Top 3 Free Things I Do for Self-Care

Today’s post is a quickie (TWSS!).

I have often gone to do the stereotypical self-care things like massages or pedicures or MNOs only to come back and be bombarded with stress all over again.

Here’s what I finally discovered. BONUS: they’re all free. (A quick summary after the video.)

Again, I am away from the computer and YouTube is hating my phone. So you’ll have to make do with my FB Live link. But I will update with the YouTube video soon!

https://www.facebook.com/MandarinMama/videos/1764031296962537/

1) Get enough sleep.

When I am tired and sleep-deprived, I am wretched. I snap at my kids, my annoyance threshold is at a minimum, and I yell at the slightest irritation.

When I have enough sleep, these things are no less aggravating, I just have more stamina and patience.

Sleep is KEY.

2) Get enough to eat.

I often forget to eat because I am lazy and hate eating with my children. Therefore, I put it off and by the time I remember, my stomach is ingesting itself and I am HANGRY already.

Then, of course, I yell and am irritable. I sound like a grumpy bear right before hibernation. There may be some truth to that comparison.

3) “Adult.”

Most of the reasons I am stressed is because I have not taken care of the things I am supposed to. Whether it’s paying a medical bill, writing a piece by deadline, or clearing off my kitchen table, a lot of my stress is caused by my lack of adulting.

It stands to reason if I stop procrastinating, I would be much happier.

Alright! That’s it for today. Hope these tips were of some use.

Sometimes Self Care is Really Just Adulting

I used to think that my environment did not affect me. I thought I was easy-going; a roll with punches type of person. You know, “low-maintenance.”

By now, any person who knows me in real life is dying of laughter because it is so obvious to anyone who spends more than five minutes with me that I am not remotely any of these things.

Talk about a disconnect from reality.

In true fact, I am a very particular sort of person. Particular being a euphemism for anal retentive in the extreme. Also, I have very low noise and mess tolerances.

Of course, having four children and a husband (and being in relationship with people in general) makes it super impossible to have my life run exactly the way I would like it, when I would like it.

As a result, I want to bomb my entire house, scream at my children for not being obedient automatons, and war with my twin desires of FOMO Hoarder and Strict Minimalist Where Everything has Its Place.

Guess which side “wins”?

Then, because I am constantly behind on doing stuff (like purging, putting things away, finally USING things I’ve put away, or all the projects I have in my queue), I procrastinate because FFS there is no way I will ever get to anything or make a dent so I might as well read a romance novel or watch Project Runway or let’s be real, FRITTER AWAY MY LIMITED FREE TIME ON FACEBOOK.

This all builds up and annoys me and soon, I am swearing at my kids for being a smidge too loud or for doing whatever squirrelly thing they’re doing. And then I go on a brief and short-lived Angry Cleaning Purge and I am placated for about half a day before we rinse and repeat.

The thing is, sometimes, I think the only way I can get a bead on all this shit in my mental queue is to send my entire family away for at least a year so I can finally get something done.

Even then, I’m sure I’ll procrastinate and save it all for the last week before they’re due back.

I realize that this is the curse of human existence and being temporal beings. But this seems far more like a bug than a feature in my unasked for opinion.

Now, I know I have mentioned before that I am so mediocre that it took paying my therapist $150 (now $160) a week for her to tell me to just do 15 minutes of stuff a day and see how that helps.

It did.

I have improved drastically at paying medical bills on time (because those are the only bastards that are not on auto-pay). My kitchen table takes an extra week to look like an utter disaster area. And I am making more of an effort to do the shitty stuff first.

And STILL, it does not move. Or at best, it gets shifted from room to room.

For the longest time, my therapist, Dr. T, would ask me about self-care and I would be annoyed because I have lots of free time and Hapa Papa has no problem with me having weekly MNOs or going out for massages and pedicures and the like.

But those things always left me MORE stressed out because after doing these activities, I would come home to an even MESSIER house and even LESS time to do the things I needed to do.

Like seriously, when I see my entire house’s contents dumped onto the floor, the sink stacked with dishes, along with the normal REGULAR piles of shit all over my house, I go apoplectic. (And this is not to say that these are Hapa Papa’s fault. I just notice it more when I leave my house for a longer period of time and then return. Kinda like you don’t notice how your house smells until you leave for a few days.)

