A while back I started to take care of myself. It’s a pity it took me so long to realize the fundamental role of self care. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was around the time I hit my mid thirties, that I realized the following quote, “you can’t pour out of an empty cup”, was speaking directly to me.
So simple and obvious, yet so difficult to practice. We continue to take care of others, and even things before we take care of our own needs. Whether it’s our children, family, friends, work, or our home, something besides our-SELF gets precedence.
I’ll admit, in the past I have been guilty of ironing out wrinkles throughout the day, infact, all day, so that my family’s lives would run smoothly, productively, and stress free. Although I don’t believe there is anything wrong with loving to take care of your family; I do it with great passion. The problem lay in the fact that it was all happening while I crashed each night falling into a deeper state of self neglect. Without realizing it, my efforts were slowly becoming counterproductive.
Over time, my mornings became harder, my nights restless, my emotions unregulated, and my mood unpredictable. My body begged for more time and energy, my mind for calm and stillness, and my soul for connection and meaning.
My children who are the spark in my life, always had me around, but unfortunately not the whole of me. Instead, they had different versions of me: the tired me, the cranky me, the sleepy me, the if you say another word I’ll fall apart me. In a nutshell, they had variations of the physical me, but were void of the mental, emotional side that made me their mommy.
Self care is something I’ve learned to incorporate into my life. It feels good to feel good. It’s not in vain, it’s not selfish, it’s not guilt laden any more. I’m not sure when and why, but many women stop attending to themselves. I learned, albeit the hard way, the very acts that brought me joy, one of which was taking care of my family, instead, was turning into a struggle, a burden, something too difficult to continue with love anymore; something devoid of deeper meaning.
I had to change my ways. One, I changed my intentions; to please the Almighty in every action I take. And yes, as Muslims we know that in theory. But to consciously, mindfully be aware of my actions, and then verbalize or intend those actions throughout the day for His sake, didn’t come very easy. I trained myself to pause, reflect, intend, and then act. I put bright post-its around my house, notes in my car, reminders in my to do list, phone, and planners; all visuals that trained my mind to pause. Of course, I’m still a work in progress, but I am now able to be more mindful, to tell exactly when my actions are simply automatic motions, and that I need to stop, or simply slow down.
Intending for the sake of the Almighty, has of course made even the most cumbersome task worthwhile. In order to fulfill these actions for the sake of Allas swt, get rewarded for them, add meaning and energy to them, there’s one more crucial step; self care.
So, two, I started paying attention to my needs. I had to stop “pouring out from an empty cup'”. Let’s face it, if you are a mom, then you are tired! But also remember, you can always do something to feel less tired. Even though in baby steps, just giving back to myself has enabled me to be more present, and thus a better version of myself-spiritually, mentally and physically.
So here are some self care strategies I have incorporated into my world. Remember
it’s not the amount of time you spend doing all or any of whats mentioned, it’s the quality, and consistency that will determine the positive effects on your life.
Read, Read, Read
My love for books is a direct product of reading to my children when they were young. Story time, has become an important part of my own life. I love to read fiction, such as Islamic knowledge, self-help books, history, autobiographies, or even non fiction adventure novels, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, and especially the classics. I love to be frugal and so the Public Library has become one of my favorite hang outs.
There is something about water that intrigues me. I can spend hours just sitting by a body of water. I literally go through withdrawal if I haven’t spent a good amount of time outdoors in the week. Unfortunately, I don’t live by water, so many times I have to settle for the greenery around my neighborhood. Not that it’s any less effective. Research supports the positive effects of nature on the mind. Simple walks in the park, bike rides through a trail, and sometimes on overwhelming days, simply sitting outside in the garden for a few minutes does the trick.
Social Media EMBARGO
I do this practice quite often. I completely cut off all forms of social media. This is not a hard one for me. I love silence. I love to spend time alone, or with my family and loved ones. I love to be in seclusion and contemplate on where I am today, where I want to be, and what I’m doing about it. Consequentially, this time alone also is where I reflect on my spiritual growth the most. What am I doing for my soul? Am I stagnant in my worship? am I developing my relationship with Allah swt or am I simply living day to day in automatic?
This practice is a new one for me. I always read up on the elevating effects of essential oils on mood, but never really invested in it. I recently bought an oil diffuser and some essential oils that have boosting effects, decrease stress, and just make my home smell absolutely awesome! I now wonder why I didn’t start this practice sooner. There is a tonne of information out there on safe use and how to choose oils. Be sure to read up.
Whether it’s through listening to lectures that inspire me, reading quotes, or versus from the Quran or Hadith, I absolutely love to immerse myself in inspirational words. Each day the world really works hard to break us down. Whether through current world events, family demands, and other life stressors feelings of sadness, anxiousness, loneliness, stress, burden, and hopelessness are few that can easily hijack our emotional state. That is precisely why reinforcing my brain with positive words is very important to me. It allows me to break the shackles of negativity and realize that Hope is an integral part of my religion.
Finally, remember don’t start big, just be consistent. Love it, enjoy it, and look forward to it. You deserve it!