How My 'Self-Care Box' Is Helping Me Remember To Take Care Of Me

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Rachel Garlinghouse/Instagram

A text from a mom friend nearly broke me. We were conversing about what was going on in our lives in between work, errands, appointments, and driving our minivans all over town, taking our kids to their extracurriculars. There was never a dull or quiet moment for either of us. Before signing off of the conversation, she asked how I’d been feeling, and I confessed I was tired. Her final words to me, before prepping dinner for her family, were simple: “Take care of yourself.”

What does that mean–practically? What is self-care? Seemingly every woman I know talks about it. We need to put ourselves first. We can’t give what we don’t have. We deserve some “me time.”

Though I absolutely agree that we need to prioritize ourselves—because we tend to put everyone else first which is incredibly draining—there’s a never-ending list of demands. Many of these cannot be pushed aside or ignored. Kids get sick and work hours change. Motherhood is a never-ending juggling act.

My question to all the self-care experts out there is this. When exactly are we supposed to work in a manicure, a massage, or a weekend girlfriends’ trip? I see these ideas thrown at women as if they’re no biggie—as if they don’t cost a whole lot of money and require free time and child care. I don’t know a single woman who has hours or days of time where she has nothing to do. Perhaps she should fill her time by jetting off to Cancun for a rejuvenating weekend?

I’m not knocking any of these ideas. If you have the ability to do those things, go for it. But let’s be real. Not every mom can follow these suggestions. We all need to practice self-care. There’s no question about that. But how do we do that when we don’t have wads of cash or time available?

It dawned on me one day that perhaps I just needed to practice self-care in the place most readily available to me—my own home. But how? While running errands—because we’re always out of toothpaste—I found a clear cosmetics container that’s meant to sit on a countertop, making the contents easily accessible.

I felt like a light was shining down from heaven and the Hallelujah chorus might audibly play at any moment, right there in the store. This was my answer. I purchased the cosmetics container, along with a few tubes of needed toothpaste. When I got home, I placed the container on my bathroom counter. Now what?

A few years ago, I attended a talk lead by a yoga teacher. She talked about making a three-things list, instructing us to write down three simple things that bring us joy. They had to be practical, meaning we could do one of those activities within our daily lives. My list—which stated my three things were sunshine, a latte, and a walk—hung on the side of my refrigerator, serving as a powerful reminder. If you’re wondering, yes, the list helped. Whenever my days were chaotic and anxiety-ridden, I would look at the list and choose something on it—an instant pick-me-up.

I needed items for my container, things that brought me relief, relaxation, and refocus. They couldn’t require big time commitment, and they couldn’t be expensive. I dug through my bathroom closet and drawers, securing a few possibilities.

I don’t know what you need to recharge, but for me, it’s the little things. I found some teeth whitening strips I’d forgotten about. But I love to put them on when I’m in the shower, because I’m always multi-tasking. I also found a foot exfoliater, still in the packaging. I certainly meant to start using it, but, of course, life happened.

I knew I needed more options, so I purchased a few inexpensive items. The first was a plush headband to pull my hair out of my face. I also got several packets for coffee-coconut face masks. Voila. I didn’t have the time or budget to get an expensive facial, but I certainly could DIY at home.

I’d read about the benefits of dry skin brushing, so I bought a dry skin brush—and discovered that I absolutely love the practice. I also found a massage ball for tension points—because yeah, I have a lot of tension. Imagine that.

I know what you’re thinking: This is all great, Rachel, but do you actually take the time to use your self-care items? The answer is yes, because every time I go into my bathroom, the container is right there serving as a reminder to take a few minutes to do something for me.

The customized container of items is perfect for me. It’s not someone else’s prescribed self-care. It’s my definition of self-care, and it works.

No, I’m not magically alleviated of all stress. Let’s be real–that’s never going to happen. However, I know that when my days are full, I have something just for me, waiting for me. And my family knows, when mommy goes to shower in the evening, don’t knock and ask me for a snack or to help you study your spelling words. They know that’s a fast track to Trouble Town. I have four words for them: Go ask your dad.

If you’re like me and most of my own mom friends, you know self-care matters, but you’re struggling to manifest that in your daily life. This is your permission slip. Create a self-care container like I did and use it. Or do something else–because whatever self-care avenue you choose to take is what’s right for you. Just know, you deserve a break. Make it happen.

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