Taking Care of Me

Photo by Muffet

I’m amazed sometimes that it took me 32 years, a marriage, and bearing two children before I learned how to take better care of myself.

To go to bed on time.
To drink water instead of soda.
To moisturize properly.
To eat right.
To take my vitamins.

One of my primary responsibilities is to take care of other people. People who don’t know how the washing machine works. People who can’t even bathe or feed themselves. And yet I wasn’t doing a very good job of taking care of myself.

I finally learned to go to bed and finish a task in the morning instead of staying up late and fooling myself into thinking I was being productive.

The other day at the grocery store I almost decided to buy a bottle of soda, because I had been so good about not drinking it. Why do we try to reward ourselves with the very things that aren’t good for us and that we have been trying to avoid? I came to my senses and turned my cart around just in time.

I still don’t always get it right. I forget to eat lunch sometimes. If it’s not on my to-do list, I don’t stop to eat lunch. Fortunately my husband knows this about me, and if I’m feeling like I’m ready to have a breakdown he knows he needs to make me a snack.

I used to think taking care of myself was all about the outside of me. Looking good. My toes were always polished. I spent a lot of time thinking about my hair. But I didn’t feel very good.

Now, in this season of life, taking care of myself is essential to survival. Most days I have no time to myself to start the morning quietly, even on the days when I wake up before six a.m. There’s always a little person making his needs clearly known in those wee hours of the morning, whether or not I have fully woken up.

Taking care of myself makes the difference between making it through the day or feeling miserable the whole time.

When free time is so precious, do I use it on something that will revive my spirits, or am I too beat to recognize when an activity is just “filler?”

Do you even remember which activities revive your spirits?

Right now (because it might change) my favorite free-time activities are sewing and reading books. Even if it’s just for half an hour or less.

So in my favorite keep/drop style, here is how I’m spending my free time.

Keep: sewing small things
Drop: doing last-minute cleaning so I can “relax” with a nice clean view.

Keep: reading books
Drop: watching movies

What are the ways that you take care of yourself? What is hard?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Funnily enough, I kept watching movies, but I usually only watch them when I’m sick. I dropped TV altogether — it allowed me to stop caring about fictional people whose creators cared more about increasing revenues than developing a proper story.

    I also am trying to stop eating because I’m bored. I eat pretty healthily, but if I’m bored, my first option is the kitchen. Now I try to go outside for a little while if I feel like I’m craving something. Taking the puppy and spending time outdoors really reduces my cravings and puts into perspective the rest of what I have to do in a day.

  2. That is a interesting question. I love watching t.v but it really drains me. I am noticing when I watch it less I can focus on other things and I feel free-not obligated to sit in front of a screen.

    I have found another thing called honesty. I am “southern” and very roundabout with my words. Just saying yes or no sometimes makes my life easy.

    Enjoyed your thoughts.

    Googlover´s last post…Oh Joy!

    • Honesty! I think that is brilliant! Taking care of ourselves start with being honest about our boundaries, about what we truly need. The sleep, the water, the eating, we all need that. But the emotional caretaking is a bit more trickier. And requires more honesty, as you put it!

      Vina´s last post…Mothering With Authenticity

  3. It took my body breaking down into full blown sick mode last week for me to realize it was time to slow down and take care of ME. I love the keep/drop list, and I’ll probably spend a bit of time today thinking about what can be dropped. Thanks!

    Coach J´s last post…March Fourth

  4. Keep: reading
    Drop: late night internet surfing

    Keep: leaving the kitchen sink clean at the end of the night
    Drop: feeling guilty about the dog hair

    Keep: splurging on produce
    Drop: impulse buying cakesters

    Juice´s last post…The Highlight Of My Weekend Might Be A Rice Cooker

    • I agree wholeheartedly with your first keep/drop! I find myself reading fewer and fewer books as I spend more and more time online. And really, what do I usually have to show for the hour surfing around/blog reading in the evening? Whereas if I finish a book, it gets to go on my yearly total, so I can brag at the end of the year! :]

  5. KEEP: Reading Books on my lunch break
    DROP: Going shopping over my lunch break, so I can just “get out of the office”

    KEEP: Spending time on the floor with my 8 mo old before her bedtime
    DROP: Doing dishes while she’s still awake

    KEEP: Increasing our time outside now that the weather is nice
    DROP: All evening TV

    Thanks for the post… I’m such a busy body that I have to really work hard to spend time with my daughter sometimes. There is always something else I could be doing if she would just entertain herself. However, at the end of the day, that’s not what makes me happy. She’s growing so fast that I need & want to spend as much time with her as I can. All those dishes, clothes, and cleaning can wait until she goes to bed.

