I read something today that spoke to me deeply. It’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I’d frankly (haha) never heard before:
“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
That quote made me think about my word for this year. Every year on New Year’s for the past couple of years, I’ve thought of the word that will define my goals for the upcoming year.
This year my word was: HEAL.
Over the past decade (basically since I started having kids), I’ve been running a million miles an hour, and not taking care of myself. Maybe you feel that way, too?
Me with my middle daughter at the park a few years ago:
Between taking care of the house, the kids, career goals, pregnancy, baby loss, and all the other things in between, I got lost in the cracks there somewhere. I stopped caring for myself. I put so much of myself into my kids and my family that I didn’t even recognize myself anymore when I looked into the mirror.
Last spring, I came to a breaking point when I went through my fourth pregnancy loss. At the time, I was working on my author business around the clock, while homeschooling my kids full-time, and taking care of my energetic toddler. The pregnancy was a welcome surprise, and then when it ended towards the end of the first trimester, I was devastated. But like a good soldier, I kept on…until I just couldn’t go on anymore.
My health deteriorated, to the point I was in a wheelchair. I was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease, and I was depressed, full of anxiety, and overweight. When I found myself pregnant again in the fall, I was so happy – but then came the severe morning sickness, and I was still wheelchair bound trying to care for my four children.
But when you’re a mom – you don’t get days off. Even when you are drowning, you have to keep going…and smiling! Don’t forget to smile! Ha!
All of this to say – I was depleted and exhausted. Although I’d just achieved my dream a few months prior of having four books on the USA Today Bestseller’s list (under my romance pen name) – I found I couldn’t write a word. I was done. I was so deep in depression, I could barely function. I cut myself off from my friends and family – and I felt like each day was a struggle just to get to bedtime.
So, around Christmas, I made a decision to take my life back. To stand up and reclaim my health and happiness. To put myself first for once – for the first time in over a decade. I started practice what I like to call radical self-care. It was me loving myself and mothering myself, as I should have been doing all along.
What did my self-care plan look like?
1 – I stripped down my to-do list and stopped listening to all the shoulds that ran me ragged.
2 – I took an interest in my nutrition, and started tracking my food on a daily basis.
3- I started drinking 80 oz. of water/day (10 cups).
4- I got the right vitamins for my body and actually took them! (Remembering to take them is half the battle.)
5- I quit caffeine for GOOD! This was huge for me, and someday (soon) I’ll write about how I finally did it. I’d been a goal of mine for years, and I’m happy to say I’ve been without caffeine for over five months now.
6- I let the kids help me around the house. I was done being superwoman. They could learn to unload the dishwasher, help with laundry, and take out the trash. Even my two year old got a job she loves: feeding the dog!
7- I let my needs be known. No more pretending to have it all together – I started to practice gentle honesty and set boundaries with others.
8-I prioritized sleep by getting to bed at a reasonable hour (even when the dishes weren’t done) and made my bedroom peaceful and relaxing.
9- I stopped following people on social media who made me feel bad about myself. Even though it wasn’t their fault, I couldn’t help comparing my insides to their outsides – so I stripped back my social media use. That alone helped my anxiety so much! In fact, I left Facebook and Twitter completely! What a relief that’s been. 🙂
10- I gave myself grace. I realized that I don’t have to have it all together now, or at any point in the future. I’m still here – flawed and doing just fine. I don’t have to be the perfect wife or mother. I’m not living my life for anybody else. The person putting pressure on me is often ME – and I can be my own best friend instead of biggest critic.
So – there you have it! Those are a few of the things I’m focusing on during my Year of Healing. I have come so far these past months, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever go back to my frantic and self-critical ways.
Me with my oldest daughter at the beach a few months ago, in the middle of my radical self-care journey:
So how are things now?
The weird thing is that I just had a baby – and I feel less stressed than I did a year ago. My son is the most laid-back child (so far) I’ve ever had, and I have to wonder if all my self-care over the course of his pregnancy had something to do with it. Maybe it did – maybe it didn’t!
Anyhoo – I challenge you, if you are in a tough place and feeling run-down, to take some time to really care for yourself. Radical self-care is not about bubble baths and chocolate squares while hiding in the bathroom. (Although I’ve been there, too.) It’s about loving yourself in a fundamental way so that you can put your own needs first. You are a person, and you deserve love and care. We have to give love to ourselves before we can look for it from others.
Be well and talk to you soon.
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