A friend of mine recently got sick. Super sick. So sick, in fact, that she ended up spending several days in the hospital. Not good.
After she had spent multiple days hooked up to an IV and being examined by specialists, I asked her about what she had been diagnosed with, expecting a straightforward answer. Instead, she told me that she hadn’t been taking proper care of herself and ended up having several medical issues erupt all at once.
Pretty scary stuff. Not only did she have the distinctly unpleasant experience of hanging out in a hospital, but she also had to scramble to get her support network to care for her kids, and she missed several days of work at her new job. Not the type of first impression she was going for.
While I usually end up simply getting a cold when I get rundown, her experience hit home for me the importance of practicing self-care. You don’t have to end up in the hospital to know that if you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s difficult to function at a high level and do the things that you want and need to do.
For me, functioning at a high level means having the energy to hang out with my kids and run them to their activities. It also means being able to provide high quality dental treatment to my patients. If I’m low energy and living in a slump, it means that I can’t participate in the activities that I want to, and often I’m choosing the couch over living the active life I say that I want.
My husband, kids, employees, and patients all depend on me in some way, and all of those people are important to me. Being able to meet their needs is important to me. If I’m sick with a cold, suffering from migraines, or dealing with insomnia, my ability to help others is seriously impaired, and that doesn’t make me feel good.
So often in this day and age, we equate being busy with being productive, and being productive with success.
Sit with that for a moment and let that sink in.
Consider how often it is that when you ask someone how they’re doing, they reply, “I’m so busy!” In fact, maybe that’s your stock reply. I know that it used to be mine.
About a year and a half ago, I made the conscious choice to stop declaring my busy-ness when people asked how I was. Sure, my schedule is still as full as ever, and I often find it challenging to manage my competing priorities, but I wanted to stop making being busy a status symbol.
I came to understand that being busy is not a competition, though it can feel like one, and a full schedule does not mean that I am a better parent, a better boss, a better sister, or a better daughter than anyone else.
Busy-ness was a wakeup call to take better care of myself and to consider what was truly important to me.
As a mom, I have often found it difficult to put my needs ahead of those of my kids (although, according to my family, I don’t give that appearance). Yes, sometimes their needs simply must be met. Kids get hungry, thirsty, and tired. They need hugs and kisses, cuddles before bed, someone to help them through difficult emotions that they’re not equipped to handle.
What I came to realize was that if I’m feeling burned out, tired, overwhelmed, or hungry (maybe hangry is more accurate), I don’t have the mental or physical energy to be there for them. I’m a much better parent when I practice yoga regularly, eat less sugar, get a solid night’s sleep, and spend some time on my own.
I admit that I don’t always walk my talk. Sometimes I overeat sugar (but I always brush and floss), go to bed late because I’m watching The Good Wife, neglect my exercise routine, and commit to baking cupcakes that I really don’t need to bake instead of ensuring that I practice self-care. I end up feeling grouchy, start to get a sore throat, and snap at my family.
Then I get back on the self-care wagon.
Self-care, like yoga, is a practice. It’s not about being perfect (because I think we all know that THAT is unattainable). There is no formula for the right amount of self-care. Rather, it’s about listening to yourself and recognizing what you need to restore and maintain your energy levels.
Ultimately, because you have given to yourself, you’ll have more to share with others, and that is definitely NOT selfish.
Ten Easy Self-Care Ideas
- Put on your favourite song and sing and dance like crazy.
- Buy yourself some flowers.
- Put yourself to bed early. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself that it’s bedtime.
- Take the time the night before to pack yourself a nutritious lunch.
- Wind down with a mug of herbal tea before bed. Mother’s Little Helper is one of my favourites.
- Go to a yoga class, or follow a YouTube yoga video. This one is one of my favourites.
- Curl up on the couch and read a novel for the pleasure of it.
- Meditate. I like the Calm.com app.
- Take a hot bath. Scented bath salts and mellow music optional.
- Practice gratitude. Write down five things that you’re grateful for and why.
Tell us about your experience! Do you struggle to fit in “me time?” Is it even on your radar? What’s your favourite way to practice self-care? Or, if it’s not happening, what would you LIKE to do for yourself?