One of my resolutions this year was to spend more time out in nature, taking walks and practicing my photography skills.
Needless to say, that quickly fell apart. I seem to have hit the ground running from January 1 and it hasn’t eased up since.
A recent week was this: appointments in three different towns in one day, schlepping equipment around for most of a day at a competition, errands and tasks that had to be crossed off my to-do list, not to mention managing a household….
Every night I fall into bed where I read for five minutes before drifting off to sleep. (And re-read the same page the next night because I forgot what I read the night before in what seems to be an endless “Groundhog Day” loop.)
I know most of you can relate to this!
When life gets crazy, that’s when we most need to make time for self-care.
If you’re like me, self-care often falls to the bottom of your priority list as you take care of everyone and everything else first. This might be especially true for caregivers of the very young or loved ones with physical or mental challenges.
No doubt you’ve heard the pre-flight instruction: “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping someone else.” I resisted the idea of saving myself before my kids until someone explained why: if I’m conked out due to lack of oxygen, I’m no good to them anyway. Ah….makes sense.
If we’re so depleted of physical, emotional and spiritual energy that we’re running on empty, we really aren’t doing anyone any good. When we have nothing else to give, we’re stressed out, tired, overwhelmed. All of that has a way of manifesting itself in physical symptoms or emotional breakdowns.
What is Self-Care?
Who wouldn’t love a day of pampering – massage, shopping, browsing an art museum – whatever is your thing.
Let’s face it – most of us can only carve out an hour at a time for ourselves, maybe even less. So it’s important to make sure you get even that because you deserve that much, at least.
Here are a few tips on giving yourself the same love and attention you give everyone else.
Setting boundaries is key to self-care and lays the groundwork. Tell your family and friends you won’t accept phone calls after 7pm. Turn off email notifications so you aren’t tempted to work after hours. Learn to say “no” when asked to chair a committee at your child’s school. It may give you just an extra hour, but even that little bit can make a difference.
Think about what it is you want to do for yourself and repeat it – every day if possible. Pick one something that resonates with you and make it a habit.
For me, it’s getting some form of exercise six days a week before anyone else is up. I’ve been doing that for 12 years. This year, I wanted to strengthen my spiritual practice, so I’ve added a 10-15 minute meditation before that. I’ve always been a morning person, so getting up at 4 a.m. is no problem.
For you, it might be making an agreement with your partner or spouse that they get the kids off in the morning so you get a little extra sleep. Or they do the bath and bedtime routine so you can take a walk, practice your yoga or read.
Setting boundaries and creating a routine is going to help you stay the course when you’re tempted to give in “just this once.” Resist the guilt trip others will try to lay on you and strengthen your resolve to do something positive for yourself. It shows you respect and love yourself enough to practice self-care and sets a good example for your kids and others.
Making time to take care of ourselves isn’t selfish; it makes us better people. So do yourself – and your loved ones – a favor and do whatever it is you need for yourself today, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.