The One Thing You Should Do for Yourself This Year (and Always!)

Good for you, good for others.

By Hailey Andresen
Ally Walsh at home with incense, how to take up space for yourself

There’s way more to wellness than just eating clean, so we’re taking a holistic approach to restoring our spaces, minds, bodies, and hearts in small but powerful ways. Introducing The RE:SET Challenge—a 21-day plan to a healthier and happier you. Click here for the full list. Next up, how to hold space for yourself.

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I started off the new year with a clear but simple resolution: to take up space for myself. To some, this may seem a little silly or even confusing, but as I welcomed my daughter into the world and celebrated my son’s fourth birthday, it became increasingly apparent that I had lost a bit of myself in motherhood.

Some of you may be nodding your heads in understanding: motherhood is a rollercoaster of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over again.

Maybe it was welcoming a second child into our lives that pushed me to pause and take a look at what I was doing for myself in the day-to-day chaos. It wasn’t much. 

On a typical morning, I’d wake up, feed the baby, make coffee for my husband, feed the dog, make breakfast and pack lunch for my four-year-old, and if I had time, turn on the tea kettle for myself. I’m a big morning ritual person, so for me, this pattern set the tone to put myself last throughout the rest of the day, too. After my husband and son left the house, I found myself drowning in household tasks, failing to workout or even truly get ready for the day, and in all honesty, it didn’t take long for resentment to build around this morning routine

Most seasoned parents will tell you that if you are not taking care of yourself, it’s near-impossible to care for those around you to your full capacity. And this goes for those of you who aren’t parents either.

Healthy relationships start with a healthy relationship with yourself. Plain and simple.

In the midst of the holidays, I felt that unsettling discomfort that something needed to change. As challenging as it was to push through that discomfort and begin to shift, I began to make a plan for the new year: in 2021, I would take up space in my own life. I declared it to my husband, my friends, my brother, and my in-laws. I needed to be held accountable. Here’s how I did it.

I got realistic about my morning routine.

I made a list of what I wanted to accomplish each day and figured out where in my morning it actually fit. With two kids and a husband who is also trying to establish healthy morning habits, it wouldn’t be when I first woke up, but that didn’t mean it was impossible. Once the boys are out the door I can put my daughter down for her first nap and get to it. For me, it’s gratitude journaling, meditation, working out, making breakfast, and getting ready for the day. The point is to get realistic about when it will actually happen and adjust plans for the day to make it a priority.

I became more intentional with my alone time.

Each week, my husband and I give each other one night out of the house free from the bedtime routine to regroup, relax, and do whatever we want on our own. Prior to the new year, I was using my evening nearly every week to meet friends for drinks. Which, of course, is okay on occasion but I needed to shift my focus to using my alone time more productively. Each week it looks different—sometimes I really do need a night out with friends, but more often than not I’ve been using my night to take a yoga class in another neighborhood so I can truly recharge and come back refreshed. 

I make a conscious effort to do something small for myself every day.

I am so quick to treat a friend to a coffee or pick up a small gift for my husband, but when it comes to myself there’s usually an “I don’t need that” mentality. Here are a few things I’ve done recently for myself to give you an idea:

  • Got my first eyebrow wax in eight years (yes, eight years.)
  • Splurged on that ten-minute massage when I got a pedicure.
  • Picked up some healthy takeout for lunch.
  • Accepted help from friends when she offered.

Don’t be afraid to take action on an opportunity that’s just for you.

I said to myself in mid-December that it was time for me to get back to work. I could feel it in my soul that it was time to get back into it. It was time to be surrounded by good food and wine, to have some adult conversation, and to have a reason to get dressed up outside of a date night. Maybe it was because I allowed myself to accept that it was time, but my husband came across the perfect job opening a week later. It’s easily one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. 

Final thoughts…

Making changes, especially as a mother when your family depends on you for so much, can be terrifying, but I haven’t felt this much like myself in a long time. As much as I’ve ridden the rollercoaster of lost and found in motherhood, I really feel like my best self, and it feels good. All of these changes at once can be overwhelming, and if that’s how it feels for you, start small. Start with what feels most natural and go from there. You will be a better partner, parent, friend, and person because of it.

This post was originally published on January 28, 2020, and has since been updated.