January can be a difficult month. The days are cold, short and often gloomy. And I don’t know about your kids, but mine are grumpy about the transition back into school after the winter break. We spend less time outside and more time consuming media. Too much bad news–and lately, politics–can drive anxiety, frustration, anger and irritation.
To be honest, I never used to make personal days—or mental health days—a priority. But I’ve learned that no matter how many to-do lists I conquer, another task or assignment never fails to pop up and flag down my attention. When I begin to feel drained, impatient, less creative and annoyed more than I feel inspired, enthusiastic and productive, I know that a personal day is needed. But I try not to wait until it gets to that point. Besides I’ve noticed that when I block out time on the calendar for myself, I have something to look forward to and I end up being more productive than ever.
Logistics. If you can’t find a week day, schedule a weekend morning or afternoon for yourself. If you’re a stay-at-home mom with youngsters who aren’t in school yet, find a babysitter to come in for a few hours. If that’s not possible, take time for yourself when your husband is home to take over childcare. Consider swapping babysitting care with another mom. Also, check to see if there’s a reputable drop-in child care center in your area where you feel comfortable leaving your kiddos for a couple of hours.
**Most of all don’t feel guilty. When you give time to yourself, you’re better at giving more focused time and attention to the ones you love. Need inspiration? Here are a few self-care ideas (just remember that the idea is to do something you want to do, not something you feel you should do):
Sleep. Take a nap or sit with your eyes closed for a little while. Rest is restorative both mentally and physically.
Read. Buy a cup of coffee or tea and sit in your local bookstore reading inspiring magazines or books. If you can’t get away, light the fireplace and park yourself on your couch to read. If your kids want to snuggle up next to you, tell them they need to bring their books too because you need silence.
Practice yoga. I’ve found yoga to be a grounding activity that supports the body and the spirit. Drop into a yoga class at a studio you’ve never visited before.
Pamper yourself. Take yourself shopping, out for a manicure and/or pedicure, or schedule a hair appointment. Buy some yummy smelling bath salts and take a warm bath. When we feel good on the outside, we feel good on the inside.
Go see a movie. There’s something freeing about sitting in a movie by yourself where you can sink in and enjoy it without worrying if your friend or spouse likes it or not.
Rewatch your favorite movie. Have the house to yourself? Fix yourself a snack and re-watch an old favorite. (Mine is “My Fair Lady.” I drove my family crazy after I rewatched it because I was singing and humming my favorite songs for days afterwards—I’m not known for my singing abilities.)
Visit a boutique. Personally, there’s something about those artistically crowded displays in local boutiques that appeal to my imagination.
Play with art. Relax in a ceramics cafe and paint. Find a space in your home where you can retreat to paint, collage, color, draw, write from a list of prompts, journal, scrapbook or sew.
Cook. Make a soup or another hearty winter meal. Chopping vegetables and making a healthy meal for your family is a meditative act of love.
Bake. Warm your home with the smell of bread, cookies or another treat baking.
Walk outside. Find a trail and take a hike. Inhale the sharp chill of winter and the smell of pine and fireplaces burning. Watch for wildlife and listen to the crunching and snapping of the sticks and leaves beneath your feet.
Practice a random act of kindness. Doing something thoughtful and unexpected for someone else will make both you and the other person feel good.
What do you do for self-care? Why is it important to you?