Every morning I get up about an hour earlier than my two toddlers. I need this time to relax, to get ready for the day, to just “be” without any distractions. My husband, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He takes time for himself at night; it’s not unusual for him to still be up, puttering away at one in the morning. You see, self-care goes beyond the basics of feeding and dressing ourselves. It goes beyond even getting enough sleep or developing healthy relationships. Self-care means knowing yourself well enough so that you design a life that allows yourself to thrive, to flourish.
Some people shy away from self-care because that they are being self-indulgent or selfish if they focus on themselves. But oddly enough, the complete opposite is true: when you take care of yourself, you can take care of others. Relationship expert John Gottman has a great way of explaining this seemingly paradoxical truth. He says that we all have “debits and credits” in our lives. When your bank account is adequately filled (by taking care of yourself), then you can give to others. On the other hand, if you are depleted of energy and resources, then you are operating “in the red” and are already coming to interactions with others with a negative, depleted mindset. Considering self-care through this viewpoint, it makes sense that you need to “stay in the black.” Unfortunately self-care is not a one-size-fits-all type of method. Everyone has different needs and require different things in order to feel cared for.
I can’t give you self-care; no one can. But I can point you in the right direction by helping you become more self-aware. When you do this, when you are aware of, and listen to, your own thoughts and emotions, you can respond to your needs using the best possible methods. The following are guiding questions to help raise your awareness:
Self-Care Method #1: Become Aware of Your Mind—Do you say “yes” when you really should be saying “no”? If so, are there certain instances when you do this more than other times? Practice saying “no” so that you’ll be able to do so when the occasion actually calls for it. Do you get overwhelmed, irritable, or angry more than you’d like? What triggers these intense emotions? On the other hand, when are you most at peace? What can you do so that you feel peaceful more often? Do you find yourself being more judgmental, opinionated, or negative at certain times? When? Make a conscious choice to tone down this defeating habit.
Self-Care Method #2: Become Aware of Your Body—Are you getting enough sleep? How about enough time to relax and just be? Schedule your life so that you allow for downtime. Do you take regular breaks during the day? Do you notice when the best time to take these breaks are and how you can best make use of these few minutes? What activities bring you the most pleasure? How often do you get to do these activities and how can you increase the amount of time you spend engaged?
Self-Care Method #3: Become Aware of Your Spirit—When do you feel the most peaceful? How can you recreate these moments more often? Think about the last time you were alone for an extended period of time without being “productive” (like working, reading, cleaning, paying bills, etc.). We all need time to just “be” by ourselves; make sure this is a priority. How often do you ask for support from friends, family, your partner or spouse? Think about what you most need from others and communicate these needs to them. Learning to take care of yourself doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a lifetime of learning, experimenting, and tweaking. Sometimes I believe that the reason many people love being older is because they have learned what they require in order to feel cared for, and are sure to do “it” ... whatever “it” is! Start now and you will reap the rewards of being your own, best “mother.”