Self care is often a fleeting experience, as there is an unspoken pressure in our society for us to continually do more, to push more, to hustle more. We unknowingly estimate our worth with how busy we are and how much we can produce. We are celebrated and honoured by how much we have sacrificed and how much we do for others.
As a mental health therapist, I specialize in women’s mental health and I see this pattern often. I see women trying to be the perfect mothers, partners, daughters, sisters and friends and I often wonder, when did they begin to put themselves last? When did they forget about themselves all together? How long were they planning on doing this for? And at what cost?
The idea of self-care is loosely thrown around as something that we must incorporate into our already busy lives, and many people do not necessarily know what self-care is and how they can begin to incorporate it into their lives.
There are many ways you can begin practicing self-care and here are my top 5 tips (plus a bonus one!) for doulas that may help you along the way. If you don’t about doula then read about what is doula?
1. Give yourself permission to slow down.
If are working on improving your self-care practice, I encourage you to begin by finding little pockets of time throughout the day to slow down and notice your breath. This will allow you to gently challenge the speed of your life with micro breaths throughout the day. You can then begin to introduce calm breaths, or gentle breaths, which will naturally train your brain to want to incorporate more moments of calmness in your life.
2. Listen to yourself.
Once you incorporate these calmer breaths throughout the day, this will give you the opportunity to begin noticing your internal voice. This voice has always been there, but it may have become quieter (maybe even silent) when the busyness of life takes over. As you begin to hear this voice, pay close attention to what this voice is thinking and feeling.
3. Ask yourself – what do I need in my self care practice?
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to hear yourself, make sure to ask simple and effective questions: How do I want my self-care practice to look like? What do I want to incorporate in my self-care practice? Who do I need support from to practice self-care? This process will allow you to begin hearing your self-care wants and needs that may have been silent for a while.
4. Begin to create your self care toolkit.
Give yourself permission to begin creating your own personalized self-care toolkit. Get creative! Your care can vary and can include many things unique to you. You could enjoy tea, a bath, a walk, a funny YouTube video. Your self-care could also include having someone help you with laundry, take out the dishes from the dishwasher, or make you a cup of coffee in the morning. And yes, it can absolutely include a massage, dinner out with your friends, or a road trip somewhere new.
5. Tell others about your self care needs.
Self-care is not necessarily a process that is done independently. I believe we work best in collaboration and we need one another for support. When you begin to hear your self-care wants and needs you can begin to tell others as well with the hopes of finding support on your journey. Perhaps you may need someone to support you in having 15 minutes of quiet time or 20 minutes to go for a walk. Perhaps you need someone to take care of your children while you go have dinner with friends once or twice a month.
BONUS TIP: Practice makes permanent.
Yes, practice makes permanent. You may have heard that “practice makes perfect” and that doesn’t set us up for success. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about creating healthy practices that are sustainable. In order to begin practicing self-care, practice definitely does make permanent. There is no reason to feel selfish. You have the most to offers others when you’re feeling well taken care of and that has to start and end with you. Begin incorporating self-care moments into your week, the same way you would incorporate meetings or other to-do’s in your life. The more you practice and learn to love self-care, the more you will need it in your life, and the more people will begin to respect your self-care time.
Remember that self-care, like any other practice, builds on itself. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get through all of the steps I mentioned above. Start with #1 and spend as much time as you need there until you are ready to add in another. You might even find that you move back and forth between a couple of these tips – noticing new things about yourself and then incorporating them into your daily routine. And think of your daily routine as a fertility, birth or postpartum plan that you would make for a client. You know that you are fiercely dedicated to making sure your client gets all of their needs met right?! Right! So, with that logic in mind, then you know that you have the strength within you to do that for yourself.
So, tell me, what practice are you going to start today?! Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on and celebrate you too!
Fernanda Villanueva M.S.W., R.S.W is a mental health therapist. Fernanda has been working in women’s mental and reproductive health for over 10 years. She is the founder of Bloom Therapy Toronto where she provides individual therapy and consulting services in Toronto and the GTA.
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