“Self-care” is quite a popular term these days. It’s all over Instagram and Pinterest, and it’s being used to market everything from juice cleanses to pricey skincare serums.
But our favorite interpretation of the term is less about bubble baths and sheet masks, and more about making choices that serve your mental and physical health.
Things like going to bed early because you’ve got a lot to get done the next day, even though all you really want to do is stay up and squeeze a little more out of your evening.
Or saying no to a glass of wine at dinner, or choosing a veggie-heavy meal instead of the comfort food you might be craving. Putting in some time in the gym or heading outside for a walk, even when you don't feel like it. Even calling or texting a friend to check in when you’re not feeling very social.
True self-care is about prioritizing your future self over your short-term desires.
Your future self might be the you who has to wake up tomorrow and give a presentation, and will want to feel rested and calm.
Your future self might be the woman who in 6 months will be celebrating a major milestone or going through a difficult time, and want friends she can count on to show up for her.
Or, your future self might be the mother 3 years from now who’s got enough energy to care for her family, because she developed (and stuck with) healthy habits before she even became pregnant.
As we all know, infertility can be an emotionally difficult experience. The emphasis on the physical body during this time — what it seemingly can’t do, how it will respond to treatment — can also be a source of stress, particularly if either partner is blaming themselves for their infertility.
But when many of us are stressed, we can fall back on self-indulgent habits that don’t serve us, which just repeats the cycle and makes us feel worse!
That’s why it’s especially important to practice strong self-care habits during this phase of your life that help you deal with stress in healthier ways.
But even if self-care is more about self-preservation than self-indulgence, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!
In fact, self-care needs to be fun if you’re going to actually be consistent about it.
The science of habits tells us that our habits need to be rewarding if they’re going to stick. Willpower is limited, so simply believing you “should” do something is not enough to make it happen. It’s not a personal flaw — this is just how the human brain works!
Our desired habits must also fit into our existing behaviors and routines. If not, we’ll likely abandon them before we ever see any real benefits.
If you’ve tried to incorporate more self-care into your routine but haven’t made anything stick, you might just need a fresh way of thinking about it — one that works with your existing desires and motivations, instead of against them.
Here are a few ideas to spark some inspiration:
Love coffee, but need to drink more water?
Buy a pretty new water bottle, one you love to look at. Put your water bottle on the kitchen counter next to the coffee maker, and fill it up in the morning along with your coffee. Pouring the coffee becomes your mental trigger to also fill your water bottle. Then, take it with you throughout your day and refill it as you take bathroom breaks. And reward yourself with something a little self-indulgent at the end of the day. Maybe even a hydrating face mask — not that your skin will need it!
Night owl, but want to start going to bed earlier?
Carve out time for a relaxing activity before bed and make it precious, non-negotiable “you time!”
Love hot baths? Set a nightly alarm on your phone, not to go to bed (which you'll dread and probably just start to ignore) but to get in the bath (which feels like a treat). You'll be relaxed and drowsy and ready for bed when you get out — mission still accomplished! Make baths feel even more special and rewarding with scented aromatherapy candles, dim lighting, bath salts, and a book.
If baths aren’t your thing, maybe a nightly appointment in your bed with a good book will entice you to stick with your new sleep routine. Just leave the phone, computer or tablet out of reach.
Hate working out?
Start with something easy and relatively painless, like walking outside or on a treadmill. Combine it with something you love, like an audiobook, podcast or Netflix show — then only watch or listen to that when you’re working out.
Once you achieve your goal of working out a certain number of times per week, treat yourself to a healthy but delicious meal, a pedicure, or something else fun. But make sure you decide on the reward ahead of time!
Want to start journaling more?
Writing down our thoughts and emotions can be one of the best ways to untangle them and even coach ourselves through difficult times. Journaling on a consistent basis, and not just when you’re going through something, can be one of the best ways to proactively stay on top of your mental health, too.
But if you’ve never journaled before or it’s been a while, getting started can feel a little awkward!
Start by buying a beautiful journal and a pen you enjoy writing with. Then, set your journal out where you’ll see it often. Decide when and where you’ll write your first entry. Then, don’t worry about writing complete sentences — start with a list or a few bullet points of random things on your mind.
If you find that evenings are a good time for jotting down your thoughts, you can try writing a short list each night of good things that happened to you that day. If mornings are better, clear your mind with a brain dump. Whatever feels better to you!
No matter what habit you’re trying to build, the key is to be as specific as possible about what your new habit will be, and when and where you’ll do it. Start small!
Think ahead of time about how you can make it more enjoyable, more fun, and more immediately rewarding. It needs to have an instant payoff!
It also helps to take a mental inventory of all of the things you do or that happen to you without fail every day. You’ll experiment with attaching your new habit to one of those events. That becomes your trigger, which makes the habit more automatic.
Make a list of all the things your “treat” could be, too — ideally simple pleasures that won’t derail you from your goals or sabotage your progress. You can refer back to your list anytime you’re feeling stuck about how to motivate yourself to start a new habit.
Put it all together and you have a solid recipe for self-care success.
No matter where you are in your fertility journey, it’s never too late to start prioritizing your own health and happiness and building the habits that will serve you tomorrow and years down the road.
Thankfully, we can (and should) have a little fun with it, too.