Self-care, or prioritizing your own needs so that you can show up better for your family and your life, is an important piece of being a conscientious, mindful parent. Yet, for many of us, the notion of self-care conjures up images of long baths, nights out with friends, chocolate, and glasses of wine.
Much of what we think of as self-care – small actions that we take with the intention of upleveling our happiness – is externally focused. I want to start a movement of parents who are taking the time to practice reflective self-care and developing their own practices by focusing their attention inward.
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Reflective self-care is the process of turning your attention inward and noticing what’s happening in your body and mind so that you can choose a deliberate course of action that will contribute either to your mental, physical, or emotional health. It’s not impulsive. It’s a deliberate, two-step process that helps you determine what you actually need to feel your best.
Step 1: Find time to engage in a reflective practice every day.
This may mean getting up a little bit earlier or asking for a little bit more help so you can take twenty minutes to write, meditate, or go for a walk.
The form of the practice can vary from person to person. I am a writer, so writing is my go-to for a daily practice. My husband finds daily meditation to be the most beneficial practice for him. The key is to choose a practice that will allow you to observe and take note of your thoughts, your emotions, and the sensations in your body.
Once you have connected with your mind, body, and emotions for the day, write down what you’ve uncovered. Even if your discovery process does not include writing them out, jot them down so you have a running record and you can start to see patterns.
For each observation you write down, ask yourself if that thought, emotion, or sensation is something that is supportive of how you want to show up for your life. Ask yourself, do I want to continue to believe or experience this? Your answer will help you decide what sort of self-care you need.
Step 2: Choose your self-care activities based on the discoveries made in your reflective practice.
Do you have a pattern of tightness in your neck and shoulders? Persistent headaches? Do you struggle with fatigue and exhaustion? Do your thoughts revolve around your to-do list, or all the things you “should” be doing with your time?
I ask these specific questions because these are the observations that come up regularly for me. These are the patterns that have guided me to embrace the following model of self-care:
- I go to bed early.
- I try to get to the root of my “shoulds” and work on my underlying beliefs.
- I make a point of moving my body daily, spending time outdoors, and stretching my neck and shoulders often.
- I choose my food for fuel, not for comfort.
- I take adaptogenic herbs to support my body in recovering from stress.
- I write. Again and again, I write.
My self-care is not glamorous. But every one of these actions supports me in feeling resourced and balanced, calm and energized.
Do you engage in reflective self-care? What practices has it led you to?
Get Started With Reflective Self-Care
Are you ready to dive in? I’ve created a free download with five reflective writing prompts to help you go deeper with your self-care practices.
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