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My Son, My Teacher: A simple story about Self-Care and Relaxation

It seems obvious, but it needs to be said. If you don't take good care of yourself, how can you take good care of others? In this story, I am going to tell you a day when I was asked to relax and have fun. And because you've been reading this series about What Children Teach Us Back on my blog (Assuming! haha!), you must have guessed that it was my son who said it.


Only two things in this article:

1. Our simple story
2. The 3Rs of Self-Care

1. "You should relax mommy"

One day, I was writing a blog and Lucas was watching TV.

He suddenly burst out, "Mommy, let's listen to music! Let's have a party!"

I was busy. He also knows that I need time for myself while I let him watch TV in the afternoon after his Zoom classes.

I told him, "Later baby, mommy needs to finish this."

You know how persistent kids are, right? He blurted a lot of things until finally, he said, "Relax mommy. You should relax. Let's party come on! Turn on squalify!"


It made me stop what I'm doing. Laughed out loud realizing that he really meant to say Spotify instead of Squalify. And also because it hit me hard. The way my own son asked me to relax and start a party just because it's fun.

Did he really observe that I was stressed out?

It's true that during those days, I couldn't get a whole 6-hour sleep. Usually I get 10-hour sleep. Suddenly, after my miscarriage, it was hard for me to fall asleep. It was harder when I wake up in the middle of the night, to go back to sleep.

But he doesn't know that. He sleeps like a baby on his own bed.

I don't think I was less patient with him that time because of lack of sleep. When I feel like I can't take his naughtiness anymore, I asked his dad to watch him while I regain myself.

Could it be my daily complaints about my pimples and how it was caused by lack of sleep?

I don't know why he said it, to be honest. It could have been because he wanted to convince me to turn on some party music and dance with him. Children are smart that way.

Anyway, realizing that I needed to pay attention. I stopped what I was doing, turned on some party music on "Squalify" and danced with him. Even though all he wanted from me was to continuously bow my head to the beat while typing on my laptop.

He was right. You don't need an ocassion to start a party.

That night, I slept at about 12 AM but woke up at 2 AM and again I couldn't get back to sleep! I tossed and turned and prayed the rosary. I know... gosh it's bad! I thought praying the rosary will lure me to sleep as usual.

Then I cried. I finally acknowledged that something was wrong.

That morning, I told my husband how I cried and that there was definitely something wrong. On how I think I was pressured by a lot of things I shouldn't be (I am not going to share everything because it will bore you).

One of the things, I thought about at night is how I didn't feel accomplished staying at home. It didn't matter if the house was clean, the laundry done, that Lucas was learning and having fun. I felt like those were already part of the expectations when you're a stay-at-home mom.

I thought about all the topics I wanted to write and how I am going to fit writing in our schedule. I thought about my admin tasks and how I wanted to earn extra income.

And do you know what happened that night? After I acknowledged that something was wrong? I magically fell asleep. And did not wake up in the middle of the night. That night, and the nights after that...

I thought I was taking care of myself pretty well. I was eating healthy, trying to exercise again, and doing the things I'm passionate about.  I even bought skin care products for the first time here in Japan, and some new cosmetics.

I was wrong... Self-Care is not as simple as doing things for yourself.

The 3Rs of Self-Care

According to Loyola University of Maryland Counseling Center, Self-Care consists of 3Rs.

a. "Recognize your own signs of stress, such as shallow breathing, digestive changes, skin problems, trouble sleeping, or irritability."

    In my case, I experienced constipation, skin problems, and trouble sleeping. I guess I got irritable too.  But as you can imagine, having a child, I know how to watch out for irritability. I know how to address it so I guess it was part of my normal days.

    During that time, I did not acknowledge them as signs of stress. After all, I gave birth in May so I thought my body was just adjusting and that my hormones are not yet normal.

I talked to my husband and my close friends about it and gotten some support.

b. "Develop healthy routines, including balanced meals, exercise, time with friends, pursuing interests, and sleep."

    After recognizing and acknowledging that there is a problem, I turned to... can you guess?

I turned to mobile phone apps to find some relaxation techniques. I found a good app but it requires a purchase after a 7-day trial. In that app, it was mentioned how a morning routine is one of the secrets of successful people.

I believed in that because in my previous training, I learned that to successfully change your behavior, you must start by setting small goals and aim for quick wins to inspire you to go further.

So I started with a morning routine. The first good tip is to Always drink water immediately after waking up.

Why?

The app mentioned that most powerful people does this, including setting an alarm for waking up. I forgot who the people are I just remember Michelle Obama. Hehe!  

Anyway, an article in the Business Insider entitled "Why Top Executives swear by a 30-second habit anyone can adopt", said here's why:

- Drinking water first thing in the morning immediately helps rehydrate the body. 
- ... increases your level of alertness. 
- ... helps fuel your brain. 
- ... can help you fight sicknesses. 
- ... jump-starts your metabolism."

That's exactly what I did! After waking up, even if I need to pee, I drink one glass of water.

Then, I added some more in my morning routine:

Drink water - pee - prepare breakfast for Lucas - clear the kitchen - brew coffee - sweep the floor - start the laundry machine (if needed) - morning stretch with Lucas - eat my breakfast

Did you notice there was no "check my phone for messages"?

It was different when I had work. I have to follow a morning routine, well, because I needed to.

But then, when you step inside the office or in the cases nowadays, when office time starts, a routine is also important.

Do you chat with officemates first? Do you read e-mails? Which one would you respond to right away? Do you have a task that you need to start with?

No matter what the roles are, it makes us feel good to start our day accomplishing things. 

I also think it is always best to start with the things we can control.

With that, I knew I was already on my way taking small steps towards big changes.


c. Learn and practice relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.

    There are a lot of relaxation techniques out there. I am not an expert so won't list out anything except share...

    What worked for me?

    A 5 - 7 minutes morning warm-up or an 8-minute sleepy time-stretching, a walking routine, drinking green tea after dinner and watching one episode of a show on Netflix (currently Doctor-X) right before sleeping.

    These are the things I can afford to do. I am joined by Lucas in the exercises and we all go out for a walk at night. At times when I feel lazy, Lucas is the one who pushes me into sticking to this routine because he loves working out. 

    Studies have shown that when someone is watching us we put on more effort. This might sound petty but this is also why I started posting regularly on Instagram. Since I stay in the house and don't talk to anyone aside from family, it made me want to put more effort into the way I look. Including sleeping well for better skin.

    The green tea helps with my digestion so I don't feel bloated. The Netflix show is necessary because I found that I can sleep faster if I think about the show rather than real-life scenarios!

It all depends on what you can commit to. Remember to keep it simple and small at first. It's pointless to start a grand routine if you cannot keep it up anyway. Do you agree?

Now I know that Self-Care is not as simple as doing things for yourself. It's about HEALTHY HABITS.  It's about recognizing when you are stressed out, even just a little and then doing something about it. It's about doing one small thing better than yesterday. Self-Care is not just a 30-minute massage or a 1-day "ME TIME". It's what you do for yourself CONSISTENTLY on a DAILY basis.

How do you take care of yourself?

An update: I am doing extremely well now and taking things one step at a time. 

I take my energy from Lucas. He proclaimed that "he is always happy." I secretly thought that it's a good thing. Only secretly because do you know when he said that? It was when we were lecturing him about something he did. We asked him, "why are you smiling? Is there something funny?" And that was his answer!



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