There are certain things that I do to take care of myself, that until recently I considered somewhat selfish. Blocking the first hour of my day to get my sweat on; taking 20 minutes to read while dangling my feet in the hot tub at the gym before I pick my son up from the on-site sitting service; taking the dog for a walk when it’s 10 degrees out just so I can have some quiet time. Because I was taking time away from my family or time away from household chores and other responsibilities, I felt guilty (this feeling was greatly amplified when my son was going through the “separation anxiety” phase and made me feel bad even leaving the room!).
The good news is that our culture is changing for the better when it comes to prioritizing taking care of ourselves. “Put your own oxygen mask on first, whether it’s on the plane, at home, or anywhere in life” ~ Ellen Delap. In order to help others, we can’t be running on empty ourselves. At the minimum we need to be functioning, and ideally we want to be thriving. But how do we do that?
I was on a webinar recently about self-care. The panelists were in prevention work, where we often see burnout. People spend so much time and energy caring for others that they eventually become depleted. This webinar talked about how deliberate we need to be with our physical and emotional health – we have to actively plan to take care of ourselves. Self-care refuels us. One panelist shared that self-care is about what she consumes – what foods go into her body, what information enters her head, and what activities she engages in (both for work and pleasure). She explained that one of her self-care practices for protecting her calendar from things she doesn’t have time for or doesn’t want to do is to have “seasons of no.” During these seasons (she determines what the length of the season is, and it can be different each time) she will say yes to the things that feel right for her and her family, and politely decline the rest. The last question of the webinar was, “What becomes possible for us when we practice self-care?” Participants said patience, grace, energy, creativity, productivity, better sleep, mindful living. Think about what could become possible in your life if you practiced better self-care.
I was recently introduced to the Self-Care Wheel. This has a LOT of areas you can focus on, but don’t overwhelm yourself if you’re looking to establish some self-care practices. Start small and be intentional. Modeling self-care behavior can be really influential for your kids, co-workers, and others that you interact with regularly. How will you practice self-care so you can truly thrive?