The phrase self-care has been getting a lot of attention. There are tons of lists out there about the top self-care activities for fertility.
I get caught up in the hype, just like you, thinking this or that new thing sounds really good, I “should” be doing that.
It took me a long time to find what really works for me, and my self-care is unconventional. I float in a sensory deprivation tank twice a month. The tanks are filled with 8-10 inches of water and 80 pounds of salt, so you float without even trying. They are warm (body temperature), dark and quiet, all of which I desperately needed when I found floating.
I use the tank to give myself deep rest. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I just focus on my breathing and letting go of whatever pops into my mind. I know it feels good, but better than that, my family notices too. If I miss a float, I tend to get a little short with my family and inevitably my husband asks if I have a float scheduled.
As with everything my clients and I work together on, finding the most nurturing self-care for you takes time to tune into what your body is telling you, and then finding ways to practice it in your daily life.
Because self-care is great on paper! But if you don’t do it, and prioritize it for yourself, you won’t see the benefits.
Truly nurturing self-care is not just about getting pregnant or boosting your fertility. Because when you know what is nurturing for you and you prioritize doing it, it helps your whole life. It will make your pregnancy go more smoothly, you will be in tune with what you need during birth and as you transition to motherhood, you’re not sleeping, and your world has turned upside down.
Knowing what nurtures you, can help you to navigate all of these transitions. It helps you set boundaries around what you need and establishes patterns with your partner and family so you have a support system around you that truly supports you.
So your thing may be something big like floating or a monthly massage, but there are also everyday practices that can be nurturing too. It's about nurturing yourself as a mother would. Sleep when you need to sleep, eat when you need to eat, rest when you need to rest, and pee when you need to pee!
Here are a few ideas to try!
How would it feel to know that when you got home from work, you could have a nutritious dinner ready in 30 minutes?
It would feel great, right?
I know that meal prep can feel like a should, but what if you could flip the narrative and consider it self-care. To know that a little time spent planning and prepping your meals could save you stress and anxiety during the week and ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need for hormone balance and egg health.
Sleep is a hot topic, just look at all the commercials out there for mattresses. Either mattresses need to be replaced yearly, or we are tired all the time and need better sleep.
In our culture, sleep is often overlooked, and our sleep deprivation is a badge of honor. Working late into the night to finish a project is seen as dedicated and shows your true commitment to your job or cause.
But, when we don’t get good sleep, it mucks with our hormones, it messes with our food choices and generally makes us unpleasant to be around. Our body needs to sleep so it can repair and get ready for a new day.
There is a lot of guilt around exercise. You may have been told by your Dr. that you need to lose weight in order to get pregnant or you feel the societal pressure to be a different size.
I have struggled with my idea of working out versus my body’s idea of what it needs. I have been working to reframe my idea of exercise and let go of the idea that exercise has to be hard to be effective. I am looking at it as movement, not exercise.
What if we reframed our exercise as movement? How does your body like to move? What movement makes your body feel good and gives it more energy?
When you are trying to get pregnant, this can be a very important question.
Here is the reason why . . . our bodies can perceive too much exercise as stress, raising our cortisol and creating all kinds of problems in our hormonal system. When we are trying to get pregnant, we want our hormones in optimal balance and reducing the stress in our lives is one way to maintain that balance.
So what does feel good to you? Can you take a moment to really listen to your body? Is there a way to cut back on your workout and still feel good, would a transition to some other form of movement feel good? Have you tried pilates or yoga? What about taking a 10 minute walk? How do you like to move?
We all know that staying hydrated is important for our health. And, it is especially important when we are getting ready for pregnancy.
Being well hydrated helps us to eliminate used hormones and toxins, improves our cervical fluid and keeps our circulation moving to our uterus and ovaries.
A good goal for staying hydrated is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For a 150 lb woman, she would try to drink 75 oz of water a day.
That may seem like a lot, but don’t worry -- you can work up to it! Start by tracking how much water you drink right now, then add 10-20 oz for a few days at a time until you reach your goal.
You want to build this into a consistent practice in your life, so start small and take small steps forward until you reach your goal.
Do you remember the feeling of soaring on a swing? The feeling of doing something just because it feels good, not because it one more thing to check off your to-do list.
Play is an important part of who we are, but we often feel guilty about doing it. Like we are wasting our time or being frivolous.
Play can help us manage stress, be more creative and more productive in our work. And, when we manage our stress, our body feels safe and it creates a hormonal balance that is more optimal for conception.
Our schedules are often very full, and our business is worn as a badge of honor. That the busier we are, the more we are doing, means we are a better person.
The truth is, we need rest, and we often have to make a conscious choice to rest.
Our fertility cycle already primes us for a period of rest each month. Around the time we menstruate, our hormone balance turns our thoughts inward, we are less social and have less energy. When we tune into that, and allow ourselves time to rest we are working with our body’s natural rhythm, not against it.
Meditation is definitely one of the self care tools that has gotten a lot of attention. So many people I talk to say “I know I should meditate”, and they never make the time to actually start.
Here’s the thing… Meditation does not have to look like sitting on the floor in a cross leg position chanting. For me, meditation is knitting or taking a walk.
You can start really small and build a practice of mediation. Start with 10 breaths, count the in breath as one, and then out breath as two. When you get to 20, stop or do another round. Set a reminder on your phone to remind you to take some breaths.
There are also lots of good apps out there to get you started. You can try Calm or Headspace. I also like the meditations by Tara Brach either on her website or podcast.
Making Self-Care a Practice
There are lots of different ways to practice self care, and making it a practice in your life is the way to nurture yourself.
I love the way Courtney Carver describes building a self-care practice in her book Soulful Simplicity.
She talks about starting with 5 minutes at a time. You could start with 5 minutes of breathing and 5 minutes of yoga. Then when you get really good at putting those 10 minutes into practice, add one more minute to each. Then when you get good at 12 minutes, add one more minute. Keep building until the practice feels nourishing to you.
For you it might not be breathing and yoga, it may be a gratitude journal and a 5 minute dance party. Check in and see what feels good to you, and start to build your practice.
How can you make self-care work for you?
The thing about self-care is that what works for me may not work for you. You may love a Zumba class, and all I want is a walk in the woods.
The first thing to do is to sit down for a few minutes and make a list of 3-5 things that are truly nourishing for you. It may be something from this blog, or it may be something else.
Next, set a time when you are going to do that thing. Ideally, do it right then. If it’s something you have to plan for, put it in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, and then do it.
Know that you are worth it, and that taking time to nurture yourself is good practice for nurturing your baby!
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