  6. It likewise has taken me well into my thirties to learn that I need rest and water, good foods and exercise to be the person I want to be, to do all that care-taking.

    Reading recharges me, as does a short walk outside or a Jane Austen movie adaptation plus some embroidery. (I know them all by heart, so even fifteen minutes and a few stitches help me feel like I’ve had a mini vacation.)

    Which brings me to the last thing, which is that I can’t wait for the big treat or even the weekend to recharge, even if that just means taking two minutes and just listening to the birds, or taking extra time putting lotion on my hands– micro- recharges are much more realistic!

    Missy K´s last post…You Can’t Un-Know What You Know Now

    • Miss Dianne says:

      I’m 43 years old and still I’m working at taking care of me. Now that my son is 20 years old, maybe I will get better at doing that.

  7. Wow is this me as I near 33. Now that I am drinking the water, I need to keep up with the Living Water, so that I will never be thirsy again.

  8. What a great post! I need a keep/drop list.

    Keep – spending time on photographs at night
    Drop – Staying up past 10 p.m.

    Keep: De-cluttering my house
    Drop: Keeping things I might use one day.

    Keep: Making a list of Keep drop things
    Drop: Reading blogs that don’t make an impact on my daily well-being.

    • Miss Dianne says:

      De-cluttering is making my home and my life so much more simple. I’d rather have time on my hands to think of something to do than be harried and hurried with too much to do. A de-cluttered lifestyle gives me more freedom.

  9. Long time reader, first time commenter…

    I just started noticing the same thing in my life! I work from home and dropped movies during work breaks, in favor of inspirational business books and articles. I’ve got so much more energy after only a few days, and my productivity is phenomenal.

    Melanie Orndorff´s last post…This week’s quick tips from Twitter

  10. I had to teach myself to be a morning person and to take physical care of my body. Now my children are teenagers and I relish my quiet weekend mornings. Congratulations on making your fun activities a priority.

  11. I think we start taking better care of ourselves as mothers or we fall apart. You learn fairly soon that you can’t properly care for others, which is all you do as a mother and homemaker, without attending to your own health and well being.

    I take care of myself in many ways, throughout the days. Some days better than others. Yesterday I had a bath, with a book and a candle – in the middle of the day! That was so lovely after a morning of hard digging in the yard.
    My kiddos are old enough to fend for themselves for that long. It was so nice.

  12. Oh this is so true… about rewarding ourselves with the things that are bad for us!!! I do this with myself ALL the time!!! I went to bed early and felt so much better so tonight I allow myself to stay up a bit later for doing so well today… I haven’t eaten chocolate ALL week, so I will give myself a good chunk with my coffee later… and so on and so on!!! It took your post to recognize that in myself… For years I did it with my kids: they got to bed early all week and were so pleasant because of it, so they could stay up later on a Friday night – bleh Saturday every time… EVERYTIME!!! Some of us are really slow learners. And I need to think of ways to reward myself that aren’t exactly the behaviors we are trying to change – why do we do that anyway?!!! Hope you have a fun weekend!!!

    se7en´s last post…The Quickest Pinata in the World in Se7en Steps…

  13. I too, am finding it a matter of survival to begin taking better care of myself. (And I’ve got about ten years on you.) I started taking vitamins, am slowly getting away from soda, go to bed by ten almost always. The hardest for me is remembering to eat. I also haven’t chosen a form of exercise I think I can be consistent with every day, but I’m working on it. At this point in my life I have the choice between taking care of myself or crawling into bed and never doing another productive thing in my life. It’s just that simple.

