What does self care mean to you? In order to be effective “self care” must be unique and personal to meet your own specific needs. There is no “one” care plan to follow – each of us needs to look at what actions and activities we need in our lives to continue to meet our goals. Telling you that self care includes 8 hours of sleep is not accurate or helpful if you are a person with lower sleep needs. Encouraging you to get your minimum sleep needs met regularly and endeavour for quality and restorative sleep is both those things. We each need to evaluate our situations and find what is lacking and be realistic in our goal setting.
What is self care?
So many of us spend our time taking care of everyone else that we never make our own needs a priority. You take care of your children’s needs 100%. You help friends, neighbours and colleagues with what they need. Often our spouses and partners come next on the list – for many people the one they love has needs that get met after work and friends as we tend to trust they are always going to be waiting there for us. Then, many of us give ourselves the leftovers, the 5 minutes, squeeze-it-in, of time.
Self care means knowing what fills up your soul, nurtures your body and mind, excites you in life and meeting those needs on a regular basis. Self care means letting yourself off the hook and following your bad day plan because what you need more than anything is for the world to just stop for five minutes and let you catch your breath. Self care is honouring who you are and doing what fits in with your values, goals and needs rather than simply what others expect or demand of you.
Change your priorities
Rather than treating yourself as an afterthought put yourself #1 so that you can be a better parent, partner, business person/ employee, and friend. It is critical to acknowledge that there is only so much you can do and in order to keep giving and being there for others you must be there for yourself. I have said it before, but there is a reason flight attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before attending to your children. It applies to life in general – if you do not take care of yourself and ensure your needs are being met, you will burn out and have nothing left to give others. You may think you are being a “good” mother by sacrificing your needs for those of your children, but you are actually doing the opposite. There must be a balance between your needs and those of others and most people do not work to find that balance. Instead you wait until the scale is tipped so far in one direction that you are forced to react and take care of yourself. Why wait until you are sick to get rest and eat well? Why ignore your passions for so long you lose touch with who you are?
What message are you sending by sacrificing your own needs?
As a parent who never takes time for their own needs and passions you are showing your children that you are not worthy of nurturing, indulgence, rest, celebration. By “doing” all the time you are teaching them that they must be productive all the time and there is no value in being idle. What we model for our children is what they really absorb into their lives. You may say eat healthy foods and get rest, but when they see you skipping lunch to get the housework done and commenting that you need a third coffee to stay awake, they get the real message.
Every time a neighbour asks a favour, or a colleague passes their work to you, and you oblige when your instinct says no, you are making a choice. You are sending the message that your needs are less important than theirs. It is great to be known for being caring and helpful, but you need to define your own lines and do it on your terms. If helping others is at the detriment of your own health and happiness than you are entering into dangerous territory. It is okay to say no to others simply for the reason that you are taking care of yourself. Your plans to indulge in your often neglected passion for sewing or getting back into nature with your organised hike that weekend are valid reasons to opt out of a task that simply supports others.
How do you put yourself back on the “to do” list?
Sit down and take some time to decide what are your high priorities for yourself. If it is important to you it should be respected and treated as a sacred item. When you sit down and plan your week or month block out times for your personal goals. Often people are good about making appointments with themselves for exercise and actually write it on their calendar. This same tactic should be used for whatever it is you have been denying yourself that you know you need in your life.
If you need to be out in nature regularly to feel strong enough to stay committed to your current life in the city, then schedule regular outings into your plan. Have a set weekend every month that you go hiking, take up geo-caching with your family instead of just hitting the suburban playground, make a list of places you want to go and start scheduling them in once a month. If bubble baths, manicures and facials make you feel nurtured and beautiful do not wait for them to be an annual treat for your birthday. Choose a time each week where you lock in this me-time. Close the bathroom door and have 1 hour for your pampering. You can choose to have that hour for yourself and the world will keep revolving. You don’t attempt this while children are running around the house, but most of us have at least a couple of hours in the evening or weekend where the kids are asleep and you can choose to do this before you put the laundry away or tidy up the kitchen. Put your partner on duty or if you are a single parent swap some babysitting time.
What if you no longer know what would make you feel nurtured, fulfilled and cared for?
If you are out of touch with what would make you happy and fulfilled start exploring different things.
- If you had endless time and money what would you do?
- What did you enjoy doing as a child? (painting? reading? science class?)
- What have you often watched others do and envied their talent? Do you see someone else doing something and sigh? (sewing? musical instrument? rock climbing?)
- What resonates with you when you are reading? watching tv? at the movies?- connect with that natural reaction and let yourself explore.
- Look into writing, reading, dates, classes, hobbies and craft – not what you think you should be doing, but what you want to do.
As an example, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project has written about her love of children’s literature. After pushing this interest aside she finally accepted this about herself, embraced this passion and created a children’s literature book club for like-minded people. There are probably many subjects you loved, but abandoned long ago because you thought you “should” like something different now that you are an adult. Let yourself be free to follow your heart.
In the area of health and body look at what is going wrong for you and work backwards from there.
- Are you struggling to connect with your children and partner because you are cranky and tired?
- Are you frustrated in the morning because none of your clothes fit or match the life you live now?
- Do you feel guilty because you never use your gym membership, but have never explored fitness options outside the gym setting?
- Do you need to partner up with a friend to feel safe or encouraged to explore fitness?
- Are there certain magazine articles that resonate with you? Is it because your instinct tells you there is something lacking? or an interest brewing?
What does self care mean to you? What things do you include in your life that take care of you? How do you work to make self care a habit that is sacred and not up for negotiation?
Next time I will talk about tackling the guilt and excuses that stand in our way and also offer some suggestions on ways you can take care of yourself mind, body and spirit. You may be so out of touch with what can make you happy and healthy right now, but I promise even taking one baby step in the right direction can start to fill your soul.
Part 2 in this series is how to make self care a regular part of your life
Part 3 is a list of 50 ideas to jump start your self care journey
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.
Find your simple,