“If you are traveling with a small child or someone who needs your assistance, please put on your mask first before assisting others”.
For those of us who travel, we have heard these words more times than we can count. So much so, we rarely pay attention to them when we are on our flights. We are settling our kids in or sending those last few text messages or emails before the flight attendant walks by and asks us to turn off our electronics. We aren’t paying attention, but rather occupied with other things.
I’ve been overwhelmed lately. With this new move and readjusting to life in Mali, experiencing a learning curve with this new position, plus having a teenager now – things are a bit much. And when things get this way, I often forget to take care of myself.
Amid this chaos, I am learning the necessity of making sure I am caring for myself. Not just spa days and afternoon wine, but making sure that I am emotionally well and present for my child.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I notice how the boy mirrors my moods and irritability. And because I’m frustrated with work or life in general, I act out which causes him to act out and then everybody is mad, hurt, and upset. And that’s no bueno.
But I’m sick of that cycle. I am making more intentional efforts to take better care of myself and take time out to do this.
So, I’ve come up with 5 ways I am working on making sure I come first so that I can show up and be a good mom for my son.
Create a morning routine
Every morning, I wake up and do the same 2 or 3 things. To do this, I try to wake up a little early, sometimes an hour before I wake up the boy. In those quiet moments, I try to do something that creates a positive beginning to my day.
Right now, my routine is stretching, meditating for 10-15 minutes using the Calm App, and make a cup of tea. I’m able to reflect and have this space for myself to set my intentions of how I’m going to move through the day.
Sometimes I don’t wake up in time and can’t go through that routine, but I find ways to still start positively. This can mean making my cup of tea to go, dancing it out to music as I’m showering or getting dressed, or writing in my journal quickly before I head out. Sometimes I find something on Instagram to laugh at or find inspirational, but I have stopped doing that because time can often get away from me and I end up running out the door like a madwoman.
It doesn’t really matter what you are doing, but just taking time out to do something that feeds you spiritually or emotionally is key.
Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Passion Planners. I’ve been using them since we were in Japan and they have helped me not only to keep track of my appointments, but they have helped me plan and organize my goals.
They have a mind map at the beginning of each one that helps you plan out goals for yourself at 3-month, 1-year, 3-year, and lifetime marks. And each month, you create a goal for yourself to accomplish, breaking it down into tasks that help you meet the goal. They also have monthly reflections to help you assess how well you’re doing and where you need to pivot and change your plans.
Doing this helps me to keep the big picture in mind. It keeps me focused on things that I’m working toward and reminding me that it is possible to achieve something great and amazing if you break it down into manageable parts. (I refer to this with my students as “eating an elephant”)
Check-ins with friends and family
Being overseas can be lonely. Especially when I feel super isolated in my school, having no “team”, being the only person in my role. Checking in with friends and family helps me to keep those connections even if I’m on the other side of the planet and make me feel not so alone.
But also, having regular FaceTime dates with the people who know me best, remind me of who I am and all that I’ve accomplished. This is particularly important when I am frustrated by those who don’t see my worth. It’s like the foggy mirror has been cleaned and I can see who I am again.
While the internet connection doesn’t always cooperate, I try my best to stay consistent in some way. If things are busy and I can’t talk, I send texts or voice notes to let my people know I’m thinking of them and they do the same. I really hope they know how much those check-ins mean to me.
Incorporate more lazy days
Hustle culture has us thinking that we must always be doing something, working toward something, or constantly “crushing goals”. But sometimes we need to rest and have days where we do absolutely nothing.
I am a HUGE fan of lazy days (or weekends) where nothing happens. We veg out on Netflix, we eat comfort food, and we take all the naps. These days help to restore me and gives me a break from the quick and stressful pace of work and life.
I do have to keep an eye on this one tho. There are times where it becomes a lazy week and then I’m stressed out trying to catch up on work. Needing rest and allowing your body and mind to do so is great, but I have to be aware of when it’s helpful and when it’s becoming a symptom of procrastination and avoidance.
Do more things that make you happy
Sometimes our jobs don’t make us happy. And that is okay. Sometimes we need to carve out time in our schedules for things that bring us joy.
Some years ago, I set out to write a list of 100 things that made me happy. That created not only space where I am actively seeking out things that bring joy into my life, but also it put me in a space where I was present to recognize that feeling and experience it.
Now, I refer to that list when I am not feeling emotionally well and I seek out the things that I can find on that list. While it may not be appropriate for me to try to smell the head of a stranger’s baby, I can blow bubbles or find some really good food to eat.
In being more mindful of my moods and my ever-changing emotional state, I am relying on that list a little more these days. I can say, it does make a difference when I am seeking out happiness in the world around me.
Self-care doesn’t always look like getting a mani-pedi or taking the day off to go shopping. Self-care for me is just being aware of my emotional and physical state and how it’s being affected by things and people around me. And then doing something to correct that and bring me back to a more neutral and comfortable state.
Our work lives and just the state of the world can sometimes take us off our mark. But if we are intentional with how we are going to respond to the challenges that present themselves in our life, we can not only get ahead of it, but we can also be preventative with caring for ourselves more regularly so that we can be present for those in our lives.
Caring for myself not only benefits me, but my son also sees what it’s like to take care of yourself. He notices when my mood has shifted and I show him the steps I take in order to recalibrate. He sees how to take care of yourself in a healthy way, and while I am not perfect and make mistakes in my parenting, I want him to see what self-regulation looks like so that he begins to do this for himself.
Having a teenager is an emotional rollercoaster. My self-care is not only to be able to manage his emotions, but to help him find ways through them as well. I want him to know that having big emotions and strong reactions to things is okay. But knowing that having big reactions to everything is not the norm. My showing him the ways I care for myself, I want to give him he tools to manage his emotions as well and be accountable for them.