Self-Care When I'm Too Tired To Care: Lessons From A First-Time Mom
The first trimester of my pregnancy was, not surprisingly, a period of significant transition on many levels. At times, I felt as if I wouldn't make it out in one piece. These 90 or so days involved the classic symptoms, including sudden nausea, intense food aversions, exhaustion with seemingly no end, and an extreme lack of desire to do anything "productive." The hardest part? Ironically, as someone who has made a living out of teaching other people self-care practices, I found myself struggling with the idea of caring for myself.
In fact, on most days throughout my early pregnancy, the act of self-caring felt near impossible—almost laughable. In a matter of days, I had gone from a kale-eating, superfood-loving, highly productive individual to, well, the complete opposite. I didn't eat anything green for two months. I canceled my Pilates classes. I never thought twice about my extreme gluten consumption. I was horizontal in bed most of the time.
There were a handful of times in those early days when I felt wracked with guilt because I had strayed too far from my usual routine. I felt I wasn't nourishing myself (or my growing baby) in the ways I thought I should. The truth was I couldn't do it; I was too tired.
Today, I've had some time to reflect on what self-care means—and how I can continue to practice it when I'm too tired to care. Self-care isn't a practice we reserve for the days we have extra time on our hands or a surplus of money to splurge on a fancy massage. It's not something we only call on after we're well-rested or while on vacation. No, self-care is an act that we must prioritize daily to help us feel like our best selves. It's an act that can empower us to show up as the healthiest version of ourselves, for ourselves. From there, once our cups are full, we can show up for others from our overflow at our discretion.
Without an active self-care practice, it's possible to feel quicker to anger, resentment, and frustration with ourselves and those around us. We must continue to care for our needs, even in the smallest of ways, especially when it's the last thing we feel like doing.
It's important to remember that self-care isn't always glamorous. It's found in the moments we communicate our needs, stand up for ourselves, release emotional baggage, and speak up for what's bothering us.
So, how do you overcome the blocks stopping you from self-caring when you're too tired to care?
1. Keep in mind there are at least three different types of self-care.
It's true! Self-care isn't simply nontoxic manicures, relaxing salt baths, or an elaborate facial. Powerful, transformational self-care encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual components.
Believe it or not, the below examples all fall under the practice of self-care:
- Communicating your needs, even when it's awkward or uncomfortable.
- Learning to say no when your plate is full, the opportunity doesn't excite you, or you're too tired.
- Disconnecting from your phone for some time.
- Prioritizing your needs over someone else's wants.
- Reassessing one-sided relationships that drain your energy.
- Connecting with your higher self through a meditation practice.
- Letting go of expectations you hold for yourself.
Also: The next time you wish for more energy for self-care, consider everything you've already done that could fall under the umbrella of self-caring and tuning in to your needs. Work to find comfort in the actions you're already taking to improve your overall health and wellness instead of believing you're not doing enough.
2. Remember that self-care looks different for everyone.
Although it may not seem that way, self-care is a highly individual practice that requires you to be in touch with your unique requirements for happiness and your overall well-being. With this in mind, release the expectations of what your self-care practices "should" look like based on someone you follow on Instagram, what your friends are doing, or the latest wellness trends. Instead, focus on tuning in to what practices—big or small—will move you closer to joy. When you're short on time, an excellent place to start is trading mindless scrolling for a few deep belly breaths. Notice how quickly your energy and stress levels can begin to shift.
3. The smallest acts of self-care can reap the most significant rewards.
Creating simple self-care practices throughout your day can help you to stay grounded, at ease, and leave your cup feeling full by the end of the day. In the moments you feel completely exhausted, consider tapping into the most accessible act of self-care that could bring you closer to your desired feelings.
Some examples of simple self-care include:
- Enjoying a mug of your favorite tea without your phone.
- Being honest when someone asks how they can support you.
- Opting for a nap instead of the gym (or vice versa!).
- Taking a few deep belly breaths.
- Rolling out your shoulders and noticing your tension melt away.
- Releasing feelings of guilt for doing what you need to do to feel your best.
- Rescheduling a call or a meeting to get some rest and disconnect.
In addition to the positive feelings the above practices can bring, you're also actively training your brain to look for the signs that you need some self-care. With time and steady practice, you'll become more comfortable with tuning in to your needs. Once you've created a greater sense of awareness, self-care will feel less like a task on your to-do list and more like an essential part of your day that keeps you moving forward.
4. Hone the power of your "no."
It's easy to feel like we have to say yes to every request in order to be a good person. When your energy is running low (or when it's already gone), it's time to turn your yeses into a solid no. Here's the important part: without a second thought. Chances are a lack of using the word no played a role to land you in this low-energy spot in the first place. This little two-letter word is your key to gaining back your time, energy, sanity, and calendar.
In the end, self-care is a ticket to more of what you crave.
Ultimately, you have to redefine what self-care truly means. It requires you to strip away all the layers of influence, society, and outside voices telling you how to practice self-care. It requires you to remember that you can find impactful acts of self-care in many areas of your life and that these acts look different for everyone. It requires you to notice that self-care comes in many forms. It requires you to trust in the power of your "no," especially when you are always placing your needs behind the wants of others. Once you become clear on your unique needs and requirements, you can begin to construct new, supportive practices that encourage self-care and feed your overall happiness.
After all, it's in the moments you're too tired to care that you need to care the most.