No doubt you’ve heard it before: You can’t pour from an empty cup!
Part of being a doula long term is making sure that your needs are met in all of your life, so that you have the emotional and physical ability to be there for your clients. One way to celebrate National Doula Month is to celebrate and take care of YOU!
Often we think of things like massages, long soaks in the tub, and spa days as “self care” but the reality is that true self care is much more than that. I don’t mean to knock those things, and if they help you, go for it! I even know a birth and postpartum doula who factors in the cost of a massage into her pricing! One massage per birth, and one for every 2 weeks of postpartum care. She’s been a doula for over 20 years, so clearly this works for her!
However, there are many, many more things that can fall under the self care umbrella, and those things might be much more your style than massages and bubble baths. Some things I would encourage you to think of as self care:
- Nourishing your relationships – partner relationships, family relationships, friendships, any kind of relationship that helps you feel loved and supported is worth nourishing. Carving out time to spend with those you love can be very useful at refilling your cup. I decided long ago that because my family takes second when a birth comes up, they would always come first for things that were not labor. This meant that I have rescheduled visits with clients to be able to attend my kids’ performances, etc.
- Prioritizing your own needs – I was so busy with births and running my kids around that I went over a YEAR with glasses that were a very outdated prescription. I scheduled a couple times, but something always came up and I bumped myself to the bottom of the pile. Once I finally decided I needed to make sure this happened and my needs were met, I had to schedule it and stick to it. And naturally, something came up that day with one of my kids but I called in a favor to get that covered so I could still make the appointment. Once I had glasses with an updated prescription, I was amazed at how much it helped!
- Be creative – For me, this is my photography. I love taking time to go out with just me and my camera, looking for beauty and finding a way to share it with the world. I try to do it regularly. Sometimes I am really good about going out weekly. Sometimes I go weeks or months without doing it. I never, ever feel like it was wasted time when I do go! Maybe for you this is something else. Other forms of visual art like painting, drawing, etc. Maybe creative writing. Maybe baking or tinkering with electronics to build robots. Anything that you enjoy that gets the creative energy flowing!
- Use technology! A couple years ago my house was overflowing with teenagers during the summer break from school, and I was in the middle of a big project that involved a lot of computer work. I was going crazy! Noise canceling headphones were my self care splurge that summer. I’m wearing them now, listening to music and not being distracted by the Red Sox game that is apparently very intense.
- Ask for help – Pay for help if needed. Next time I rework my pricing, I am considering adding in one visit from a maid service for every birth I do. If cooking is your nemesis, sign up for a meal delivery service if you can pull it off, or have a freezer meal cooking party with friends to stock your freezer. The day I realized I could leave the kids at the babysitter and GO HOME AND SLEEP after an all night birth was a huge leap forward in my self care!
- Journaling – If writing is therapeutic to you, do it. Doesn’t really matter if it is handwritten or typed. It might be a gratitude journal, or it might be a place where you can process and dump negativity to clear it from your head. Or both! There’s no right or wrong way to use journal writing, there’s just what works for you.
- Medical Self Care – Just like my story about the eye exam above, take care of that nagging tooth ache, find out if that twinge in your knee is anything to worry about, and take care of anything else you can so that you’re not feeling less than your best.
- Say No and Quit – Are you stressed out because you volunteered for a neighborhood block party? Quit or scale back your role. If someone asks you to take on a project, and the very idea of doing it stresses you out, JUST SAY NO. This can sometimes be hard, especially if you were raised to be a people pleaser, but it’s true. You don’t have to do it all. I hereby give you permission to say no.
- Stop procrastinating – I cannot even tell you how many times I have FINALLY done the thing that had been looming over my head for weeks, only to feel like “That wasn’t so bad!” afterwards. Not to mention the mental lightness that came once it wasn’t there any more. I will occasionally set aside an afternoon as “do the procrastinated stuff” time. When I start making a list of what I’ll do then a few days before, it usually gets pretty long, and with small and stupid (but necessary) stuff, too!
- Clear physical space – When my desk gets lots of stuff piled up on it, or the clutter in the house gets out of control, I start feeling yucky. For me, taking the time to clear some space (doesn’t have to be the WHOLE HOUSE) really helps me feel better. Sometimes that just means making everyone in the house spend 15 minutes putting stuff away. Sometimes it means putting on an episode of a show I like and spending that hour clearing my desk.
I really don’t expect that you would do ALL of those things, but I do hope that you can widen your idea of what is good self care. Your ability to serve growing families and have a successful business just might depend on it!
What do you do for self care? Got any non-traditional ideas for self care that are not on the list? Share them in the comments or on Instagram with the hashtags #doulaintraining and #doulaselfcare