third who were our two under two, the goal for many of my days were to simply, yet lovingly meet their needs and put dinner on the table with what little sleep I received the night before. If I washed my hair at least once a week, I considered things golden.
This year I’ll be thirty-six and our jelly beans are now 10, 6 and 5. Life isn’t any less busy and if I were being completely transparent, I feel we’re in the thick of it right about now. That thick of life where we’re juggling a smorgasbord of life and career possibilities alongside our regular daily responsibilities and activities. Is it really time to retire or do we stick it out to thirty? What looks best for our family and how can we possibly make an informed decision when both paths are filled with uncertainty (one more than the other, but still?) Though I don’t have a solid answer for any of that at the moment, I can commit to an intent that just might serve me well through the swing of life and my middle thirties.
The middle thirties have been a pivotal point in my timeline. There’s been more changes in my body, hair and skin than at any time before, even after pregnancy. None of the three are as elastic as they once were and I find myself now more than ever engaging in restorative practices. Looking back at my twenties, all the exercising and everything else I’d classify as self care today were done for fun and not for rejuvenation. There weren’t that many stressors in that period, in fact, I don’t think I was that aware of the term. Today, the stressors are there and so is the busyness and if I commit to restorative practices I’d like to believe I can better handle the challenges that are present in my middle life.
For someone you know, self care might be a warm bubble bath with scented candles and a locked door. For you it might be the company of a good book in the corner of your favorite coffee shop. For me it’s a combination of these small, mostly daily tasks that center myself and reduce stress.
- A daily skin care routine. There’s a special basket on the bathroom countertop that holds all the skin care products I use throughout the day. My daily regimen includes cleanser, micellar water, eye de-puffer and cream for my face and eyes.
- Hair care. I used to hate washing my hair because of how much it hurt to comb through it afterwards. I thought about using conditioner again for a while, but always put it back on the shelf because of the extra cost. I finally gave in and bought a bottle and my strands feel much softer an pliable. The second game changer was the wet brush. My hair stylist recently used it on me and I knew I had to have one. It makes such a difference to my curly, sometimes tangled hair.
- Movement is a priority. When I don’t use it, I start to lose it. The joints start to ache and the body just feels so stiff when I don’t make movement a daily priority. I do what I can, when I can at home and when our schedule allows, I go to the gym for the treadmill and elliptical. These days I don’t exercise to become many dress sizes smaller, I exercise to maintain health and mobility. Over Christmas break we watched “Limitless” with Chris Hemsworth and guest Peter Attia said something I will forever store in my back pocket. “We don’t stop moving because we get old. We get old because we stop moving.”
- Qigong and yoga are my non-negotiables. These two could be grouped with movement, but they’re so special to me that they deserve a section of their own. Yoga helps avert back pain and qigong brings an indescribable peace. The kids certainly think it’s silly when they see me practicing, but I do it anyway.
- I let my mind unwind. With the exceptions of the weekend, I read every evening before bed. If I have a moment throughout the day I’ll work on a jigsaw puzzle. The 1,000 piece puzzles are my favorite and we have a handy storage caddy that allows for easy movement.
- I wet my plants. I’m so smitten with indoor plants. I always thought I’d be a terrible plant owner until I actually gave it a try. My green leafed buddies provide a consistent hobby and they add such a pleasantness to the backdrop of our home (in my opinion at least.)
- I embrace the heat. The sauna at the gym was one of my favorite places in my early twenties and I’m revisiting that love again today. The dry heat is such a tonic and in the small, wooden room any of that day’s stress or even the week’s just melts away.
I think the term self care is sometimes associated with activities of self-indulgence, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It’s not indulgent to care for your well being. I encourage you to find what works with you in the current season you’re in. Small tasks to help center yourself and reduce stress.