    Sandy´s last post…Turn Off The TV Week~April 19-25

  14. I had a major life reevaluation early this week. I realized that my behaviors were not in line with what I thought was important to me, so I took some time and figured out what really is important to me and what isn’t. The biggest thing though is that I wrote it down and hung the list right in eye site on my desk at work, the place I’ll see it the most. My list?
    1. My health including diet and exercise
    2. My mental health
    3. Grad school
    4. My significant other
    5. my cats
    6. other

    Looking at this list reminds me to take the stairs while I’m at work (extra exercise!). It reminds me that talking about my coworkers is ‘other’ and is likely a waste of my time. Viewing things this way is already starting to help.

    Alissa´s last post…Priorities

  15. Keep: meaningful conversations in the evenings
    Drop: worrying about everyone’s well-being to the point of exhaustion

    Christine´s last post…Would you just look at him?!

    • Miss Dianne says:

      Good idea to drop worrying about everyone’s well-being. It can be draining worrying so much.

  16. Ugh. I don’t know why I still struggle with this.

    But I know that I have to limit my coffee to one cup a day.
    I have to stop reading “how to…” and just “do”.
    I also have that problem with cleaning so I can relax. But I really do feel so much better when things are in order. Maybe I just need to get rid of more stuff :-)

    • Oh, Alisha . . . did you read my mind? I’m very much a read “how to”–I don’t get to the “do”. As I type, I have library books sitting here of “what to read”,”how to read critically”, “great reads”. I need to just pick up a book and READ. :)

      I have a tremendous coffee “problem”. And I can’t even see that it does that much for me, alert-wise.

      Thanks for being honest. :)

      • Miss Dianne says:

        Ladies hang in there because you are not alone. I had so many books that I wanted to read and some just taking up space. I’ve reduced my books and still haven’t read them all. Take heart and don’t be hard on yourselves.

  17. This was a great post! When I have a free moment, I definitely head straight for my sewing or knitting. What’s hard?–going to bed at the right time instead of squeezing in just one more row of knitting; limiting my computer time and not feeling resentful about how little time I get to myself. My focus needs to shift to being grateful for the time I DO get!

    Wendy´s last post…this moment

  18. Keep: talking with my kids
    Drop: sending them away when I am “busy”

    Keep: trail walking
    Drop: whatever mindless task I undertake in the afternoons

  19. Rachel– you are talking my language with this post! :)

    I’ve been so reflective lately about the concept of self care as a mother– particularly a mom of little ones. Our primary work in the world is taking care of others, and as a result the care of ourselves gets totally unattended to.

    I am really struggling with using time wisely…in ways that produce more peace and calm within…way too often I flit around like a chicken with my head cut off with any free time I have and end up feeling more flustered and dry.

    Keep: Having books I’m enjoying out and ready to pick up
    Drop: The mindless web surfing and checking emails

    Keep: Green Smoothies
    Drop: Bland store bought cookies

    Keep: Long, lingering hugs and embraces with my husband
    Drop: Waiting until noon (or later) to get myself dressed for the day

    Great article!

    Lisa @ WellGrounded Life´s last post…Interview and Giveaway with Sherri from Serene Journey

    • Miss Dianne says:

      Hooray for dropping store bought cookies! Homemade, even from a mix, is much better.

  20. Jaclyn Reynolds says:

    Keep- Reading before bed and journaling
    Drop- Staying up til 3am like it’s not going to catch up to me

  21. Rachel, Thank you so much for this. I’ve been contemplating this very thing as our family dynamics continues to morph–our three kids are all teens, as of today! I don’t have much more time to be an example of how they should handle themselves as adults. I need to think through my keeps and drops. Thanks, everyone, for the ideas.

  22. I’ve gotten rid of the sugar and pop and kept the going to bed early and exercising in the mornings instead of staying up late and getting up late. I feel refreshed and I can accomplish a lot more in my day.

    Rana´s last post…Outdoor Hour Challenge – At the Beach!

    • Miss Dianne says:

      Rana I also go to bed a lot earlier. I had to learn to stop fighting sleep and just go to bed. I didn’t really have a reason for staying up late other than watching tv. Imagine that.

