Self-care for people who don’t like self-care

21 August 2018

I think the question feature that Instagram rolled out a few months ago is one of the more fun things they’ve ever done, both because I like seeing other’s answers, and because I’ve enjoyed answering questions myself! Much like my annual survey, it’s also helpful for EFM research purposes: given the chance to ask anything, what are y’all most curious about?

The topic that sparked the most interest in my last question-answering burst was on self-care. It’s not really a topic I’ve delved into here, but as usual, I have thoughts! :)

on a walk

The original question: What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate self-care?

Y’all already know I don’t go in for many of the “classic” self care practices: I think baths take too long, my nails chip immediately after I paint them, face masks don’t do anything for me, I don’t like massages… basically, I’m a beautifying curmudgeon. (Though if I had unlimited funds, I would totally get a weekly blow-out… just saying :))

I think self-care is so much broader than its current buzzword status might have us believe, though. For me, it’s less of a list of things to work into my days or weeks, and more a strategy of putting together a life I love, one that I don’t feel like I need a respite from. As much as possible, I build my life from things that energize me instead of drain me, which often means cutting things out more than adding things.

So, what do I consider self-care?

— Evening walks with John. The combination of moving my body, clearing my head through conversation, and connecting with my favorite person will always be the ultimate in self-care for me.
— Hiking, a.k.a. walks in the woods
— Walking through a beautiful neighborhood (bonus points if it has historic homes and lovely gardens)
— Reading
— Writing, here on EFM or otherwise
— Connecting to the Lord, whether through prayer, worship, scripture, or Write the Word
— Seeing a fun project through from concept to completion (like my first day of fall scones – bonus points if I get the warm fuzzies from blessing other people!)
— Going out to eat at a favorite spot
— Date nights in and date nights out
— Watching a movie or show with John (the catch is that we have to both ONLY be watching, not multitasking!)

Many of these boil down to seeking adventure and beauty as often as possible, in as many ways as possible. To make room for those things, I circle back to the second half of the formula I mentioned above: cutting out things that drain me. When I’m caring for myself well, I don’t feel burdened by a to do list, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time on things that don’t matter to me, and there aren’t tasks I’m dreading looming over my head.

I don’t always succeed at this, but I do have a three-pronged strategy for lessening the burden of the more mundane parts of life:

— First, like I mentioned above, I cut out or batch as many undesirable tasks as possible. I grocery shop just once a week. I get by with the bare minimum in cleaning. I generally don’t binge watch shows, and I try very hard not to spend mindless time scrolling on social media. I make several day’s worth of lunches in one evening.
— Second, for anything that has to stay on my plate, I try to make it as enjoyable as possible. In the words of Mary Poppins, “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun!” :) I turn on music while cleaning. I work in the yard side-by-side with John. I listen to podcasts while running errands.
— Third, if there’s just no way to make something “fun,” I do my best to think of it as part of my calling, something that can either be seen as a burden or a privilege — and that choice is mine.

My parents modeled for me that certain duties are just that – duties. There’s no point in railing against the unfairness of taking out the trash, because it’s just a part of life, and you’ll make yourself a lot more miserable if you gnash your teeth every time you have to do it instead of just doing it. (I feel like I’m literally quoting my Dad here, ha!) I do my fair share of griping, let’s be clear, but I’m much happier when I just dispense with the task at hand as quickly as possible.

And aren’t we lucky to have lives and families and chores to attend to? I have a daughter, so I GET to make lunches for her. I have a house, so I GET to clean the bathroom. With that mind shift, some of those undesirable tasks almost turn into a form of fulfilling, satisfying self-care! Almost :)

I’d love to know, what does self-care mean to you? How do you practically carry it out or make time for it? I would love to hear!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 21, 2018 1:29 pm

So at the start of this post, I thought to myself, “how does she not need self care? Doesn’t she get stressed by all the daily to-dos, or the mundane tasks that take up the week?” and then I finished reading. :)

That strategy of trying to think of it as your calling, or just finishing the task at hand as quickly as possible because it’s a duty speaks to me. I have a hard time finding the joy of the mundane tasks, and maybe that’s ok. Just do it and move on to the joy of bathing my kids, or reading my next book, or watching Big Bang Theory with my husband. :)

Thanks for this post!

