In a time when we are all encouraged to practice self-care, whether as mothers, fathers, single, married, older, or younger, we are simultaneously pressured to find that nebulous ‘thing’ that helps each of us capture what will restore our weary souls. Then, if we do discover it, we must find a way to incorporate it into our lives. This task becomes all the more difficult when what feeds us is an allusive concept as easy to grasp as the fog on a rainy day.
For me, that ‘thing’ is creativity and it has become a lifeline during my last few years of transition into motherhood. What is creativity? According to Dictionary.com, create is defined as “to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.” I see creativity as acting on that definition.
There are a myriad of ways to be creative, to cause something to come into being. My favorite ways to express it tend to take place in the kitchen, on paper (computerized or otherwise), and with yarn. Given a quiet period of time – a key aspect – to turn random ingredients, a blank page, or a single string of yarn into something new is incredibly life-giving to me.
Recognizing what renews my spirit has helped me become a better wife and mom. Instead of operating at the end of myself, I prioritize a time to practice creativity each day. That allows me to exercise more patience with myself and everyone around me, to ground my feet in who God made me, and live out my best self instead of wallowing in comparisons.
Of course, for many the idea of creating something may be the farthest thing from self-care as a person could get. And that’s okay! It’s what makes self-care so personal. In the end, it is all about identifying how you as an individual find rest and renewal. What works so well for one person will drain another. We are unique and so are our needs.
What helped me identify expressing creativity as my best self-care routine was to pay attention to what made me feel like myself again. I find that as a mother, it was easy to lose myself in my new role, especially since this tiny human depended on me for everything. However, I am more than only a mother. I am also a wife. An author. A writing coach. And a host of other titles. Asking myself what reminded me of who I am at my core showed me the best way to practice self-care.
The more I have carved out time to express my creativity, the more I have worn my various hats with joy. That is a joy I hope to share with you.
How can you find what will provide life-giving rest? I have a few ideas.
1. Am I an Introvert or Extrovert?
I am an obvious introvert and motherhood has only brought out that aspect of my personality to a greater extent. An introvert is someone who needs time alone to recharge. An extrovert is someone who needs time with people to recharge. Both are equally valuable and knowing which you are is an important part of discovering what type of activity is best for your self-care. For example, as an introvert, quality alone time is vital for me to function. But for an extrovert, being around the right people will produce the same result. Do you know which you are?
There are a great many tests to help you discover whether you are an introvert or extrovert, but perhaps the simplest way is to pay attention to yourself. What I mean by that is, after you have spent time with a group of friends, are you counting the minutes before you can go home or are you dreading the way the second hand keeps marching its way toward the end of the event? Or, consider how you feel when alone in your house. Is it a welcome relief? One you can soak in for hours? Or do you begin checking your phone to see who wants to get together?
Perhaps those are extremes. Perhaps one describes you perfectly. Knowing what recharges you is the first step to identifying the best way to rejuvenate your spirit.
2. What do I miss most from before?
Before what? Ah, that is the question Self-care is not just for moms, though that is one of the most blatant ways I have learned its value. The answer to before could be before marriage, before the job change, before moving. The heart of the matter is what activity do you miss from before whatever it was that made you set that activity aside.
Change can shake up our priorities and sometimes, something that is beneficial must be sacrificed. For the sake of discovering the best type of self-care, it is important to recognize what activities to keep and the ones we can easily give up. Some activities may be good, but are not best. Identifying that nuance can help keep the line between self-care and selfishness from getting blurred.
I discovered creativity was what I missed most after the birth of my first child once given the opportunity to indulge it. I hadn’t realized just how much I not only missed the act of creating, but how much I longed for it. That set off a flashing red light and made me take note. Expressing creativity was something I couldn’t let slide.
3. What activity gives me the most satisfaction?
Satisfaction, happiness, contentment. Those were all feelings that filled me as I realized how much I had missed being creative Perhaps it won’t be so immediate for you. However, I think if you pay close attention, you’ll be able to figure out what activity gives you the most life. It’s hard to deny the intense joy you can feel when you’re doing what you were made to do.
If you’re struggling to discern what gives you joy, try beginning by simply asking yourself what activity provides you with the most satisfaction or contentment. Or, ask your partner or close friend to listen for certain key words, like, “Wow, I’ve missed this!” They might know even better what makes you smile.
Reality is, there are only so many hours in a day and various tasks must be set aside for the more important ones. Sacrificing self-care, however, will not help us be the best version of ourselves. So, ask yourself how you feel after an activity. If you feel drained, it is not your self-care activity (even if it is still one you must accomplish). But if you feel empowered, perhaps that is an activity to prioritize.
4. Why did I stop doing that activity?
Sometimes an activity is set aside because of time, sometimes because of money, or location, or any myriad of reasons. If you discover what activity is the one you miss, one that makes you feel satisfied, ask yourself why you gave it up (if indeed you have). For example, my writing time suffered as a new mom because, well, time. But, when I realized how vital it was for me to spend time writing, I made the time because it was important to me.
If money is the reason you had to give up your preferred activity, ask yourself if there is a less expensive way to accomplish the same goal. Or perhaps shift the budget to provide the opportunity you need for that self-care activity. Which leads us to the final question: priorities.
5. What are my priorities?
Everything costs time. Time is money. Time is relationships. Time is the substance of our day. With a set number of time resources, we must identify priorities and that requires sacrifice. If self care is a priority, and you discover what activity brings the best self-care, you must make room for it in your life. This is not being selfish, for the best version of you is the one who will have the inner energy to serve those around you.
As mentioned in the last point, sometimes finances are a sticking point. For example, if eating out (aka, not cooking) is a self-care priority, then it may be necessary to skip that concert or cut back the clothing budget to make room for the expense of eating out. Or, if your preferred self-care routine requires time, especially time alone, you will need to consider what it can displace. For me, I gave up the adage “sleep when baby sleeps’ by turning nap time into my writing time.
In the end, what you make a priority will show you what you value. Taking time to rejuvenate my spirit has become of great importance to me. I’m able to be present with my family in a much deeper way because I am giving from a full heart.
Expressing my creativity is the best way for me to recharge. In fact, writing this blog is one of the ways for me to practice self-care. But it is not the only way. I’m a morning person, so cooking or baking before the day gets away from me or wears me down helps me have a better overall attitude. Yarn craft is an activity that has suffered since I became a mom, but it is an activity I miss and one I hope to reincorporate back into my life.
So do I have this self-care thing figured out? Of course not. But I also believe it’s a learning and changing process. It’s not always practical to cook dinner in the morning (though I do love my slow cooker) and I may have to wait until kids get older before I have my hands free to craft yarn into something more. And that’s okay. Because my family is also my priority and there are other ways to express my creativity for the time being.
What activities do you find life-giving? How have you made them a priority? Sharing our experiences with each other might give someone else the nudge or inspiration they need to craft their own self-care routine. If you’re completely at a loss for ideas or if you also enjoy similar creative expressions as me, stay tuned for more ideas on how to recharge your spirit in keeping with the seasons.