I know most people realize they need to take care of themselves. However, many people think that if they spend “extra” time on themselves, like rest and relaxation, or something especially kind, like getting a massage, that they are being selfish. My goal is to show you that helping yourself is essential for helping others.
What is self care?
Self care can be anything that makes you feel good. It can mean being an advocate for yourself and potentially disappointing others. It means creating clear boundaries for others. It also means giving yourself slack for not being perfect. My goal here is to change your paradigm of self neglect.
Are you taking care of others?
Many of us see our role of helping others, and others have no choice because they are in a care giving situation. Many times we are taking care of our families, either young, sick or just elderly. There is nothing wrong with taking care of others, it’s an important part of life, and can be very fulfulling. What I want you to see is that that doesn’t mean you can’t also take care of yourself.
I once had a friend who was essentially doing Hospice for her own mother. Her mother couldn’t sleep at night, which is common for those at the end stages, but her mother wanted my friend to talk to her and take care of her all through the night. Then she also needed it all through the day. This is obviously an impossible task. So my friend told her mother “If the person taking care of you doesn’t get any sleep at night, and is then unable to take care of you, you will have no-one to care for you.” Fortunately, her mom then agreed to let her sleep as much at night as possible.
I know that’s an extreme example, but it showed me how important it is for anyone who thinks they need to care for others to take care of themselves first.
Paying the price for self neglect
For a person to think they can care for others without caring for themselves is like driving your car across the desert, but feeling like it is selfish to stop and fill up the gas tank. It is very short sighted and will obviously lead to disaster. The price is steep, and I see people paying for their lack of self care day in and day out.
This is also often why many people get very sick. Their bodies just tell them they cannot go any further, they have to rest. Those people often just try to power through their sickness, too. Can you see why this is an even worse mistake? I honestly believe a lot of chronic illness comes from this exact situation.
How many people do you know were the ones that accomplished everything, did everything, seemed like superheroes, but ended up with fibromyalgia, or crohnes or IBS, or thyroid disease and literally could not function until they got it under control? I am not saying this to place blame, I am saying this to make you aware that self care is not selfish, it’s the only way you can continue to function; it is essential.
Just a comment on this. I have suggested to some people who are suffering from chronic stress, with migraines, pain and many other issues that they take a nice warm bath at night and relax. Do you know what their response is? “I don’t have time for that!” Migraines will put them down for days in horrible pain, but they don’t see the idea of relaxing in their lives as being important!
Make self care a priority!
If you are a person who lacks self care. Let me suggest a few simple things that take very little time, and can go along way.
White Spaces in your day
This takes literally 30 seconds. When we move from one activity to another, it seems our days just roll together with constant “running”, but no accomplishments. When you go from one activity to another, sit down and just reflect for 30 seconds. Either just clear your mind before going to the next task, or think about what you have accomplished, and what you are about to move on to. This white space between activities can be a time of refreshment and a time of feeling accomplishment in our lives. Even if it is just finishing the grocery shopping, or cooking dinner. We need to be aware of what we really accomplish in the day.
Simply Slow Down
Sometimes we feel we need to accomplish so many things that we feel we need to move at such a rapid pace that we make mistakes, and find ourselves having to do things over. We also do things without thinking about them. Some things may not even have to be done, or maybe not by us. Slow down and be aware of what is going on around you. Are you missing the point of making a meal for someone by not spending time with them? Are you too busy doing “good” tasks and perhaps forgetting the “best” ones? Speed is a fight or flight mechanism, slowing down engages the healing mechanism of your body. Evaluate what actually needs to be done, and do what is the most important thing, not everything. I once heard someone say that the first thing you do with your ToDo List is to decide what you are NOT going to do. Something to think about.
Start a Gratitude Journal
First thing in the morning, last thing at night, whenever it suits your personality, set aside some time to spend some time alone. I suggest getting a notebook and writing down at least three things you are grateful for. Make one be something very small, such as “I am grateful for the bright sun this morning.” Something simple. I like to do that because it causes me to notice even the small things that benefit my day. Then write whatever you feel like writing. Sometimes you may want to write two sentences, other times you may write pages; do whatever you feel. Writing can be very cathartic, you may find yourself expressing thoughts you didn’t even know you had, and it may explain some of the things you didn’t understand about yourself.
Other simple ideas:
How about taking that bath at night? How about getting a massage? How about taking a relaxing walk around the block (not to get your steps in, but to breath in the fresh air?) How about just sitting down and chatting with a friend (not on Facebook, but in person)?
Take time to experience the mundane
I know this sounds absolutely crazy, but do you know what the Japanese Tea Ceremony is about? It is making a ceremonial ritual out of a very mundane activity, making tea. I know it evolved into a very defined ritual, but the idea was originally to inspect and revere every element in making a cup of tea. Gathering and cooking the water, simmering the tea, stirring the tea, and serving it are all elements that are broken down and valued for each step.
I’m not saying to make a ritual out of pouring a cup of coffee, but perhaps sitting and enjoying coffee and tea in the morning are our rituals that we don’t want to give up. So maybe instead of typing on Facebook while you are enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, you can sit and savor your time with your beverage. Instead of eating a snack on the way to some other activity, perhaps you can sit and fully enjoy it instead, then move onto to your next activity.
Just some ideas for you to consider. Most important, though, realize you cannot last very long if you don’t consider your own needs. If you are the one in the bed trying to heal, you won’t be of any help to anyone else.