Most of us believe, in theory, that we should make efforts to take better care of ourselves, through better eating, more exercise, or working our recovery programs. But we can fall into the trap of forgetting to engage or these behaviors. I certainly promote self-care to my psychotherapy and life coaching clients on a regular basis. On a recent vacation, I spent the first few days actually sleeping and ordering room service. It was a sign just how tired I have been and how I lost touch even with my own self care.
Under the surface, there might be another reason we don’t follow through: we don’t really believe that we deserve to tend to our personal well-being. Self-care is often erroneously and critically labeled selfishness. It’s not. Even Jesus and Gandhi took time for themselves, withdrawing from the crowds to tend to their spirits. For me, I have found it so urgent to get the message out of my book, I have forgotten myself in the process.
Time spent in self-care fills us up so we can give of ourselves and not be left dried and shriveled up like last summer’s grapes left on the vine. Most of us can relate to the feeling of running on empty. This automotive analogy is actually a good one. What can our car do for us with no gasoline in the tank? Be a large, shiny driveway ornament? Not so useful. So why do we expect ourselves to be able to run and give and work and cook and clean and put on a happy face with nothing fueling us? It’s crazy, and it’s high time we kick crazy to the curb.
Meredith Watkins from Recovery View says “Make yourself a priority. Make the time to do the things that fill you up. For some, it may be a leisurely stroll on the beach. For others, 30 uninterrupted minutes with a great book. Or a fabulous bike ride or coffee with your friends or seeing your loving therapist (see how I slid that one in?). Or seeing a movie in the theatre.” It doesn’t have to be a weeklong trip to Tahiti (though if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend jumping at it). In fact, they should be the small things that you love. The ones that bring you peace and a sense of reconnection with yourself. Small things are doable and can be easily incorporated into your everyday life. Pick a few and put them on your calendar, in your Blackberry, whatever — and then actually do them.
For those resisters who think, “I can’t possibly take that time. I won’t be able to be there as much for my kids and spouse and boss” — stop making excuses. Because, honestly, that’s what that is. If your kids or spouse or boss had to choose between someone who was happy and creative and energized when they were with them or someone who was barely hanging on by a thread, who do you think they would choose? Who would you choose? By investing in yourself, you create dividends to extend to those around you. When you’re running on empty, all you’re giving them are your fumes. Not pleasant.
Put aside those faulty notions of the nobility of killing yourself for the greater good. Realize that your greatest gift to give others is the best version of yourself. You have gifts to give the universe, but more importantly, without self care, thsoe gifts will not be heard. So starting right now, make it a day of balance, self care, and profound self love. You deserve it.