Yesterday, in the first part of this series, I wrote about self care and how important it is to take care of our needs as much as we take care of others. I know this is an issue that many parents struggle with as they feel conflicted about taking time just for themselves or try to care for themselves with what little energy they have left at night.
Why do we put ourselves last on the list?
The biggest factors for most people are time, energy, guilt and too high expectations. For others it is losing track of the bigger picture – you get caught up in the day to day and don’t even notice or acknowledge where you are headed. Yet others have lost touch with what would nurture them right now.
Counter-arguments for what is holding you back
I don’t have any spare time – Most of us have time, but choose to use that time for things that don’t support our goals. Watching hours of TV is fine if that is part of your self care plan (it is for me as I have a hard time shutting off my mind so watching TV is one way to stop that), but if you do so out of apathy then this is one area you could “find lost time”. Is there anything you currently do that could be dropped or reduced to free up time? Are you spending too much time supporting other people’s agendas without considering your own needs? Are you spending lots of time taking care of your home for appearances sake (ie to a very high standard) at the expense of taking care of yourself?
I am too tired to take care of myself – I am so guilty of this one! I am aware enough to know the more I say I am too tired to do other things, the more I need to address the health side of my self care plans. It is true that if you exercise and eat right your energy levels improve. The area of energy levels often involves a catch 22 that you have got to break out of. We have no energy so we don’t do anything – this is where we have to take charge and force ourselves to break the cycle. You can make a deal to do 1 thing for 15 minutes (a walk, a wii game, some yoga) and see if once you get started you find you are enjoying it enough to carry on. Try to reconnect with what you DO love that is energy producing for you. Are you grabbing quick snacks and have not been eating any fresh fruit lately? Have you been skipping your daily vitamin or staying up too late on Facebook?
I feel guilty if I take time just for myself – you do not have to be productive for your family and household 24/7. Every job comes with breaks for a reason. Burnout is the end result of never taking a break and parents need breaks from their family just like anyone else. Please honour yourself enough to take time for yourself however is best for you.
I can no longer commit to my former goals and standards – Many of us have very high expectations for ourselves and this can even slip into the realm of self care – Have you ever abandoned an activity you love simply because you could not commit 100%? There is nothing wrong with doing something in small doses as your schedule allows. You can honour your love of running with a jog around your neighbourhood even if you can’t manage 1/2 marathons any longer. You can play around with your paper and craft supplies even if you have abandoned scrapbooking. You may love spa days, but can only afford 2 visits a year. Instead of waiting for those twice yearly visits replicate some of what you enjoy about them. Can you light some candles in your bathrooom and use a plush towel? Can you treat yourself to a new nail colour or relaxation CD? Remove all or nothing thinking and keep at least parts of your passions alive.
Getting in touch with what you need and making self care a habit
We lose sight of the big picture when self care becomes an afterthought rather than an intentional part of our lives. One way to bring it back into focus is to create a plan. You may not be a planner so I would love to hear ideas that support this on a more go-with-the-flow approach. Often creating a plan and thinking about it again can be enough and then you can move forward. For those of us that love creating plans or need them to keep us on track, I suggest you look at the different areas of your life and set whatever goals you need to make you feel fulfilled. This will look different for everyone so I will just give some ideas for you to explore.
Look at the categories of Mind, Body and Spirit and see what you would like to include in your life. Decide on some actionable steps. For example, if you want to exercise figure out what you want to do, set a reasonable 1st goal and build it into your life. You cannot go from no exercise to daily exercise – figure out why you are not currently going and remove roadblocks. Find one or two slots in your week you can stick to and when they become automatic, add another day and so on. Spirit can mean so many things and ideas can range from making Church or temple a priority to meditation and intentional living to doing whatever feeds your soul.
You could also set specific goals for yourself in various areas. Instead of New Year’s resolutions this is the approach I take. I look at 6 areas that are important to me (health, lifestyle, relationship, personal development, home life and travel) and set small goals for myself. Regularly reviewing these goals and setting mini goals (ie monthly) is how you stay aware of where you may be deviating. For me, this has happened in the health area. In transitioning from full time SAHM to studying part time, starting a blog and aiming to build a business, eating right and exercise got left by the wayside. This week I finally drew the line in the sand and started adding in healthier snacks and tomorrow I will be going to the gym for the first time in 4 1/2 months. I know I won’t return to the 4-5 days I was achieving before, but I know I need to set some reasonable minimums to get back on track so I feel less cranky and overwhelmed. I know myself and know what has been lacking. The next step was to figure out where I had to compromise to build that time and effort back into my week. I know it will be hard, but I cannot let the bigger picture get away from me so much that I get sick.
You can create a record or notebook where you keep track of your goals. Share them on your blog or with friends. Talk to your spouse and see what you both can work on. I know my husband puts himself really last and that is due to me demanding my time alone that he has supported. Carving out time for everyone’s needs to be met is a balancing act. Recently we have both been getting out more to socialize – sometimes on our own and sometimes together, but being at home all the time was affecting us all. If one of you likes hiking and the other doesn’t, decide if you will find ways to make it happen together or if the hiking lover will carve out some time alone, but honour that individual’s passion and needs.
If you no longer know what you want then make a commitment to explore your options. Tag along with a friend to her yoga class. Sign up for some sewing lessons or a cooking class. Check out some books from the library or buy 3 different bubble baths to discover a scent that relaxes or uplifts you.
Whatever self care means to you – honour it! You are worth the time and effort. You are important to so many people and they want you to be happy, healthy and nurtured.
I would love to hear one thing you know you have been neglecting in your life and how you plan to re-prioritise to make it happen for yourself. Remember – baby steps in the right direction are all that you need. Be gentle and kind to yourself.
If you are looking to explore self care, self knowledge and self- love I would love you to join us for The 30 day self care blueprint e-course which over 100 women took part in for 2012 and will next be run in May 2013.
Part 3 in this series is a list of 50 ideas to jump start your self care journey
Find your simple,