      • “fighting sleep” that’s the perfect way to describe it. for years I did that. and then I’d wash my face to get ready for bed and that would wake me up. now I wash my face and brush my teeth when I know I’ll be home for the night (be it 6 PM or 8 PM) so what when I get drowsy, I drop what I’m doing and crawl into bed to *gasp* simply fall asleep. that’s the goal anyway.

        but for years and years, I fought sleep just to watch TV.

        sunny´s last post…colorful DIY wedding

  23. Definitely lots of food for thought here today!

    My list?

    KEEP: reading blogs I love
    DROP: mindless surfing of *deals* websites and forums that only make me frustrated

    KEEP: drinking more water and eating fruit for snacks
    DROP: eating a bowl of ice cream every day (bad habit of mine during pregnancy!!)

    KEEP: Tidying the house before bedtime so that mornings are smoother
    DROP: hitting the snooze button 4 (or more!) times before I finally roll out of bed!

    Lots to work on there!

    Jen´s last post…Little People

  24. Oh gosh – I feel like even though I’m trying to “take care of me” the world still feels like it’s about to unravel because I’ve added something else into the mix.

    For me right now, I’m trying to exercise regularly and eat more vegetables, which I did do for most of this week, but today, it was so hard (we have major car repairs going on that I have to manage w/2 little kids on my own) that for lunch I had 4 microwaved chicken nuggets, diet soda, and a cube of a really good brownie.

    I don’t really feel bad about it at this point – for me, I know I won’t continue to eat like that at every meal, and I just needed to relax for a bit without taking too long to prepare a meal. I caught up on a television series online w/my baby in my lap for 45 minutes, and when my husband took our toddler out tonight while our baby went to sleep, I felt more mentally ready to workout.

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Spring Break

  25. Oh so true.

    Years back, after a cardiac arrest at 28yrs old I was in cardiac rehab. We were given a picture of the heart and a statement underneath regarding how the heart takes care of itself first.

    The nurses explained that many of us, especially women, feel guilt about taking care of ourselves and that now as heart patients we had to. I still have that piece of paper, somewhere, buried in a drawer. Now, I should just dig it out and remember to look at it occasionally eh?

    Tepary´s last post…{this moment}

  26. I loved the intentionality of this blog post. I will spend some time today thinking about KEEP/DROP. A simple and great tool. Thanks.

    One thing I always keep, is little bits of creativity in my life ~ it always gives me energy!

    Glenda´s last post…As easy as pie (sour cream apple)

  27. Keep: Walking every day.
    Keep: Treating myself after my walk to a simple cup of Starbucks coffee with a little soy.
    Keep: Watching my calorie intake and balancing carbs, proteins, and fats
    Keep: Choosing fresh foods over processed foods
    Keep: Knitting daily
    Keep: Listening to my books while walking
    Keep: Taking care of myself

    I just weighed in…I’ve lost 100 lbs in 14 months.

    LizzieK8´s last post…It’s a Heel!

  28. It’s so important for mothers to take care of themselves. I don’t know how as a culture we got to the point where we feel guilty for taking the time to exercise or read a book. My biggest things to look after myself are exercise and reading right. I’m really struggling to get in bed early these days. In the evenings I’m so tired that it’s hard to motivate myself to get ready for bed. It’s still a work in progress….

  29. Wow. I love how many people have the “stay up late” issue, too. Seems like at night, everything that, in the daylight, is so mundane suddenly becomes SO INTERESTING you can’t close your eyes. I believe I will drop staying up past midnight just to goof around online, and keep my two cups of coffee. For now. Or ever.

    Now I feel like I have to write a post about coffee’s health benefits to justify my keep.

    Keep: Writing about coffee.
    Drop: Writing this really long comment.

    Thanks for the post!

