Five Days of Self Care

Self care doesn’t always look like we think it should. I think about self care a lot – because it makes me mad. But that was back when I thought self care looked like it does on Instagram or Facebook. Back when self care came in the form of a glass of wine, a nap when the baby naps (lol), a bath or a pedicure.

I called BS on this type of self care. It felt like a lie.

But there has to be balance, right? We have to take care of our needs in order to take care of others. So, where was the compromise?

I recently challenged myself to do 1 act of self care every single day for 5 days. And the results were surprising.

Day 1

I went to get a pedicure and manicure since it had been a minute (read months) so I spent 1 hour at the nail place. I was all alone – no one came in. But I was also bored. This wasn’t self care – I wasn’t stimulated or relaxed. I just existed. This may sound great to some people – but to me this wasn’t my self care moment, even though it easily could have been.

My self care moment this day came after. After my pedicure, I was hungry and drove to Panda Express because I had a random craving. I got myself an eggroll and ate it in the car on the way home. This right here was my act of self care for the day. Why? Because I satisfied a craving with absolutely zero guilt.

I didn’t think about how many calories were in the eggroll. I didn’t have to feed anyone before I fed myself. I didn’t think about how much the eggroll cost. I got an eggroll and I ate it alone in the car. And that felt amazing.

Day 2

This was a really hard day for me. Like one of the hardest in my whole life – I felt betrayal, I felt deeply hurt. I cried on the floor of my office. It was hard.

Driving home from work that day, I remembered my self care promise. It felt impossible in the moment. I wasn’t even thinking clearly – how could I honor myself? But I made a promise. So, I asked myself, “what do I need right now? What do I love?”

Well. It was 100 degrees outside and I was hot and irritable. I cranked the AC way down and I put on Christmas music because I love Christmas.

In that moment, I exhaled for what felt like the first time that entire day. I smiled despite myself and no matter how terrible the day had been, I found myself surrendering to the moment and singing along to Jingle Bell Rock in September in 100 degree heat.

Day 3

Remnants of the terrible day crept in. I felt broken and drained. I started to see a pattern that my moments of self love and self care tend to happen in the car as it’s the only time I am ever truly alone. At home, I can close myself in my room – but people are still just on the other side. Same at work. But in my car, I’m fully myself and fully alone.

On the way to work, I asked myself what I needed in that moment.

The answer was a PSL – pumpkin spice latte. I cheerfully obliged.

Day 4

Doing emotional work is exhausting. Being hurt and being open and honest about it is terrifying. I didn’t anticipate going through this during my self care challenge but by Day 4, I realized it was probably the best thing that could have happened. Normally, when things are hard I retreat to old habits that are not very good for me – but this time I challenged myself to really be there for me.

I got home from work and even though I was tired, I wanted to get on my stationary bike. I didn’t have a lot of time though – so I hopped on for 15 minutes. Past me would have talked me out of this – it’s only 15 minutes. What could I really accomplish in 15 minutes? Past me would have said it wasn’t worth it.

But I decided what I needed at that moment was movement – it didn’t matter that it was only 15 minutes. I wasn’t doing it for any purpose other than to connect with myself and disconnect from the world. I had never really had that before – any movement in my past was nearly always because I was on a diet or trying to burn calories. In a very freeing moment, I rode without agenda or thought. And it was perfect.

Day 5

In the morning, I realized that I was nearing the crest of my emotional wave. This was shocking. I nearly always stewed in my emotions – unable to climb out without spiraling deeper many times over. The difference this time is that I was focused intently on what I wanted and needed in a given moment. I thought I had been there for myself in the past, but I realize now it was just a version of a person that I thought someone else needed or wanted.

On my final day of the challenge, I reached for a version of self care that is pretty common. I locked myself in my room and I put on a meditation podcast. It was only 8 minutes long but I let myself go completely – being led by the meditation. I don’t think I would have been able to sustain the full 8 minutes earlier in that week but I was in a different place by the last day of listening to myself and what I needed.

On the first day of my self care challenge, I was surprised to find that eating an eggroll was the thing that brought my most joy. I was excited to see what else I found find out about myself as the week went on but I didn’t anticipate being swiftly cut off at the knees the very next day. In hindsight, it was literally the most perfect timing and I’m grateful that I stayed in the challenge and truly showed up for myself.

Now I challenge you guys – try to take just 5 days for yourself. Really ask yourself every day what you need in that moment and do your best to honor it. The answers may really surprise you.

Laurel Hess is a mother to 2 young boys, a rescue pup, an off-balance cat and likely a few foster pups. She spends her days as President of a local marketing agency, helping craft integrated digital strategies and leading a team of creative collaborators. Once at home, however, Laurel is just trying to find peace with being the World's Okayest Mom. A Dallas transplant in a Louisiana world, Laurel graduated from Loyola University New Orleans in Broadcast Production. She met her husband while she was evacuated in Lafayette during Hurricane Katrina. They lived 5 wild, kid-free years in New Orleans while Laurel served as the Sales and Marketing Manager for the Superdome, Arena and Champions Square, before finally returning to Lafayette and into the wildest phase of life yet ... Parenthood.