How often do you rush home from work or an errand, walk into the house, and without stopping to take a moment for yourself, head to the kitchen to cook dinner, to the dining room table to help the kids with homework, to the laundry room to wash a load of clothes, to the bathroom to fix that leaky faucet, to the home office to finish that pile of work, or anyone of the endless tasks on our ‘must do” list. Most of us tend to put others first, and should there be any time left, (which there never is) we’ll throw ourselves a bone. Our society promotes this behavior.
If you watch television, how often do you get the message that taking care of your self takes a back seat to other obligations. In our society, for far too many of us, a hot bubble bath, a pick-up basketball game or a massage, is a luxury. For those old enough to remember, who can forget the tag line “Calgon, take me away.” Our lives are so consumed with work or caring for others, that the idea of a simple bubble bath is a luxury that we can’t afford the time to indulge. We are bombarded with the implication that caring for, and meeting the expectations of others is enough to satisfy our own physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs. Well, I am here to tell you, that is a lie.
If you’ve ever flown on a plane and bothered to listen to the flight attendant’s spiel about what you should do in an emergency (I know, I know, I usually tune them out, too.), you’d learn that those instructions offer some wisdom about the importance of self-care.
At some point during the ‘presentation,’ they arrive at the topic of the oxygen masks. (I promise that this will make sense very soon.) They demonstrate what you should do, if the mask is released. As they demonstrate, they make it a point to say that if you are traveling with a child, someone “acting” like a child, or anyone who requires your help, it is important that the first thing you do, is to put on your own mask.
Now to some, this sounds down right counter-intuitive and wrong. They frown upon putting themselves first, and believe that one should place the mask on their loved one, before worrying about themselves. The thing is this, if you don’t take care of yourself first, by affixing your own mask, will you be in any condition to care for your loves or others to whom you are obligated? Who will be there to care for them in your absence, should you succumb to oxygen deprivation or worse? In order to care for others, you must first, care for yourself. This simple idea is applicable in so many areas of our lives, and applies to all of us.
Whether you are a parent, a care giver, single, married, or married to your job, the same applies. Engaging in self-care acknowledges your self-worth and compassion. More and more often, life requires us to care for a seriously ill child, parent, grandparent, another relative, or even a friend. In most cases, professional long-term care is cost prohibitive, so the burden falls on the family to assume that role. Committing to the care of our whole selves, is not a luxury, but a necessity. Instead of it being self-indulgent, it is plain common sense.
Moreover, self-care need not cost a dime, and it differs from person to person. It can come in many forms, such as, reading a chapter in a book, meditation, yoga, an hour at the gym, daydreaming at the nearby coffee shop, quiet time, or taking a stroll on the beach. The possibilities are endless. Granted, at first, it may take some effort to craft the time for yourself, but in the end, it is worth it, because you are worth it.
This is not meant to promote shirking your responsibilities and/or adopting the “me first” philosophy. No, there are times when we must cede our own needs to those of others. The idea is to carve out some time, no matter how much, during which, you can re-enervate yourself, by yourself. Thereafter, you can resume your other responsibilities, less harried, calmer and with a more positive attitude. It’s a win-win for all concerned.
Now, where did I put that number for the massage therapist?