August 21, 2018 1:32 pm

Love that you talked about changing perspective on the not-so-fun tasks! I am working on this when it comes to exercise – not always my favorite, but something I know I am lucky to be able to do!

Self care for me certainly changes with seasons of life. It almost always looks like prioritizing sleep and pushing myself to exercise. Right now it also includes walking to and from work and making time a couple nights a week for short FaceTime calls with my boyfriend, who just moved to another city to start medical school.

Abigail Murrish
August 21, 2018 4:12 pm

On a podcast I recently listened to, D.L. Mayfield mentioned that for her, self-care is about building resilience. That was a breakthrough for me. Self-care isn’t about indulging in guilty pleasures or feeling pampered or making space for “me time.” It’s a about practicing habits that allow me to keep at the work (my job, marriage, church, neighborhood life, etc.) I’m called to do.

And for a little plug, here’s an article about what self-care looks like for me:

Kelly Strawberry
August 21, 2018 5:30 pm

As always, love your outlook on life and staying true to yourself and what you enjoy! It made me chuckle remembering a time when I clicked on your husband’s Instagram, and he had a picture of you taking a picture of a random house on a walk in Charleston or somewhere like that. The commentary was “Emily’s idea of a great vacation.” LOL!

I like to turn ordinary things into a “treat”…for example, I consider San Pelligrino to be a special drink so whenever I drink one it feels like I’m treating myself. Magazines are a treat. Basically anything can be a treat if I label it a treat

Secondly, I like to keep things light. For me, I can get bogged down by the weight of the world if I let myself, so I try to stay as carefree and humorous as possible. Sending hilarious memes or random funnies throughout the day to my husband via Facebook messenger is our thing. My work environment is basically a real-life, never-ending episode of The Office, so it’s pretty easy to find the humor in the every day. :)

August 22, 2018 1:31 pm

What an insightful, refreshing post! I once heard a researcher on a podcast say that humans don’t give their brains enough time to wonder. We are always working, thinking, creating, conversing, consuming, etc. As someone who gets giddy over checking things off my to-do list, I’ve found that simply giving myself a time to let my brain turn off and just wonder wherever it wants to is my truest form of self-care. While it can seem odd at first, when I fit in even just 30 minutes a week I’m a much kinder, creative, and relaxed me :)

August 22, 2018 5:03 pm

I love how you describe self-care. Particularly your love of taking walks! I feel the same way.

August 22, 2018 5:26 pm

I felt like I was reading my own thoughts on the subject! My ways of self-care are so similar to yours, in addition to batch processing lunches!
What I have found to be most essential for me personally is having some time to do nothing but putz around at the end of the day. Sometimes I clean the dishes, usually I eat cookies, and other times I’ll mindlessly scroll through Instagram. I realized that I needed this time of nothingness in order to feel sane when my toddler decided he would no longer go to bed at his bed time! After several days of such testing I feel, well, tested.

August 24, 2018 7:48 am

I love this! I feel like the term “self-care” has been co-opted by influencers to sell more beauty products… and that’s really not where I like to spend extravagantly! My self-care is exercise, specifically fitness classes. I guess I consider it self-care because it is something I have to intentionally do, and have to make room for (both in terms of time and budget) and it’s something I do just for me. Everyone told me I wouldn’t have time after I had a baby, but I’ve found it is essential for my mind and mood, so I get it done before the baby gets up :)

August 24, 2018 9:02 am

I absolutely love this Em, and I love that self care looks so different for everyone.
I am a sucker for a good pamper – so a massage, a manicure and a blow-dry are some of my favorites but also quiet time and me-time because life is so crazy busy and loud. x

August 24, 2018 9:25 am

My self-care definition: taking care of myself so that I can be my best self in work, in life, in my relationships with others. I agree with the commenter who mentioned that self-care has almost become synonymous with beauty products and treatments. I know that works for some people, and I’ll admit, I do love a good face mask. A couple of things that have become essential to my self-care routine over the past few years: weekly sessions with my therapist, guided meditations, regular exercise, limiting my social media use and going to bed REALLY REALLY EARLY. I’ve noticed that doing these things makes me happier, and and less likely to snap at people close to me. Whenever I start to get cranky or agitated, I think about whether I’ve made time for self-care or not.