Self Care: Loving my Body

Growing up I was never really what you would call an athlete. I tried cross country once. I think I lasted 4 days before the 5:30am wakeup calls wore me down. I did marching band, choir and a high school musical each year and the only time I ever intentionally exercised was when I had a choir competition coming up to work on my breath control. 

The year I turned 23 I had just moved back to the states and got invited to try out for roller derby. It changed my life in a few different ways, but the most impactful outcome was that I realized I am an athlete. I trained really hard for the sport and it showed, I was pretty good. I played for four years and decided that I wanted to try to start a family. Since then it's been difficult for me to find something else that keeps my body in such great shape that I also am passionately excited about. I trained for and ran a half marathon, basically hating every step along the way; I have worked out at CrossFit style gyms but don't have the stamina to keep up the intense workouts while also caring for children (props to those who make it work); I have tried working out at home. It's been very difficult for me to find a balance between caring for my body and still having the energy to be active with my super energetic toddler.

During the thirty days of self care I set aside in July I thought about physicality a lot. I listened to my body and tried to discern what it was needing from me. I found a few things that stuck out as important to me during my current season and surprisingly almost none of them had to do with exercise.

Breathing Deeply

During my therapy sessions Jenny regularly said "good breath" after I process something difficult and then take a deep breath afterward. She says it so regularly that my friends who also go to Jenny and I often say it to one another. I have found that beginning my day with some deep breaths and finding some positive affirmations has been really great for how I feel. 

Staying Hydrated

Something else I realized during the last month is that I was not drinking enough water. I finally set a goal to drink at least 120oz a day, which is just under a gallon of water. I used to look at people who carried around gallon jugs with them all day like they were crazy. I'd roll my eyes and think, "why would you need that much water?" 

I totally get it now. After about three weeks of consistently drinking at least 120oz of water per day I feel amazing. My skin looks great, my body feels great, I haven't been craving nearly as many empty calories, I rarely get headaches, my joints feel better. I could go on and on. I start with 8oz of room temperature water each morning with lemon essential oil, and then drink the rest of it 20oz at a time using a rubber band system. At the beginning of the day I put five colorful ponytail holders around my glass and throughout the day as I finish a glass of water I take one off at a time. Having the very small reward of taking off a ponytail holder is so encouraging. 

Stretching

This is pretty straight forward, nothing special - my body feels better when I stretch regularly. I have been trying to do this at night before I go to bed and would like to try to add in a stretch session first thing in the morning. Co-sleeping has added a lot of tension to my neck and shoulders, and did I mention that I have a toddler who likes to use my body as rock climbing practice? Yes, stretching is good. 

Sleeping

Okay, I'm going to keep it real with you guys - this is one area that stuck out to me that I have not figured out yet. I need to get to bed earlier, but like most stay at home moms I covet my evenings when my kids and my husband are all asleep and I am alone. Completely and utterly alone, not being touched or interrupted. It's the only time during the day I can get into any kind of "flow," and I have yet to find the balance of getting enough sleep and still finding the space to feel rejuvenated and at peace and clearheaded. I have not found the solution but recognizing there's a need is half the battle, so I'm halfway there. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Having Fun

A couple of weeks ago I woke up in the a pretty stinky mood. Kyle and I weren't communicating that morning that I was just in a funk. Kyle left for a meeting and I sat on my couch and this light bulb came on. In the words of my girlfriend India "I choose, to be the best that I can be, to be courageous in everything I do; because you never know where life is gonna take you and you can't change where you've been, but today I have the opportunity to choose." 

So I did just that. I put on some music and I danced it out. I spent the day chasing my daughter, ignoring my phone as best I could and just having fun, enjoying life. Now, there's always room for all the feelings, right? We have to be sad when we're sad and alla that. But sometimes you can just shake it off. It's hard to dance with the devil on your back, you know? 

Fin

This was a lot. If you read through it all I really appreciate it. I'll be following up with a couple more posts about what I learned during the month of July and my intentional look at self care. 

What are your favorite ways to take care of your body? 

31 Days of Self Care

For the last six months I have been going to therapy once a week. Every Friday around 11AM I sit down in Jenny’s office and I cry. Some Fridays I don’t cry, but most I do. I’m working through a lot of issues that are difficult, feeling feelings I’ve never allowed myself to feel because of my insane ability to rationalize and disassociate. Now I’m learning that anger is a safe emotion and it tells me what I want; that sadness helps me slow down and obsess over the weigh to life’s problems (jk, that’s from Inside Out, but still true.) I’m also learning that true joy cannot be experienced unless you surrender to all your emotions - “good” or “bad.” (P.S. there's no such thing as good or bad emotions.) I’m finding my voice again; I'm finding some parts of my voice for the very first time.

This process has been really difficult, hence the crying. I’m realizing that I have many walls up and taking them down requires more than praying to Jesus; it requires hard work on my part, using my words and talking about this process with trusted people, and patience on the part of those who love me. I’m so thankful for the patience of the people who love me. Last week the clouds parted, though. So many pieces of the puzzle clicked together and it was an “ah HA” moment. I didn’t cry at all, I smiled a lot, and almost every time Jenny asked how I was feeling the answer was “good.” It. Was. Amazing.

