Self-care is How to Care

When is the last time you exercised a little self-care?  I know, I know.  I can hear you from here.  “Who has time?”  Right?

I feel your pain.  Coming from a single mother of two young children who is trying to run a business and a household all at once, I know it can be tough to find time to take care of you.  I get it.  Not only do we feel like there’s no time, but maybe even that it’s a little selfish to want time for ourselves – to indulge in something just for us.

Self-care is one of those things that you get to when everything else is taken care of.  It may be the first thing on the priority list, but the last thing to get done.  The right intentions are there….so what’s the deal?

We don’t see self-care as a “necessity” or a “responsibility.”  The kids, the job, the house, the spouse or significant other, the family….they’re all things we “have to” do…whether we want to or not.  We don’t give ourselves the choice.  And understandably so!  The consequences of not taking care of these areas are visible.  When we don’t feed the kids, they’re having a melt-down.  Neglecting our job, affects our paychecks and our ability to pay the bills.  If we don’t repair the railing on the staircase, someone will get hurt.  We can’t (or at least, it would not be a responsible choice) to let these things go….and I’m not implying we should.

I am suggesting that self-care is at least as important as everything else and we need to ensure it’s rated with an equal level of priority.  Just because you can’t see the cost of neglecting yourself with your eyes, doesn’t mean it’s any less important!

The Effects of Ineffective Self-care

Think of how you react to your fussy kids when you’re mentally and physically exhausted.  You may get short with them, scold them, you’re impatient, or become disconnected or distant.  It’s possible you may forget things such as picking them up from band practice or putting on their sunscreen.  Without proper self-care, you’re not able to be the best parent you can be.

When you’re stressed out and overwhelmed, you’re not able to fully focus on what needs your attention at work.  You are easily distracted and your thinking becomes “cloudy” or “fuzzy.”  Perhaps you’re not able to process the information coming to you effectively, therefore you’re missing opportunities to shine or contribute in a meaningful way.

I remember when I was working in the corporate world, there were times when employees would fall asleep during meetings!  Now, who knows what was going on in their lives at the time, so I’m not judging their behavior.  However, I think it does illustrate that self-care was something most likely missing from their priority list at the time.  Their bodies were shutting down for subconscious self-care sessions during the day.

When you arrive home at the end of a long day and all you want to do is “veg out” in front of the TV, what effect does that have on your relationship with your significant other?  Meaningful conversation is one important way of fostering emotional intimacy and when that is lost, many times couples begin to drift apart.

All of this and we haven’t even discussed the toll that stress and overwhelm can take on your own mental and physical health!  Just do a quick Google search on “the effects of stress on health” and you’ll find plenty of scientific data to back up the need to take care of yourself.

What qualifies as self-care?

You may be saying “Vegging out is my method of self-care” and I can understand why you would feel that way.  Allowing our minds to focus on something that takes no effort feels good at the end of a long day.  I’d like to suggest, however that although it feels good and comfortable….it may not really be self-care.

Self-care means to rejuvenate, to recharge your batteries, to do something for yourself that rebuilds your mental and physical capacity to continue in a more focused and intentional manner.…whatever that is for you.  Here are a few examples of great self-care practices:

  • Get a massage
  • Meditate
  • Be in nature
  • Spend time with positive friends
  • Laugh
  • Sleep in
  • Listen to inspirational audios
  • Play sports
  • Take a bath or sit in a hot tub
  • Color
  • Drive through the countryside
  • Do a few breathing exercises
  • Enjoy some aromatherapy
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Stretching exercises (Yoga/Pilates/etc.)
  • Lift weights
  • Dance
  • Indulge in physical intimacy
  • Read
  • Appreciate everything around you (including yourself)
  • Write
  • Receive a manicure or pedicure
  • Sit on the beach
  • Play an instrument

When you take good care of yourself, you have more to give to others.  You have the energy required to play with your kids, the focus to be an active listener, the mental clarity to process information and contribute, and the stamina to work for a long day and still have something left to give when you get home.

How much self-care is enough?

Everyone is different in this regard.  Some go like the Energizer bunny for what seems like weeks and others need to dedicate time every day.  If you’re feeling that “run down” feeling, I recommend you begin with at least 30 minutes a day for two weeks and then re-evaluate.

I know as a single mom it can be hard to find 30 minutes for yourself.  When I worked in a corporate setting, I woke up at 5am and got myself ready, woke the kids up at 6am and sent them off to school, went to work for a full day and came home to make dinner, monitor homework and put the kids to bed.  By the time I had any time alone it was 8:30pm and then I worked on my business until midnight!  So, I used my lunch hour for self-care!  It’s amazing how much of a difference a 20 minute nap made!

Another thing I notice with my clients is how they go through cycles.  When they begin to feel drained or lethargic, they realize they haven’t been taking time for self-care and then it becomes a priority.  They’ll stick with it for a few weeks until they begin feeling better and then give it up!  By sticking to a good self-care practice for more than 30 days, it begins to develop into a habit and although it may not solve all of your energy ups and downs, it certainly helps to lessen their severity and length.

What helps you feel alive and energized?  What do you enjoy that you haven’t been taking the time to do?  I’d like to suggest you schedule it on your calendar – right now!  Give yourself the attention you deserve so that you can give those around you the attention they deserve.

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