It was out of my struggle with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder that my relentless commitment to self-care was born. I can now say, I feel grateful for my experience, as out of that crisis came tremendous personal growth. I understand that not everyone views their experience with a PMAD this way, and I want to validate and honor that too.
Think of a pebble in a slingshot. When you pull the slingshot back, it looks like a huge regression, but, when the tension is released, it will send that pebble further ahead than if it was never pulled back to begin with. We are the pebble. Our growth lies in our ability to move straight through whatever challenge or crisis and do the work to propel ourselves out of the regression, putting us further ahead on our journeys than we were before the crisis hit.
As I was digging myself out of the depths of PPA, I did a lot of personal work, which acted as momentum to push me forward. A key element of this work was approaching self-care as a lifestyle, necessity, and everyday practice. I knew in order to get and stay healthy, I needed to let go of the myth that self-care is a luxury. You might say to yourself, “I don’t have time for that.” I did too, once. But the truth is, once I realized it was critical to my well-being, and, by extension, that of my family, I leaned in.
I now know that small self-care practices done consistently make way more of an impact on our well-being than big things done occasionally. While vacations, massages, and manis are delightful, I find that I am not able to do those things often and I get much more of a “bang for my buck” by doing smaller things regularly. For example, prepping my coffee maker the night before so I just have to push one button when I wake up is a gift I give to myself daily. Laying out my workout clothes before I go to bed makes my mornings go more smoothly and reduces a barrier to getting to the gym. Having a meditation corner in my room with a simple candle and beautiful pillow is another way I honor myself and carve out time to be still (even if it’s just 5 minutes).
I moved away from thinking of self-care as “pampering” and began to view it more comprehensively in terms of how I could show love and care to my body, mind, and spirit. That might look like taking some alone time to write, snuggling up with a hot pack, letting go of an unhealthy relationship, daydreaming, or saying no to a potential commitment.
I have found an approach to self-care that works for me. In times of stress, I find I need to do more self-care. What works for me now might not work as well in the future. This is an evolving process, but one I have committed to continue to pursue.
What does your self-care regimen look like? Do you have one? Would you like to expand your self-care toolbox? How might your life transform if you did?
Jessica Juergens, M.Ed. is a Life Coach, Blogger at www.theselfcaremama.com, Postpartum Anxiety Survivor, and Self-Care Enthusiast. You can reach her at jessica@theselfcaremama.com