We’ve all heard the idea that self-care is important. But sometimes it can feel selfish, or even worse, like a burden. I personally found this to be true when my twins were born. Having children, though they are an incredible blessing, is like throwing caution to the wind when it comes to self-care. While I am a huge proponent for self-care, I found myself running into the conundrum of feeling like it was more effort than it was worth. But the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” came and hit me in the face, quite hard, after a few months of running on empty (sleep deprivation didn’t help, either).
Sometimes, the thought of scheduling self-care stressed me out to the point that I just let go of the idea of it. And I actually felt better when I stopped caring about my own needs; for a time. I felt like I had more mental space in my life, which was a relief. Surprise! That feeling didn’t last long. The long days, the no “me time” – it started to take a toll.
So, I started working out ways to strike a balance. My attempts included the following:
- Wait for help, and then try to squeeze in a yoga class. Nope. Too rushed.
- Put the kids to bed; try a meditation app. Nope. Too much housework to catch up on.
- Write a journal entry to shake off some anxiety. Nope. I’d rather sleep.
I found so many excuses, and quite frankly, I had trouble relaxing until I got everything checked off my to-do list. People would say things like, “Oh, the laundry can wait,” but I found myself unable to believe such statements. Things started to change because I found myself hitting a wall. I had to figure out ways to squeeze in some self-care. Self-care begets self-care, and taking care of oneself makes it much more pleasant and fulfilling to care for others.
If you are in a situation where scheduling self-care feels like a monumental task, try to think of ways that you can incorporate it into your already packed routine. For me, I found this in the form of music. It sounds so simple, but it’s been a reprieve from those crazy days where it feels like I simply cannot keep up. And after rediscovering the power of music as self-care, in the context of parenting, I found myself carving out more time for myself without the guilt.
The Power of Music
Music has proven, for me, to be the best form of self-care. More than meditation or exercise, music is an easy reprieve for me. Anyone who spends time listening to music may share a similar sentiment. And the best part is that it does not create that feeling of, “If only there were more time in the day.”
Let’s face it: Scheduling any form of self-care can take a lot of time. From traveling to said “self-care” activity, to worrying about my kids while being out of the house, the stress of adding it into my routine was daunting for some time. I felt more anxious over an activity like yoga, that the sole purpose of said activity was completely defeated.
Music, on the other hand, can be an integral part of any day. When I started making time to play music that I enjoyed (versus “Baby Shark,” for example. Sorry, kids!), I found that I could reach a level of relaxation that didn’t require me to leave my house if I wasn’t up to it. This removed a layer of pressure. (Side note, I still play “Baby Shark” for my kids. But it’s not the only thing on rotation. They get to listen to some of my favorites as they play with their puzzles.)
Why Music Matters
Daniel Levitin points out in his book, This is Your Brain on Music,
The story of your brain on music is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes. It involves a precision choreography of the neurochemical release and uptake between logical prediction systems and emotional reward systems. When we love a piece of music it reminds us of other music we have heard, and it activates memory traces of emotional times in our lives. Your brain on music is all about … connections.
Making connections with music is this dance within your brain. Think about an album or even just a song that you’ve loved for many years. Now think about where you first fell in love with that album/song. There’s probably a memory associated with it. And for me, those memories are like brain food. This is where it becomes self-care. It takes you to another place and time, even when not actively thinking about a different place or time. It’s just a feeling that washes over you. And that makes it a true gift.
Music is Easy
A friend once said to me something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t listen to music. I’m just not into it.” And I never understood that because music is for everyone. Finding sounds you love is half the joy in the listening.
You don’t need to be a musical virtuoso to enjoy the pleasures of music. And if you doubt the ubiquity of music, here’s something that may change your mind:
Album sales alone bring in $30 billion a year, and this figure doesn’t even account for concert ticket sales, the thousands of bands playing Friday nights … Americans spend more money on music than on sex or prescription drugs.
Here are some ways to enjoy music, in case you feel like you’re in a rut:
- Listen to your favorite albums in their entirety. Vinyl is big in our house at the moment.
- Create playlists for vibes using Apple Music or Spotify.
- Think about lyrics to a favorite song and think about what they mean to you. Maybe even write about it.
- Listen while you drive and sing like nobody (except maybe your kid) is listening.
- Take a walk and turn up your headphones (but not too loud…because, you know, cars…)
- Concerts – go by yourself or with someone else if it’s in your budget. Go with someone who will enjoy the show on the same level as you. Don’t invite that friend who will be a bump on a log. Unless, of course, you like being that way, too. The important thing is to find someone who matches your concert-going vibe. Yes; going to a show takes time and money, but if the time is there for you and you can set aside the funds here and there, you won’t regret it!
Getting out of the house for self-care activities is fantastic if you can do it. But on those days where it just feels like an added level of stress, there is always music.
What ways do you practice self-care in a worry-free way?