We were settling in for an episode of Grace & Frankie, our nightly post-getting-our-daughter-to-bed ritual before we snuggle in ourselves by nine. (Yep, sleep is my number one non-negotiable.)
And I was feeling super irritable. Downright cranky. Annoyed.
Mike had just spent 3 hours beautifying our lawn. (What you do at the beginning when you’re growing grass apparently really impacts the future of your greenery.) And I wanted to be feeling grateful for his dedication to making our home safe and functional and beautiful and for all of the other ways that he shows up for us.
But instead I was feeling resentful that I’d been in charge of dinner and Penelope for all that time.
This is mundane, first-world-problem stuff…obviously.
But I was feeling a feeling and wanted to figure out where it was coming from.
Sure, there would be the deeply engrained culturally normal response of blaming my husband for how I feel and going to bed mad.
I’m not usually one to do the thing that people do just because it’s normal, though, so I dug deeper.
What I found was this:
Mike was about to leave for two days.
I was going to be on my own with P.
I’m pregnant and tired.
We were in pre-launch mode.
I was feeling stressed about leaving Penelope with my sister for the first time and making sure everything was perfectly prepared so that babysitting was minimally stressful for my sister.
(Asking someone to watch my two-year-old for two days feels like a really big ask, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for her.)
I’d overbooked myself that day, running from appointment to appointment, barely having time to eat or pee, let alone shower, and so–not so surprisingly–I was cranky.
I really, really, really wanted to just make Mike wrong. But, unfortunately and fortunately, I know better.
I was taking it all on, holding myself to a standard of perfection, and had forgotten to see what I needed.
What I needed was NOT to have a perfect house and perfectly prepared food and perfectly made beds for my sister. And I think she’d agree that that’s not really what she needed either.
I needed a lot of things, some of which were not on the list of available options, but one of which is always at our disposal, no matter what’s happening:
I really needed to stop and ask myself what I needed.
I’m quite sure that had I done that, regardless of whether I could have gotten that need met or not, the act of asking would have helped me release pressure.
The term self care is thrown around to an almost annoying extent in the wellness and personal growth world.
But I gotta tell you, it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think.
Self care is not necessarily a bubble bath.
Self care is not necessarily a massage.
Self care is not necessarily a morning ritual that takes an hour to complete. (Hello screaming baby or whiny toddler. Peace my patuti.)
Self care is not, as Laura Belgray recently pointed out, the same thing as grooming.
Self care doesn’t necessarily have to take time or cost money.
It’s taking a moment for it to occur to you that you might also have a need.
It’s putting yourself on the radar of people who need caring for.
For me on this particular cranky day, self care was writing for about 2 minutes in my journal about being cranky and seeing if I could get to the bottom of why. It was having enough compassion for myself (and my husband) to know that there was a reason for my being cranky, and his meticulous lawn care was not it.
Self care can be as simple as asking ourselves what we need. Even if we can’t get that need met right away, the act of asking is a profoundly caring act.
(This goes for other people as well.)
So next time you find yourself wearing your cranky pants, instead of looking around for who to blame, see what happens if you ask yourself what you need.
Remember: you don’t have to get the need met.
The act of asking is the care for self.
P.S. I’m co-leading a group of women in a 28-Day Be Beautiful program starting November 26th. If what you hear when you ask yourself what you need is more attention on the loving care of your beautiful body, this program is for you. Get all the details and sign up here.
How do you feel about self care? What do you do that you would consider self care? What do you do when you’re feeling cranky? Tell me about it in the comments!
Get more articles like this sent straight to your inbox!
By signing up for my newsletter you'll receive weekly emails from me and occasional promotions. I take your privacy very seriously and will never distribute or sell your email address or information.