    Leslie´s last post…Bravery : Washing Your Face … With Oil

  30. Karen (Scotland) says:

    This is a great post and SO true. As a teen and in my twenties, I struggled with my weight but it was all about the size and look of my body. When I became a mum, I was hit with the fact that I was an obese statistic waiting to happen. That was the motivation I needed to lose the weight – it wasn’t about having a smaller bum anymore – it was about keeping healthy so that I could keep looking after my children for a long, long time. Now that the fourth baby is here, I am looking forward to shifting the baby weight. Again…

    Keep: (or start again, actually, now that my pelvic bone will cope again): the 20 minute walk to and back from nursery twice a day.
    Drop: Taking the car to nursery then going to the shops just to justify taking the car!

    Keep: drinking the water, especially while breastfeeding.
    Drop: biscuits (cookies) – they’ve become a bad, bad habit while pregnant.

    Keep: Reading – breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to sit with a book for a while.
    Drop: Getting caught up reading chat forums/comments that are upsetting/rude, even if I am pervertedly fascinated by the wierd opinions of some of the uneducated numpties in the world.

    Keep: Trying to find time to kiss my husband.
    Drop: Being impatient. With everyone.

    Going to transfer this Keep/Drop list into my journal for this month as I need constant reminding!

    Karen (scotland)

    • AlaskanAndi says:

      I heart you – thanks for the giggles (in reference to the perverted fasination with weird opinions of some of the….)! Ha!

      • When I re-read my comment, I panicked that people would read that as naughty rude when I just meant impolite rude!

  31. Karen (Scotland) says:

    Gosh, sorry, had no idea that comment was so long. How embarrassing.
    Karen (Scotland)

  32. Every time I stop in, you give me something to think about! Do you know how wise you are– and such a young age?!!

    mrs.e´s last post…Sunday Morning

  33. AlaskanAndi says:

    Keep: Dancing around the house with the kids.
    Drop: Sitting in front of the computer for longer than 30 minutes a day.

    Keep: Spending time outdoors (especially with the 2 year old).
    Drop: Sitting around inside bored.

    Keep: Showering daily.
    Drop: The attitude that I am being unselfish by not taking care of me – it only hurts everyone else.

    Keep: Reading scriptures.
    Drop: Reading every design blog and article I can find. Enough is enough. I need to come up with my own style now…

  34. I’ve started taking vitamins (after way too many years) and eating more good things like fish and veggies. I’ve always spent more time out with the girls for some “me” time instead of feeling like my every minute of my life has to revolve around the kids. Thanks for the important reminder that moms need to take care of themselves too!

    Tina@RideOnToys´s last post…Radio Flyer The Inchworm Provides Hours Of Bouncing and Rolling Fun

  35. I switched to liquid vitamins because I have trouble swallowing pills and saw an immediate difference in my health and energy. I also don’t allow myself to put more than four things on my “to-do” list for the day, as I tend to get easily overwhelmed by long lists!

  36. So simple and true. I am sharing this post with all my readers in my next issue of Gail’s Scoop.

    I gave up soda this past year and now my “treat” is iced tea. I have totally lost my taste for the stuff. YAY!


  37. Great advice! Thanks for putting it into perspective.

  38. This post is a reminder of EXACTLY what I need!!
    I have four awesome children, ages 3 months to 5 years old…and, needless to say, time to myself is, well…almost non-existent. I am an introvert, so quiet time to myself really helps me regroup and refresh, ultimately making me a better mother.
    Your post has reminded me to find pockets of time during my days to enjoy myself.
    Things that make me smile: yoga, reading, writing, blogging, scrapbooking.

  39. I love my kids and my family. But i feel that there never time for myself. It’s always the family needs before mine. what should i do. i am so tiered.

  40. I just found your blog today when I typed in google “how to take care of me.” I love your clean and simple look of your blog and I love how your message doesn’t get lost. I know that I will enjoy in looking through your posts to find the wisdom that I need to hear.Thanks for sharing and I hope to remember to go to bed and take care of me a little more each day!

    Love and Hugs,

  41. very happy to have found this blog. i really appreciate what i have read here. i love the drop/keep way of living, and taking care of myself is a must, especially in this busy world. this a comfortaing place to come, and i’m grateful that there are mature people on the blog, who are interested in helping , and passing on postive things that work for them instead of passing alot of negative things.