SELF-CARE: It's not just hygiene! by Debra Delulio Jones

"How's your self-care? I asked a hurting mom recently.

"Uh.... I took a shower. Does that count?" she replied.

"Not exactly what I had in mind, Sweet Friend! That's called basic hygiene."

I might have gone for it if she'd said a nice, long bath with scented candles lit, bathing in essential oils of lavender, listening to relaxing tunes such as Enya or even Frank softly playing on Pandora. If you don't know me well, I of course mean - as in Sinatra! All this, while sipping a nice hot mug of chamomile tea. 

But, I do remember quite well the days when I was lucky to even get a shower because our lives were in total chaos!

Nearly all of our energy was spent parenting a high-risk adopted son who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, then neglected, and experienced trauma from early orphanage life in Romania.

But just a daily shower isn't the kind of self-care that will sustain us when our families are overwhelmed with the complex, multiple, and near constant needs of a child who is suffering from the effects of trauma, abuse, and/or substances in utero.

We need some help. AND...
I needed a trip to the Bahamas! (Still do)
Or maybe a spa day that pampered this bod from head-to-toe.
At least an afternoon of shopping and lunch out to relax and have fun with my chick friends....

I'm often surprised that moms severely neglect their own self-care even when their husbands encourage them to take a much needed break.

So what gives?

Perhaps if many of us were brutally honest, we somehow think we don't deserve it. Ouch!

Self-images can become entangled in a version of self-sacrificing to the point of self-neglect.

Neglect is a strong word. But if parents have emotional and possibly even physical neglect in their personal histories, it is common for them to neglect their own needs. We actually see it quite often in our work with parents on hard journeys.

It might even be wrapped in a veil of sacrificial spiritual talk that makes it almost appear holy. It is NOT holy; it is costly and in some cases, it is even deadly.

The Bible has much to say about rest. If the God of the Universe took Day 7 off, shouldn't we give ourselves appropriate respite and rest?

Here's one of my new favorite quotes:

"Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Jesus (Mark 6:31b)

I have more to say about this topic, but I'll save it for another day. You need rest, and I encourage you to focus on this aspect of self-neglect with these 3 questions:

1) Do I neglect my own needs?
2) If so, in what way was I neglected when I was young and what belief systems have I developed that need to be corrected?
3) Now that I see it, what will I change?

In child development, neglect is far more damaging than abuse. Our sweet Karyn Purvis used to say, "The message of abuse is                          I don't like you, BUT the message of neglect is You don't exist."

You do exist, Dear One. 

You are loved and have loved ones you care for in many and various ways. You need rest, love, joy, peace, contentment, laughter, and play in order to be emotionally present with those you adore.

Sooooo... enjoy your shower, but my next question is, "What can you do today to practice healthy self-care?"

Need permission? You can give yourself permission. And Deb says, "You have it!"

Can't afford it? Then you sure won't be able to afford the medical bills and therapies coming your way. This is one of those, "Pay now or PAY SEVERELY LATER" topics!

Need a list? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Long bath with all the feels (see above)
  • A nice walk in the park
  • Take in a baseball game
  • Lunch date with a close friend
  • Fancy coffee bar
  • Pedicure
  • Manicure
  • Gardening
  • Read the sports page
  • Massage
  • Swimming
  • Hot tub or hot tub party with friends
  • Fishing or hunting
  • Take a cooking class
  • Plan a luncheon with a small group of your trusted Peeps
  • Small group Bible study
  • Art class
  • Play with your favorite pet
  • Plant lots of colorful Spring flowers
  • Salt or sugar scrubs
  • A round of golf
  • Afternoon Tea Time (or Dr. Pepper - Ask our Parent Trainer, Tammy Winkler)
  • A restful nap
  • Yoga
  • A game of tennis
  • Grown-up coloring books
  • Play your favorite music
  • Lock yourself in your room, turn up the Rock 'n Roll and dance like a wild child. Really! Get your moves on!!!
  • Funny movies
  • Redecorate a room or area in your home
  • Retail therapy (that's shopping for those who may not know)
  • Visit an elderly, wise soul
  • Ice Cream Sunday (Did you know ice cream boosts Oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone")
  • Visit a museum
  • Dance lessons
  • Lazy time in a hammock
  • Tour botanic gardens
  • Curl up with a good book in a snuggly blanket
  • Sunbathing - use your sunscreen, Peeps!
  • Jogging/Running - I had to list it, but my knees call this torture rather than self-care
  • Go to a concert - seriously, how long has it been?
  • Poolside time 
  • Cupcakes - no explanation needed
  • Swinging or rocking on the porch
  • Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby - Novelty gives you a healthy dopamine boost
  • Ride roller coasters - your excitatory neurons will love you!
  • A day at the lake
  • Bicycling
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Datenight with your spouse or SNO (Sig Nif Other)
  • Take a night alone at a nearby hotel with an indoor pool and spa where YOU control the TV remote. You can do that! Who knew?
  • Weekend getaway such as our Lake City Parent Training Mini Vacation #4ParentsWithParentsByParents

That's enough to get the wheels turning. Just add to this list in the comments and then we'll all have more ideas to share with our fellow parent peeps. As our friend, Wayne, always says, "Share the love!"

Love, hugs, and prayers,


P.S. If your belief system somewhere along the way got skewed to thinking that self-care is selfish, I assure you it is NOT! There's a reason the flight attendant trains you to put on your own oxygen mask first.