Anyhow, after years of debate with my therapist, we finally struck on something that has resonated with me. For me, self-care looks like adulting.

For me, self-care is removing the things that stress me out – and unfortunately, that requires me being a grown up and doing the grown up things that I should have been doing all along.

Now, this is not to deny that for many people, self-care is legitimately getting pampered, resting, or taking breaks from Facebook or the internet or whatever. That’s likely because these lovely people are actual productive members of society (unlike myself). And because they are actual productive members of society, they NEED these things because they adult all day and every day and what they need is a break.

Me, however. I have an easy life.

I’m serious.

This is not to discount the real difficulties of being a parent of four small children (as well as homeschooling them) or invalidating my role as a mother. Those are absolutely true and real.

But in general, I have a very privileged life.

We are financially secure, financially stable, healthy, highly educated, and short of us being not-white (and me being a woman), we have no other areas in which we are oppressed or othered.

Again, this is not to deny that my difficulties and struggles are worthless or whatever. After all, this is still the life I have and my difficulties are still mine to deal with. I just acknowledge and understand that other people may see self-care differently.

So, now that I have improved at the low-hanging fruits of self-care (eg: getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, paying bills, etc.), it’s time to step it up a bit.

Not sure how yet since I am now realizing that self-care requires a lot of mindfulness, too.

Can I just insert how much I hate that stupid word? But it’s all true. My life would be markedly improved if I were only more mindful of my mental and physical state.

SO. Because I’m an extrovert and assume everyone wants to know the nitty gritty of my life and thoughts, NO MATTER HOW BANAL, I will now list a bunch of things that would be self-care for me. (I mean, I think it might help some of you to have real life examples of someone like you.)

1) Take care of my physical health by:

a) Going to sleep with the kids.

b) Taking vitamins/supplements.

c) Eating nutritious and healthy food.

2) Write consistently.

3) Pay bills/sort mail/daily adulting tasks.

4) WEEKLY PURGING.

5) Do at least 15 minutes daily on my PROJECT QUEUE (eg: sorting clothes, rearranging rooms, finish photobooks, etc.).

I’m sure there is more – but the more I add, the more stressed I become. I mean really, self-care is just taking care of the shit on my SUPER LONG To-Do List.

Gah. Is self-care supposed to stress me out? I think that means I’m doing it wrong.

And really, a lot of the self-care items are from my Suck It Up 2017 resolutions for this year. (I have a feeling next year will also be the same theme. I need lots of help.)

So I am already doing most of this. I just want to add the purging and the project queuing. Sigh. I like how I have to give myself a pep talk before I have even started.

ADULTING IS HARD.

But I am really sick and tired of yelling at my kids and feeling like an abject failure every day. Who’s with me?

Radical Self-Care

So last week, after I cleaned my laundry room and cleared my kitchen table (I would post a pic but I fear jinxing the situation), and then doing and folding several loads of laundry, I was exhausted. I think I also cooked most of our meals. (Hapa Papa couldn’t figure out whose house he was living in but he wasn’t complaining.) By the end of last week, I was tired, cranky, and barely homeschooled Cookie Monster.

I went into my session with Dr. T feeling defeated and bleh and annoyed with myself.

want to be an excellent homeschooling parent, keep my home clean/neat, and cook good, nutritious meals for my family. But I often feel as if I can only have one, or maybe max out at two of these desires. So, because this week I cleaned and then cooked, I sucked at homeschooling. Like, totally blanked out. I’m surprised Cookie Monster learned anything at all last week. Especially after I yelled at him several times while working with him on math and piano.

I remember back in May, Dr. T asked me what would nurture me and give me life. I had no idea and as a result, got really sad, feeling as if I were no longer a person.

When I think of things that I assume should bring me life such as going on Mothers’ Night Out, hanging out with my friends, running off to the spa and getting massages or pedicures, reading, or watching TV, they are things that I enjoy, but don’t really give me life.

