So, we’re adults. Or at least that’s what we call ourselves (I sometimes need to remind my husband). Most of us have careers, and many of us are parents. We’re busy taking care of everyone and everything…else.
Is taking care of yourself your last priority?
The reason I even pose this question is because if you’re reading this, I’m suspecting that you worry you may not be taking care of yourself the way you need to be. And you’re probably right.
Please don’t add that to the list of things you “should” be doing.
I’m so guilty of this myself. Once I became a mother, every ounce of my being went into taking care of this child. Add in a career and marriage, all of which we easily make more important than ourselves.
We’ve been taught not to be “selfish”. To “lose the self”. To think of others before yourself. It’s better to give than to receive. Selfishness is the key to misery. Restrain your selfishness. While this is sound advice, we’re sometimes taking it to a whole new level. And we’re probably wrong.
It is not selfish to take care of yourself.
Add to the fear of being seen as selfish, the over-glamorized ideal of being seen as a busy, important, hard-working, ladder climbing, “go-getter”, or the perfect mother whose house and children are perpetually clean, and who lost the baby weight 3 hours after giving birth, all while running a ridiculously successful online business she seemingly pulled from thin air.
Most of us are pretty normal. Normal meaning we’re the furthest thing from perfect. Our kids sometimes get into trouble or won’t do their homework, our marriages go through rough patches we struggle to navigate through, our siblings or parents stir up family drama that wears us out, we can never seem to lose the last 10 pounds and the long hours we spend at work are exhausting.
And yet, we’re still trying to “keep up”. We beat ourselves up over not being perfect parents, wives/husbands or employees. We compare our lives to that one person who seems to have it all together (you may be surprised to find out she doesn’t), and in the process of trying to emulate that perfection, are quite literally killing ourselves.
Gently take an inventory of how you’re doing at some of the following:
- Sleeping. Are you getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night (7-9 is recommended)? Is it restful or fitful?
- Exercise. This is the toughest one for me personally. Are you carving out at least 20 minutes a few times a week to just go for a walk? You don’t need to pound your body 6 days a week with the meat heads at a gym (sorry meat heads, no offense meant).
- Veggies. Okay, I’m the odd duck who loves Brussels sprouts, but I know that’s not the majority. What about just making sure you get a few salads or veggie soups into your diet each week?
- Water. You’d be amazed at how great you feel the more water you drink. Consider keeping a water bottle with you wherever you go, and keeping one on your desk while you’re working. Don’t be so hard on yourself to go to the “all or nothing” plan if you’re a coffee/soda person. Just add water, and see if you don’t start craving soda less.
- Self-talk. How do you talk to yourself? What thoughts walk through your mind all day long? Are you repeatedly telling yourself that you’re stupid or fat? Your thoughts create your life. Try changing yours. No one else has to know that you’re thinking, “I am SO freakin’ awesome!”
- Alone time. This is one of those things that women are known for carving out late in the evenings when the house is still and everyone else is asleep. I absolutely cherish this myself, but I’ve learned to curb how late I’m staying up so that I can get more sleep. However, you still need it. Do not feel guilty asking hubby to watch the kiddos so you can get out and take a walk by yourself.
- Couple time. Speaking of hubby (or wifey), when was the last time you checked in with him/her? Really checked in? More than a “how was work”? Do you know your spouses goals for this year? Do you know what they’re nervous, stressed, afraid of right now? Do you know what’s going really well for them at work? Something their excited or proud of? YOU need this as much as they do. Connecting with your partner regularly in a deeper, more profound way will make you both feel valued and loved. There’s nothing better than that.
- Friendship. I sort of miss having friends who will stop over unannounced and just walk into my house, interrupting my rigid schedule forcing me to have coffee (or wine if it’s after 11:00 a.m., I’m very strict about…just kidding). We’re all busy, and our schedules are double-booked, so we don’t like to impose on people this way, and I completely get that, I won’t do it either. BUT, we have to make time with our friends more important than clean houses and zillions of activities. Or, ask friends to join you in those activities (unless it’s those 10k charity runs, please don’t ask me to join you for those).
- Comparison games. I do it almost every time I leave my house. At my daughter’s games – I check out the moms who rock those skinny jeans in a way I can only dream of. In church – I know this is blasphemous, but I’m looking at all the great hair I see and cursing the very God I’m there to pray to about why my hair is so thin. Every time I drive by mini-mansions I’m feeling jealous. We need to stop this. Collectively, we need to agree that this game completely sucks.
- Taking a break. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for you to travel, what about using your vacation time to have a “stay-cation” and don’t give yourself a to-do list? Even just one day to read books, sleep in, clear your head, play, bring your heart rate back down to normal.
- Budget. Since I brought up budgets, do you have one? Do not beat yourself up if you don’t! It’s totally okay, and it’s totally okay if you’re in a financial hot mess right now. YOU are not a mess. Your money just needs some control. You owe it to yourself, and your future self, to get your money in order. Make a plan for your money; save some for the future, pay off your debt (this is easier once you quit the comparison game), save some for your kids to go to college. Stop cringing every time the bills come. You’ll feel so much better. You and your family deserve this.
- Gratitude. Ugh, I know right? We hear this one a lot, and it’s so hard. I’m working on this one all the time, and I doubt I’ll ever master it. My emotions about what I’m grateful for ebb and flow, sometimes in the same day. I can go from “I am so blessed” to “my life is total crap” in four hours. Let’s all keep working on this.
Again, gently consider whether or not you’re taking good care of yourself. I beg you not to beat yourself up about this, too. Just take inventory on where or why you feel exhausted and burned out, and see if there are some changes you can make toward nurturing your self-care a little more.
I know there are some things I’ve missed, please share your ideas/suggestions for how we can all take care better care of ourselves.