Celebrating Self-Care

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, bestselling author of Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Own Your Health, and Glow, speaks with Purist Editor-in-Chief Cristina Cuomo about how self-compassion is essential to well-being.
Give yourself the gift of at least 10 to 15 minutes a day.  Photography by Clay Banks

Cristina Cuomo: You’ve recently added “mother” to your many roles—integrative medicine doctor, clinical nutritionist, author of Vibrant, CEO of your own health and wellness media empire, VibrantDoc. You know a thing or two about self-care and how important that is. As a new mom, how are you balancing it all? The better word is “juggling.”

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson: The better word is juggling. If you’re 22 and have a couple of kids, I think you just make it through on energy. I don’t know about waiting a little bit later in life for babies. I’m happy I did it, a million percent. I find that it’s draining and exhilarating, too. One thing I’ve learned is that their energy gives me energy. So, 10 or 15 minutes of focused, non-task-oriented baby time selfishly energizes me.

CC: You’re probably giving your brain a rest.

SJS: I think so. That’s the positive side. The draining side is, it’s just a huge life change, which every parent knows. You think about them first instead of taking care of yourself. So how do we shift that paradigm? Where are you not feeding yourself? Maybe you’re doing great on your diet and great on your vitamins, but you’re slipping on your exercise, or you’re slipping on your meditation. Or you’re so into the newest meditation book that you let other things slip.

CC: Finding that reserve of energy is really critical. What is one thing you prioritize every day, no matter how busy you get?

SJS: Water. Just so simple. And then I think another one is, giving yourself time that’s only for you. It may be 10 minutes. But you’ve got to start to find that 10 or 15 minutes only for yourself and no one else. At least give yourself that gift every single day.

CC: So self-care is not selfish. A lot of people think that, especially women and mothers who are multitasking. Self-care is an essential part of our ability to give back. It’s important to check in regularly: Did I eat today? Did I have enough water? Am I doing these things that I’m supposed to be doing, to create an internal reserve of resources—emotional and spiritual? Give yourself 15 minutes every day to learn something. Learn it in the health category if you can. Learn something about your body. The more you know, the more empowered you are as a woman. And that’s really key.

SJS: You will be surprised how resilient your body can be, if you give it the chance. Other ladies might enjoy 99 percent of their time being in the nurturing and caretaking space. It’s not for me. I’ve got to have some intellectual absorption as well.

CC: A lot of people think if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. But that’s not true, of course. People might have health issues, but they’re rich in family and friends, and love and passion, and curiosity and intellect.

SJS: I agree with you. Health is critical, but it is a continuum, an evolution. There are countless human beings vibrantly living with substantial health challenges. I think that’s awesome because the pain is in the wanting, the desiring of that which you really cannot have in the time frame or the way that you think. It reminds me of the filters with Instagram. There’s an instantaneous change of a human being, from green eyes to blue eyes. You can’t have that in reality. You could undergo all kinds of health changes, you can get cosmetic surgery and do all kinds of insane things, but it still takes time. You’re never going to get that effect as quickly as you do with a filter. The same with your health. You can’t filter your health. It’s a continual work in progress, and you should enjoy it.

CC: What is the role of humor in all this? With people you’re working with, with your friends, with your family?

SJS: The science says that humor is an elixir. They don’t use that term elixir, but consistently over and over again, humor is not only a psychic release, but there also is a release of neurotransmitters, dopamine being one of them.

CC: How important is delegating?

SJS: Huge. I see it with women a lot. We get in our silos, and you want to be everything to everyone. We talked yesterday about letting others help you instead of always just being the helper.

CC: Do you find that as a mother you’re doing more than ever, on a professional level?

SJS: Yes, I think I got an extra rush of energy in my professional life, which I did not expect. I really thought I would downshift, but I’ve had absolutely no slowdown of staying on target with projects. It doesn’t mean things are perfect, but I thought I would want to prune vision and it’s gone the other way, where I have more vision and will take on more.