When you hear the words “self-care” what do you think of first? Does it make you think of self-indulgent, irresponsible or even selfish people? Really though, self-care is anything but those things. Self-care is a vital part of an individual’s health. If you truly take the time to care for yourself, not only will you feel happier but your overall well-being will improve and this will have the positive effect of benefitting others around you.
When people take the time to look after their own needs, the natural flow from this is that they will become more able and inclined to care for others around them - family, friends and coworkers will all benefit from interactions which are healthier and more positive. Many people - in particular, busy working parents have suppressed their own wants and needs for so long, that they find it hard to even imagine what they would like to do for themselves if offered the opportunity.
An important first step towards self-care then, is to identify what you feel is missing from your life. Ask yourself questions such as “What do I need more of right now”, “What do I need less of?” and “Who, or what, is making me feel resentful?” For a busy, overwhelmed mother, the answer to the first question might be something as simple as having the time to have a quiet bath without being interrupted by her small children! A career woman who volunteers on several committees might identify that she is resenting having so many demands on her time related to her committee work. A harried father might be resenting not having time to go mountain biking with his friends, but suppresses the feelings as he feels he “should” be spending all of his weekends with his children.
A good second step towards self-care is to find a rhythm or routine that works for you. Having a routine is not boring - rather it can provide your life with structure and serenity. Ask yourself what one daily ritual would most improve your life right now. For the busy parent, it may be that getting up half an hour earlier to enjoy some quiet at the start of the day, gives them the calm they need to deal with the hurly burly of their young family. For someone who lives alone, taking the time to set the table attractively for their evening meal gives a strong message of self care and self worth.
Finally, and often the hardest step to implement - is establishing boundaries and creating an absolute “NO” list for yourself. Knowing what to eliminate from your life is as important as knowing what is missing from your life. So sit quietly and think about this, and listen to your gut. Does the thought of those committee meetings cause a tightening in your tummy? Or do you find yourself saying yes to requests to run errands for others and then taking it out on your significant other later that day? Setting boundaries and saying no takes practice, but once you do, you will find yourself approaching the important things in your life with more love, patience and compassion.