Self-Care Practices That Aren't Selfish

Tips for getting what you really want for Mother's Day this year.

When you think of self-care practices, where does your mind go?

To a light-and-airy spa with fluffy robes and slippers, or a day soaking in a hot spring surrounded by green foliage? Maybe getting a mani/pedi or a massage?

Those are incredible every-once-in-a-while self-care activities, no doubt. But there’s a pitfall to framing those kinds of “treat” experiences as self-care.

The problem with thinking of self-care in that way is that it tends to equate self-care with self-pampering–which can get to be a little...well, selfish. And as Catholics, we’re constantly trying to combat that selfish and prideful tendency in ourselves. Because we know (or at least, we intuitively recognize) that the only way to actually be truly happy is to grow in virtue–and not to fuel our own egos and pride.

That being said, I absolutely think you should be taking phenomenal care of yourself. You’re a temple of the Holy Spirit, after all!

But how do you balance taking really good care of yourself with not letting yourself slip into selfishness?

I propose that the solution to this apparent dilemma lies in simply recognizing that self-care literally just means “to take care of yourself”. That’s it. Not to pamper yourself. Not to spoil yourself. Not to indulge yourself. No. Just to take care of yourself.

Think about how you would take care of your kids, your aging parents, or even your pet. What do you do to help them flourish? What do they need every day to thrive? Why shouldn’t you make sure you’re getting those same things in your everyday life?

I’m talking about the basics here. Good nutrition, time outside, movement and activity, rest and leisure, socialization, and time spent in prayer (okay, so I acknowledge that your dog doesn’t necessarily need time in prayer, but you see where I’m going with this!). You deserve to take care of yourself in all of these ways.

My mission is to help you bring authentic self-care practices into your everyday life so that they become second nature to you and, better yet, help you to grow in virtue. (As an added bonus, these are all completely free things you can start doing today :)

Here are a few totally free self-care practices that will make you feel more relaxed, put-together, and authentically rested:

Start the day with prayer.

It doesn't have to be super long or formal, but spending a few minutes each morning thanking God for what you are grateful for can start you on the right foot. When we exercise gratitude, we become more present and thankful for the otherwise mundane parts of life that can easily be overlooked.

As an added bonus, pray about your intentions for the day. What do you need God’s help to accomplish? What virtues or strengths do you specifically need to exercise to live this day well? It’s been my experience that God comes through in a big way when we’re willing to surrender our to-do list and plans for the day to him.

Stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water is a daily self-care practice that will do more than make you feel better. It helps keep your skin clear and healthy looking, help your digestion stay on track, and gives you the energy to walk through your day with a pep in your step.

Keep a glass of water or a water bottle with you so it’s easy for you to always be sipping water throughout the day. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a sugar-free flavor enhancer or consider flavored sparkling water (especially if you’re trying to transition away from drinking soda).

Listen to an inspiring podcast.

Instead of spending your free time scrolling, choose a podcast that is energizing and uplifting to indulge in. Search in the podcast app and find 2-3 that look interesting to you so that you can queue up some episodes. Having them already downloaded will result in a higher likelihood of choosing this option.

Have Digital boundaries.

Protecting your time and energy from the digital world can take some time and practice, but it's well worth the benefits. Factor a monthly digital check-in into your schedule to take stock of where you are with your boundaries and where you can make some shifts.

One simple way to limit the time you spend on your phone is to create a “home” for your phone to live in your house. For me, this is my kitchen counter. This is where my phone spends most of its time, including overnight. Not having my phone with me 24/7 really helps me to just focus on the task that I’m currently working on and eliminates my temptation to just check my email or social media (for the 100th time that day…)

Get some fresh air.

Getting outside for a walk has a special way of clearing your mind that nothing else compares to. Whether it's a slow morning stroll with a warm cup of coffee, a quick walk on your lunch break or an evening walk with your family to end your day well -- some fresh air is always a good idea.

In fact, researchers have found that a daily 15 minute walk outside had a similar effect to taking psychotropic medication on treating anxiety and depression! With only good side effects: better sleep, better cognition, better fitness, and even losing some weight. Seriously. You deserve to take a walk!

Try mindfulness meditation or breath work.

I know that “meditation” has some weird new-agey connotations in a lot of Catholic circles, but what I’m talking about here is just literally paying attention to your 5 senses and what is happening in the reality of your environment right now. This is just a grounding in the present moment (where we know God always is).

Spending a few minutes each day clearing your mind and calming your nervous system is an extremely valuable self-care practice.

If meditation isn't your thing, you can spend this time stretching instead. Just focus on your breathing and how your body feels in the moment. Both techniques help to slow down and bring yourself back to your body.

While these are just a few examples of completely free self-care that may help you grow in virtue, there are many other options you can choose from. Of course, everyone's version of self-care may look a bit different, even day by day, but building these self-care routines into your schedule will bring more balance, peace, and energy to your life–which let’s be honest, isn’t that what we all really want for Mother’s Day?

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