Life is full of obligations. There are lots of things that we have to do for others that are burdensome, unpleasant or just not fun. That is life. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Will I serve with a bitter heart or a joyful heart? To give you an example, my daughter […]
Self-care, simply put, is the art of taking care of yourself. It involves taking care of your body by eating healthy food, exercising regularly and getting plenty of rest. Self-care also involves taking care of your mind. That means reading edifying articles or books or listening to beautiful music. It means nourishing both your body and your soul.
When we aren’t adept at the art of self-care, we suffer. We get sick. We get burned out. We become irritable and tired. In short, when we don’t engage in self-care, we can’t be our best selves.
Every so often, I put my self-care on the back burner. And I pay for it. Most recently, in an effort to take care of everyone in my household and to be super-productive professionally, I let my self-care fall by the wayside. Not surprisingly, I ended up getting a head cold and respiratory infection. The congestion has left me unable to sleep soundly for over week. And all this happened because I stopped taking care of myself.
The first step in learning the art of self-care is to stop feeling guilty about taking care of yourself. I find that if you are a capable person, people will pull at you from every direction. Everyone will want something from you. Why? Because you are good at stuff!
There is nothing wrong with being capable. It is a good thing! The only challenge is that you have to set your boundaries as to what you can and cannot do for other people. This is particularly true for mothers. When my daughter was small, I used to say, “I don’t parent after 9 p.m.” I said it as a joke, but I actually meant it. At a certain point in the day, doing stuff for others has to end. You need some time each day to engage in self-care. Read a book. Take a bath. You need time to do anything but serve the needs of others.
The problem is that other may people object to your need for self-care. For instance, how many divorces occur because husbands feel “neglected” at the end of the day? Of course, they never stop to think that their wives are incredibly tired after a long day of work and parenting. They just stare at the ceiling, wondering why no one is paying attention to them. I wonder how many divorces could be avoided if husbands would just do the dishes every night or clean the bathroom once a week? Then maybe their wives could have time for some self-care, and they would feel a whole lot more loving.
So, if you are highly capable person, you have to set very clear boundaries with others so that you have the time to take care of yourself. Yes, you will receive some pushback. But your health and sanity are more important than the desire of other people to have you do stuff for them.
The next step in learning the art of self-care is to know yourself. Self-care means very different things to different people. For instance, if my husband wants to relax, he will watch ESPN. To me, watching ESPN is the equivalent of watching paint dry. We are each built differently.
There is nothing wrong with accommodating the needs of others from time to time, but not when it comes to self-care. If your idea of self-care involves sitting on the couch and reading a good book, then going on a hike with your family is not self-care. That is merely a nice family activity.
Self-care involves doing those things that nourish you both physically and spiritually. They aren’t the expensive things in life, like an overseas trip or a meal at a five-star restaurant. Rather, they are the small things that give you pleasure.
For instance, 1 hour of self-care for me would be to sip a chai tea latte from Starbucks while reading a good book in a comfortable chair. 30 minutes of self-care would be taking my dog for a walk down a certain street in my development. This particular treelined street is perfectly quiet. The only sounds you hear are birds chirping and the wind moving through the trees. Every home is decorated so sweetly with little flower pots and small bushes. It looks like a painting. When I walk down this street, I immediately feel calmer.
Self-care also includes caring for our bodies. And this is where so many of us let our self-care slide. How often do you see parents at their children’s sporting events who are overweight and out of shape? They are putting their child’s need to exercise before their own. To be clear, there is no extracurricular or volunteer activity that is more important than your health. Period.
Your physical health is the foundation upon which you are able to do everything else in life. If you don’t take care of your body, you won’t have the energy to care for your children, go to work and serve your community. It is easy to place good nutrition and exercise at the bottom of your To Do List. However, it should be at the top!
Especially as we get older, our bodies need more and more attention. My mother is 84-years-old and she always tells me, “Taking care of my body is my fulltime job!” To a certain extent, that is true as we age. Self-care becomes increasingly important with every passing year.
This week, consider how you can become more adept at the art of self-care. Remember that self-care is not the same thing as selfishness. Rather, it should be a part of your everyday routine. Make self-care a priority and see your life improve dramatically!
(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)
Books: “The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother” by Meerabelle Dey (https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Success-Working-Mother/dp/1546329544 )