A dear friend wrote me an email a few months back asking for my advice on self care. She pointed out that her mom never really treated herself to new clothes, makeup or spa services even when her family was in a position to, and now that she has a son, she is struggling with how to take care of herself because she never saw self care modeled. What really stood out to me was her concern that her son would grow up thinking it was "okay and expected for women to take care of everyone but themselves.” I was struck by what a real and important thought this really is for all of us as moms - trying to be superwoman, doing everything for everyone, is wonderful, but you are a living role model and example, and there is equal importance in showing your little ones how to care for oneself.
The truth is, I am pretty new to the “self care” thing. I did have a good example of it, growing up, it just took a backseat to my addiction for a long time. For a decade, my disposable income was largely allocated to the maintenance of a fully-stocked bar and medicine cabinet. I dyed my own hair using L’Oreal’s Feria (available in a box, at Target, for $10) and I cut my hair about twice a year when I’d had too much wine and “needed a change" using kitchen shears. My anxiety controlled my hands - I bit my fingernails until they bled, picked mercilessly at my cuticles and cracked my fingers so often my knuckles were swollen. I never, ever, ever slept. I worked full-time, helped run a nonprofit organization (another near-full time job), devoted as much time as I could to my family and smooshed a social life in between. I never exercised. Adderall made my heart rate so high that if I spent more than five minutes on a treadmill I felt like I was going to have a heart attack… So, the gym wasn’t really an option. I could’ve afforded self care, I just never felt particularly worthy of it. It seemed counterproductive to reward myself when I knew I was slowly destroying my body. I didn’t feel I deserved things like a massage or a mani/pedi. In fact, the day before my wedding was the first pedicure I’d ever had. In my life.
When I entered treatment a year and a half ago, I was introduced to meditation. Every morning, we had the option of participating in a ten-minute meditation and once a week, an hour-long guided “open heart meditation” was offered. Inclined to take advantage of everything that was offered to me, I signed up for all of it.
Meditation was very challenging for me at first. I struggled with quieting the trillion thoughts flying around in my head. I am distractible by nature, so, I would be sitting in a room with others meditating and the slightest creak in the floor or the person next to me shifting position would pull me right out of my focus. With some determination and careful attention to some of the tips shared with me, I slowly got the hang of it and it has been a true gift in my life ever since.
Benefits of Meditation
People have been meditating for thousands of years. It presents itself in a wide range of cultural traditions and religious/spiritual practices in a variety of forms but at it’s essence, meditation is about mindfulness, elevated consciousness and a freeing of one’s thoughts. Meditation is a brilliant stress reliever and can help manage emotions in the heat of the moment. Once you have learned to meditate, you will find yourself pausing in the midst of an argument or a moment of high anxiety to take deep breaths and re-focus your mental energies. This practice can decrease blood pressure and lower cholesterol, increase blood and oxygen flow throughout the body and improve sleep. I was amazed at how much better I slept once I began meditating.
How to Get Started
In the beginning, finding a calm, quiet place is paramount. Getting physically comfortable is equally important. Find a position that feels natural to your body - whether it’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting in a chair with your back supported and your hands in your lap or laying down, get comfy.
Start by using a guided meditation from YouTube or an app on your phone. Following someone else’s instructions can be soothing and provides good guidance for beginners.
Best Guided Meditations on YouTube
Best Meditation Apps of 2016
I try to meditate at least once every day and every night before bed. Now that meditation has become a ritual in my life, it’s easier to do it anywhere, anytime, with or without guidance. Sometimes, it’s sitting in my car outside the grocery store for ten minutes with my eyes closed. Sometimes, it’s in the middle of a Daisy meltdown, when I need five minutes to plop her in her Pack’n’Play and step out onto the deck to take a deep breath, breathe in some outdoor air, and collect myself. Your meditation practice will probably never look magazine- or YouTube-worthy, but, what matters is the benefits you reap internally. Good sleep and a quiet mind can be everything in the chaos of motherhood.
Take care of yourselves, lovely people. And try meditating. I promise you won’t be disappointed!