Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care in Your 40’s
How to Be Good to Yourself
Do you practice self-care? I mean really and truly, Are you taking the time to take good care of yourself?
Since turning 40, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Not too long ago, I looked in the mirror and realized that I don’t quite recognize myself. I still looked like me, albeit an older version. But I didn’t feel like me.
I felt old. Lost. Confused. Dissatisfied.
It wasn’t a midlife crisis. But it was a midlife something. I’ve heard it called midlife transition, midlife doldrums, midlife transition or midlife awakening. Whatever you call it, it was my wake-up call that I needed to take action with a serious but simple guide to self-care.
Somehow, over the years, I’ve lost a bit of myself. Apparently, the shift happened so subtly that I didn’t even know it was happening.
My 20’s were filled with building a promising career, traveling for work, becoming a homeowner, figuring things out and having fun. I was strong and independent. Back then, I did what I wanted, when I wanted. As a result, self-care was never a problem in my 20’s because I only had myself to worry about.
Why We Stop Making Self-Care a Priority
When I married at age 32, my focus went from “me” to “we.” I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Marriage should be about the two of you together. I loved becoming a couple with my husband.
He’s my best friend, my Ride or Die, and not only does he know me better than anyone, but he puts up with my horrible-awful-no-good-bitchy side when it shows up. Which can be often. Especially during this midlife era that I’m going through.
Then at 35, I became a mom. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the thing that completely changed my life. Being a mom consumed my life – in a good way. My number one priority in life immediately became my beautiful daughter; structuring my life around what was best for her.
Still, balancing life with marriage, parenting and work became much more challenging. Suddenly there were fewer hours in the day and less money. Little things I used to do for myself were put on the back burner.
I get it. Life can be overwhelming with all of our commitments and responsibilities. But regardless of family or work obligations, there is still a part of you that needs to be cared for and not neglected.
I began to feel guilty about taking time for self-care.
Thoughts ran through my mind constantly:
- I shouldn’t take the time away from them.
- Spending money on myself wasn’t okay.
- Stop being so selfish.
Buying things for me like new clothes and make-up, outside of the bare necessities, felt indulgent and I didn’t feel worthy. Maybe it’s because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough as a wife, mother, and employee.
But then, who does feel like they are doing enough? I think a lot of moms feel like they are dropping balls right and left, either in one area of their life or in all areas.
Or maybe you’re doing more than enough but none of it feels like it’s good enough, because you’re doing so much that you can’t do any of it well. And when you feel like your failing, the last thing you do is something nice for yourself.
I heard something that deeply resonated with me recently:
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t very well take care of others. That, my friends, is why we must make self-care a priority.
What is Self-Care?
It boils down to this. Self-care is simply taking care of yourself. Self-care can encompass a multitude of things. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus on three basic areas: physical, mental and emotional.
In our 40’s this is so important. Our bodies start changing and adjusting to age and possibly perimenopause. It’s time when we may be taking care of family or aging parents or both. And for some of us, it’s a time where we begin to question what we’re doing with our lives.
Self-care is about incorporating healthy, calming and stimulating activities into our lives and connecting to that person you used to be (or always wanted to be). It’s the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
The Benefits of Self-Care
The benefits of self-care are innumerable. Here’s just a few:
- Necessary for stress management
- Increases productivity because we learn to say no and set boundaries
- Allows for us to slow down and focus on the things that really matter
- Improves self-esteem and reinforces the message that you and your needs matter
- Increases self-awareness, which might lead to discovering new passions and change life direction
When you take time to fill your cup, you have more to give to others, too.
How Should I Start Implementing Self-Care?
Start by giving yourself permission.
Let go of guilt and allow yourself to do things you enjoy. Pursue interests. Get rest. Eat healthy foods, spend money on yourself for necessary health and beauty products. You’re worth it!
Make time for yourself.
Schedule your time just like you schedule anything else in life, like work meetings and doctor’s appointments social commitments. Put your self-care time on the calendar so you don’t blow it off.
Set expectations and boundaries.
Talk to your partner and family about your new self-care initiative and your wishes for time for yourself. My frustration had reached heightened levels and I felt like I didn’t have the time and freedom to do some of the things I wanted to do.
When I sat down and told my husband how I was feeling, he was totally supportive. He wholeheartedly encouraged me to take the time I needed and do more things for myself. Turns out, these “limitations” I felt were actually self-imposed completely in my head. I was telling myself that I couldn’t and shouldn’t; no one else saying it.
Stop feeling like you’re the only one that can do things around the house.
Stop acting like you are the only one that can handle kids’ schedules, obligations, shopping, errands, and chores. Give up control. My husband offered numerous times to do more, but I wouldn’t let him. I was being a martyr and I realized this was part of my problem. Turns out, hubs could handle all of the household stuff just fine. In many cases, better than me!
And as for the mommy guilt I felt for being gone? It was pointless. My husband and daughter loved having their time together, going to the park or movies. It’s not just healthy for me; it’s healthy for them, too.
Set aside money for the things you need or want to do.
This was huge for me. I had a hard time justifying the spend; any spend, on myself. I would hesitate and tell myself there were many other ways the money could be spent on my daughter or my family.
It might take some work to change your mindset about self-worth. It did for me. Then, I realized 1) I wasn’t actually taking away from family’s well being and 2) if money is tight, there are plenty of self-care things you can do without spending much, if any, funds.
What Are Some Self-Care Activities?
I’m glad you asked. Here’s a list of easy self-care activities you can start today!
- Go for a walk
- Take a nap
- Go to bed early
- Write in a journal
- Go to a movie
- Use your sick leave and take lunch breaks!
- Drink lots of water
- Eat healthy food
- Take vitamins and supplements
- Get a massage
- Go to the gym
- Spend time with friends
- Read a book
- Sign up for a class to learn something new
- Spend some time on personal development
- Pursue your interests!
If there is one thing I am learning during this midlife phase, it’s that I can no longer neglect myself, my needs or interests.
Do you struggle with making self-care a priority? Here’s a printable you can download with some of my favorite self-care quotes. Print it out and put it somewhere you can see it every day as a reminder to be intentional about self-care!