I get my hair done once every 8 weeks, and I recently started getting the occasional facial. I tell myself that’s enough, that the time and money is worth it because self-care is important. And it is. But if I’m really being honest, I still don’t feel like the new woman I think I should feel like after the a trip to the hair salon or the spa.
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And you know why? Because I have’t been doing self-care right.
Yes, getting a pedicure or going to the spa for the day is a nice respite. And having an evening alone with Amazon and your credit card, clicking “buy it now” to your heart’s content, is a thrill for sure.
But it’s not enough. We need more. We deserve more. And we should give ourselves more.
If you think your once a year weekend away with your BFF is enough self-care to last the whole year, think again.
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You, my dear, need to feed your soul with substance. What we tend to do as parents is put a Band-Aid on something and think it should get us through until we have time to come up for air. And by “have time,” I mean we’re able to squeeze in a quick Target run on 10:30 on a Wednesday night.
We are pushing aside bigger issues, our mental health and our overall well-being, and hoping a 30-minute pedicure or fancy latte will be a cure-all.
But let’s be real: things like shopping sprees, not cooking dinner, and taking a hot bath once a month are great and necessary to recharge a bit, but they alone don’t cut it. We wish they were long-lasting and kept us feeling like we weren’t going to crash and burn, but the truth is, the feelings of exhaustion and irritability keep returning so quickly for a reason.
If you are relying on nail polish and bubbles to fulfill all your self-care needs, you need to think deeper.
If you constantly put yourself last and feel you don’t have time (or a dime) to spare on your self, remember self-care needs to be a constant in your life in order for it to be effective — and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. How often are you grabbing the dog and going for a walk? Do you set aside time to read or listen to your favorite music regularly? When you need to talk to someone, instead of sending a text to your best friend, do you start emptying the dishwasher and assume you will catch up with him or her later?
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All too often we are pushing these little things aside, and before we know it, it feels like a big thing is missing from our lives and we are too tired to do anything about it.
The little things add up and make us feel healthy and whole, but so do the big things like asking for help when we need it. Is it hard? Yes. Do we hate asking and figure we can manage, and it’s probably easier if we just do it ourselves? Of course, we do. And by the time we have the mental takedown with ourselves, we’re so damn exhausted, that it’s easier to just shoo our needs away… again.
Ask for the support you need, and if you don’t get it the first time around, ask someone else. True self-care can be something as small as asking your trusted neighbor to watch your kids while you zip to the store, or something as big as asking your mom to take care of the kids for a weekend so you and your partner can tend to your marriage.
Seeking therapy is another thing we often dismiss even though we know we’d greatly benefit. We minimize our problems because we look at the person next to us who has overcome something difficult and think our problems pale in comparison, but they don’t.
There doesn’t have to be a huge traumatic or dramatic event happening in your life for you to benefit from therapy. Rather, it can be a great life-maintenance tool. Therapy can also be about learning how to cope with everyday stress, so that when complications do arise, you learn to deal with them in a healthy, proactive way. If you ask me, there’s no better way to care for yourself than that, though I do realize finances can be a limiting factor here.
Pursuing our passions is another thing we so often throw in our “someday” pile.
But guess what? Someday is right now. There is always going to be a reason to put your dreams off. Someone will always need braces, or be sick, or have a birthday coming up.
There will always be crumbs to clean up, dishes to do, and laundry to fold. If those things don’t get done, in the long run, it won’t matter.
Taking care of yourself isn’t an outside job. It’s not solely about getting a rub down or soaking your feet, wearing new jeans or eating your greens. It’s an inside job, too.
If you’re constantly shoving your bigger needs aside and thinking some new eyeshadow will cut it, you’re going to keep spending your money in the wrong place and not get the results you’re hoping for.
Our hearts and minds need self-care too. An hour at the hair salon is well-deserved, but if our hearts and minds are telling us they need more, we need to make every attempt to listen. We can’t pour from an empty cup.
A version of this article originally appeared on http://www.scarymommy.com/self-care-needs/