Take care of yourself. You know it’s important. You know it helps you in your relationships. Think about how it will help you to stop, start, cry, forgive, smile, be kind, and be contagious.
Stop. Stop for a few minutes every few hours to just be. Breathe. Think. Sit. Stand. Look in the distance. Experience some quiet, inside and out. Close your eyes. Let your brain rest. Looking after yourself in small ways, pay off in the long run. I do this every day, in the midst of parenting two young children, working from home, doing household chores, and running around. If I didn’t, I’d be a heap on the floor by noon.
Start. Try something new. It could be a small thing, like a new recipe for dinner. Or a big thing like hang gliding. Life is too short to be scared. I toyed with the idea of starting my own business for over 10 years. What stopped me was the fear of failure. I failed before I even tried. In 2012, I took a leap of faith in myself, and have since learned so much from working for myself. It’s been nothing short of wonderful.
Cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being human. It’s a natural self-expression for so many emotions – grief, relief, joy, worry, fear. Give in to your natural body responses. Ugly cry. Let it out. Yes, I do cry, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Forgive. This is a tough one for many of us, especially when we have been through big, traumatic, life-changing experiences. Forgiving is a slow process. Give yourself time and space to get there. But try. Forgiving is not forgetting. Letting go does not make you weak. It’s courageous. This one was a hard one for me. I held a grudge against my mother for many years, because I felt unloved. Allowing myself to forgive her, and myself, has lifted so much off my heart, and given me the space to bridge that gap between my mother and I.
Smile. Easiest thing to do in the world, but we don’t seem to do it enough. Don’t save your smiles. Give it freely. Smile at your spouse, your children, your neighbours, your friends, your barista, your waitress/ waiter, the bank clerk, the grocery store clerk, the guy sweeping the sidewalk. Smiles are bursts of sunshine and they are free. When I was younger, people would say to me, smile more, who are you saving it for? I had no answer.
Be kind. Be kind to yourself. Don’t look in the mirror and start self-criticizing. Look at your beautiful eyes, your strong hands, your capable legs. You’re good, you’re strong, you’re amazing, you’re love. Be kind to your husband/ wife, ask them how their day is. Be kind to your children, don’t forget, they’re just kids. Be kind to your friends online. Don’t start fights, don’t name call. Disagree? Step away from the computer, and remind yourself that there are more important things than that. Now, I am not perfect at this. Some days, I’m not even a smidgen good at this. The important thing is, I know that. I know when I’ve been unkind, and I try again.
Be spontaneous. A friend stopped by with a surprise birthday cake for me a few weeks ago, just after my kids went to bed. I couldn’t blow out candles or eat cake without my boys, so we woke them up. Best 20 minutes ever. Did we break some ‘cardinal parenting rules’? Probably. Did we care? No. It was worth seeing their smiles and their eyes lit up (yes, my boys love cake as much as I do). Go out for ice cream on a school night. Say yes to a last-minute dinner date with a friend. Buy yourself flowers just because you walked past the florist and something caught your eye. Dance in the rain and splash in the puddles. Take an unplanned trip to the park with the kids because the sun is shining. Live life.