I was driving home thinking over my session when a very strange realization hit me - I didn’t feel like I wanted to go to Target and shop. You see, every single Friday I would go to Jenny and cry and then I would get in my car and something in me would want to go to Target and spend money. I didn’t always give into it, but I felt it every single week. I have also watched a lot of TV in the last six months. I’ve watched a lot of television in the last five years, but these past six months it has been an intentional decision to avoid doing anything else. I often would tell myself, “it’s okay to indulge, you’re just taking care of yourself,” or “you’re always taking care of others, it’s okay to treat yourself.” I ate junk food, avoided my bible, watched television and bought things with one click on Amazon all in the name of treating myself. 

Then yesterday, I read this article. I got pretty defensive at first. If you have time to read it, please do. It’s really great. If you don’t have time to read it, the gist of it is that there is a difference between coping and self care and most of us participate in coping mechanisms and call it self care on a regular basis. A lot of it has to do with our capitalistic and individualistic society telling us that when we’re sad we can make ourselves feel better just by spending a little money and we definitely should not ask for help from those around us. Go ahead and think of things that you consider self care - for me the list includes: “resting” by binge watching TV, getting my nails done, shopping for a new outfit, taking myself out for a nice meal or a sweet treat, getting a hotel away from my beautiful children where I will eat sweet treats and binge watch television. All activities that require me to spend money and ignore my feelings. 

Last night I sat down and asked myself, “what does real self care look like for me?” And my list was completely different than the list I just shared above. It included getting enough rest, cooking and eating foods that taste good and make my body feel good, reading for pleasure, praying and meditating regularly, moving my body intentionally, connecting with friends in real and intimate ways, and writing music and blogging regularly.

If you know me very well at all you know that I love and appreciate a good challenge. I love checking off accomplishments and executing tasks. I have decided that starting to participate in actual self care may be best kicked off with issuing myself a challenge - 31 days of self care. For the month of July I will document the process of learning how to care for myself well. This doesn’t mean I’m going to strive for perfection - I have grace enough for myself, and I know my limits. Some days require coping and that. is. okay. These last six months have required coping and that is okay! Coping isn’t BAD, it just isn’t self care. There's also a new season of Orange is the New Black and, challenge be damned, I'm watching the whole season in the next 31 days at some point.

Do you want to join me? I would love to have some friends along on this journey with me. Holler ballers, thanks for reading.

The (Not So) Terrible Twos

The past six months have been a big game changer for the Steed family. We added another little to our lives, sweet and chill Genevieve Jean. She's a beauty, just like her sister, and we have slowly adjusted to what life is like now that two humans are in our care.

One challenge that was not completely unexpected, but maybe a little underestimated, is how much Savannah has had to adjust to the new addition of her little sister. She sways between adoration and complete disgust on a minute by minute basis. It's slowly getting easier for all of us, but it's brought a lot of attention to her behavior and made me think a lot about the well intended warnings we receive regularly about the "terrible twos." (Oh and don't worry, we also know that the threeage years are way worse.)

I have made a decision, though - I will not call these years terrible. 

This work is hard. The work to care for children and love them well and keep them alive and healthy is very difficult. But it is not terrible.

Terrible is losing your child. Terrible is dealing with medical concerns that are not predictable. I could go on but I'm sure you have your own terrible in mind. 

You see, we have close friends who lost their son around the age that Savannah is at now. So, when she is throwing a tantrum, or stepping (yes, stepping) on her sister, or screaming at the top of her lungs to avoid going to bed I take a deep breath and I thank the Lord that I can be frustrated and tired and mad. It's a privilege to care for these sweet little people; it is not terrible. Our friends would trade their grief and pain for hours upon hours of "terrible" twos. 

I hope this doesn't cast condemnation or shame. This has just been on my mind a lot lately and I want to share in the hopes that the next time you feel at the end of your rope that you can take a deep breath and imagine the alternative. I'm not suggesting you stuff your feelings down - feel your feelings, but also be thankful you can feel them toward the tiny human you've been entrusted with - then hug them and tickle them and soak up their giggles. 

On New Years Day (Just Kidding)

I want to tell you something really important. Really, I want to remind myself of something really important, but I feel it's worth sharing with my friends as well. Are you ready? Okay.

Your worth is steady, and not determined by what you do, but by who you are. Despite what is preached by most of the world this time of year your value won't go up or down based on your actions, or even by how you change your character. This, of course, is my opinion, but I also believe it on a deep spiritual level - whether you agree with me or not, you were created by a Creator who determined that you are worth the sacrifice of His Son, which makes you precious and invaluable and that value you hold cannot change.

No amount of business growth, personal growth or financial growth will make you a more precious or valuable person.

Chances are that if you are reading this we are friends. If we are friends I am fully behind you in your goals for 2016, and I hope you are fully behind me on mine. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that we can do better. If our worth is tangled up with our goals, though, we may find ourselves at the end of 2016 measuring our worth by how well we accomplished those goals, and that's not any way to see ourselves.