To me, all these activities are escapes. They are my alcohol or drug. I flee my home but come back more exhausted (usually due to staying up too late and not having the energy to take care of my kids and then feeling shitty about that). They don’t actually solve any of my problems.

Then, Dr. T told me something that in retrospect, seems so obvious. Also, suspiciously “easy.”

She told me that for me, self-care would be when I chose not to stay up late to finish a book in one sitting and instead, retired at a more reasonable hour so that I wouldn’t be tired the next morning. Self-care would be when I chose to communicate with Hapa Papa and let him have moments to rest so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about being an entitled prat. Self-care would be when I chose to go through the mail every day and pay bills immediately rather than have mail stack up for months and years at a time. Self-care would be when I chose to walk away from my kids when I feel like I’m going to explode and scream at them for whatever ridiculous reason at the time.

Self-care looked nothing like what I thought it did. And also, seemed semi-doable once I stopped freaking out about doing the self-care “right.”

After some thought, here then, are some things that I can do to make myself feel nurtured and cared for:

1) In order to not feel guilty all the time regarding feeling entitled to tons of free time and shunting the brunt of house and childcare onto Hapa Papa, I will:

– Let Hapa Papa sleep in and I will take the morning shift on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. (Currently, he lets me sleep in every morning unless he is out traveling or needs to be in the office early.)

– Check in with Hapa Papa to make sure he’s doing okay. (I know, I know. It’s weird to actually communicate – but apparently, that is what people do in marriages.)

– Thank Hapa Papa and choose to be grateful for all that he does rather than feel entitled to his kindness and easy-going attitude.

2) Eat regularly (such as breakfast).

– This includes making simple but nutritious food for my family on a more regular basis (we’re talking rice/noodles + meat + veg + fruit).

– Making and drinking more smoothies/popsicles

– Eating fruit. (I realize I buy all this fruit but I save it all for my kids. I don’t actually eat them myself.)

– Taking my vitamins/supplements consistently.

3) Sort and take care of mail daily. (Including paying bills immediately.)

4) Kitchen table daily. Otherwise, the mail and art and stuff stacks up on my kitchen table until we have a party/event at my house and then we shove all that stuff into a bag and then we shove that into the laundry room. And then, I have just piles and piles of bags full of stuff that I have to sort again a year later.

5) Tidy up play areas 15 minutes daily. Force the kids to be part of this in order to earn their screen time for the next day. The place doesn’t have to be spotless, but tidier.

6) Exercise/stretch. Since I have so many things I want to do to care for myself, I’m going to combine this with the children, too. Make them stretch and exercise with me.

7) Meditate. Also, with the children. Likely, right before bed so we can calm down a bit before the nightly ritual of them getting out of bed a million times until I scream at them to stop.

8) Go to bed before midnight. That’s really still not enough time, but I just need to consciously choose to stop choosing to watch shows when it’s 11:30pm or to stop reading even if I’m not yet done. Otherwise, the brief feeling of satisfaction is occluded by my bitchiness due to lack of sleep.

9) Fold laundry and/or do dishes ASAP(This will likely not happen – but one can dream.)

10) Walk away when mad/frustrated. This will hopefully help me not scream at my kids.

11) Write/journal.

12) Put down my phone. I need to stop using my phone so much when I have downtime and just take out a pen and paper and write. Or read. Or whatever. I have the time. I just waste it.

Even looking at this list makes me sort of tighten up inside. I feel anxious and as if I’m setting myself up to fail. However, I just have to tell my all-or-nothing personality to STFU and chill the fuck out.

So, I just have to remind myself (and perhaps you dear readers can help, too). This post is just a gentle reminder of the things I can do to cut down on my anxiety. It is not supposed to make me feel more anxious. (Ah, irony.)

I mean, this is silly and too easy, right? And I say, “easy” because if I had only been doing this already, much of my cycle of angry cleaning then exhaustion would be solved, right? This post is seriously just a Mash Note to the proverb: A stitch in time saves nine. (Incidentally, I didn’t even understand this saying until a few years ago. When I literally was stitching/patching Cookie Monster’s pants. This is probably why I have so many fails at adulting.)

So, this is just how it looks for me to self-care. What does it look like for you?