Self-Care in Small Moments

Breathe Deep

By Rebecca Honig, director of curriculum & content

Last night I slept on a baseball. It was the next best thing to a backrub. Well,  it was the closest  thing to a back rub that I could come up with at midnight when I realized that nothing would make me happier than a massage.

I just placed that ball right in the curve of my back, laid down, and shimmied from side to side working out all the aches, the parts that get strained as I give piggyback rides to my kids in between conference calls. 

It might sound a little sad when I describe my baseball massage to other people. It might sound a little bit like a “How did it come to this?!?” moment. 

But it was actually an empowering act of self-care

What is “Self-Care”?

When you look up self-care, it does not read: “Self-care is a massage given by a licensed professional.” It does not say, “Self-care is a yoga class followed by a quiet cup of tea.” 

Don’t get me wrong, both of those things sound AMAZING. But… 

Self-care is simply defined as: “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” 

What that means is that my midnight baseball back rub totally counts! And so do lots of other little things.  

Self-care does not have to look like it does in the magazines.  Self-care can be improvised, it can be momentary, it can be “catch-as-catch-can.” And that’s okay. It’s actually great! Why? Because it means self-care is actually possible. 

Shifting my definition of self-care away from the beautiful pictures I see in magazines, away from a notion of what it “should be,” has allowed me to find some great self-care strategies that I can do, even at home, while quarantined, working full time, with my three kids running circles around me. 

Here are some tiny, unconventional, “not going to see it in a magazine” self-care strategies that are REALLY working for me lately: 

Wall Stare

One thing I do is I stare at the wall. I LOVE staring at the wall. The wall is so stable. It’s completely unflappable. The wall makes me feel calm. Sometimes I even drink a glass of water while I do it. As I stare at the wall with my glass of water, I try to think about pleasant surprises and tiny victories I’ve experienced in my life. Like that time when I was nine and I won a goldfish at the school fair. Everyone said it would die in a day, so I shouldn’t give it a name.  But I didn’t listen to them. I named that fish Tracy. And you know what? Tracy the goldfish lived for six years. That memory always makes me feel good, like absolutely anything is possible. 

Permanent Marker

The other day I wrote in a sharpie all day. I took all my meeting notes in big, bold, non-erasable letters. I felt very powerful, very sure of myself. I felt like all of my ideas were great. I felt like making decisions wasn’t so hard after all. It reminded me that I really ought to trust my gut more often. 

Favorite Word

Sometimes I say the word “toast” over and over in my head. When I was a child my mother always swept in with toast when I felt yucky. She promised “Toast makes everything better.” And though I never liked the taste of toast, I have always found the word to be very soothing. “Toast, toast, toast.” Saying it just feels good, it reminds me of all the people in my life who are part of my support network. Sometimes a single word, attached to a someone I love, can be all it takes to settle my more tumultuous emotions. 

And Breathe

No matter what is happening around me I can always take three deep breaths. I can always fit in a little shoulder roll. I can always stretch up to the sky. I can sneak in a moment to glance at photos of my kids doing funny and adorable things. I can hum. I can wear that one hat that makes me feel like I’m camping. All of these little things matter. They are all acts of self-care.

It’s great that all these little, do-able self-care strategies are out there, because I need self-care now more than ever. And I am not alone.

Self-Care Moments Matter

In my work as the director of content and curriculum at Ready4K I’ve had the opportunity to host listening sessions with parents and providers across the country. In these sessions we work to uncover areas where parents want more support. In every listening session, in big cities, rural towns, and everywhere in between, parents say, again and again, “I’m not good at taking care of myself. I need more self-care strategies.”  

And so, I’d like to encourage all of you to share your self-care strategies with the families you serve. Share the stuff that they aren’t going to read about in magazines. Share the awkward stuff, the silly stuff, the stuff you think no one but you might do.

And encourage parents to share their strategies too. We can all work to remind each other that no matter what is happening around us, we can always, ALWAYS do little and big things to take care of ourselves.  And when we do, everyone wins. We feel better, our community grows stronger. As a result, our kids get to be surrounded by more patient, healthy, resilient and strong grownups. 

Here’s to a summer of self-care!


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11 thoughts on “Self-Care in Small Moments

  1. When I’m stressed out I like to do as many push ups as I can without stopping. It makes me feel strong and I think “someday you won’t be able to do so many push ups, so remember how strong you were today when that day comes.” And I also feel like I’m giving myself a gift by pushing that day further into the future.

  2. Yes! I’m trying this today. I’ll need a good theme song to go with the challenge. Any recommendations?

  3. I love to lie in the hammock in the backyard. Staring up through the branches of a tree while it gently swings me feels like a mini vacation!

  4. I love this topic! Self care is especially important while we live through an ever-changing pandemic.

    For the first couple months, my self-care was giving myself permission to reread favorite books, especially YA books, instead of reading something new. Even a new book by one of my favorite authors wasn’t appealing and I eventually realized I just needed old friends surrounding me, even if they are imaginary.

    I’ve also eaten a fair bit of peanut butter toast — I DO love toast, not just the word, and it is a comfort food.

    And although I’m not especially proud of this, sometimes letting myself fully feel and express anger at what is happening is self-care. We can’t always say the things we want to say, but we can write them in a Word doc and delete them the next day. We can yell into a pillow. There are legitimate reasons to be angry — or afraid or resentful or deeply sad — right now and giving ourselves permission to feel and (safely, kindly) express strong feelings is also self care.

  5. I love to play a bit of piano. I haven’t taken lessons for years, but playing a few pieces (even though I’m quite rusty) makes me feel relaxed and think about all of the good memories I have of playing piano to my grandfather!

  6. I loved this article because it reminds us to keep balance in our lives by reminding us to take a few minutes for ourselves. I love going on walks or a bike rides. I don’t even place music because I feel the silence allows for self reflection.

  7. Making a cup of tea always clears my mind and helps me relax when I’m stressed. I sometimes just stand in front of the tea kettle and wait for the water to boil – kind of like staring at a wall, it makes me stop and actively do nothing for a couple minutes during a busy day.

  8. Such a great topic. I find it helpful to step outside, even just for a minute, and look around. And, I’m totally for peanut butter toast!

  9. One item is the same on my Christmas list every year: “cool pens”. Something about writing and highlighting and doodling in different colors is soothing to me. I even change my own font to suit my mood! So whether I’m making and crossing items off a list or doodling shapes while listening to someone, my colorful pens help me relax and express myself.

  10. Wonderful topic and so important! I use the staring at the wall one as well. Also, I find deep breathing to be helpful. And, like you pointed out, anyone can do any of these simple things!

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