When is the last time you have done something for yourself? I mean, really for yourself without a care that it means you are NOT doing something for someone else? Who actually comes first in your life? For many of us, it’s our kids, our spouse, our jobs, pretty much everything except ourselves. And it’s exhausting. I mean more than a tired feeling. It is a stressful, emotionally draining, bad for your health, soul sucking kind of exhaustion. The kind that leaves you feeling like you’re running on fumes until you squeeze in 4 hours of sleep and wake up wishing there was time for just a little more. The kind that leaves you dreaming about your kids going to preschool so that you’ll have a little “free time” to run errands without toting a tiny tot with you.
Are You Looking Out for #1? Do you really need to?
A few years ago, I found myself in this position, and sometimes I still do. What was different back then was that I just kept pushing in every aspect of my life, knowing that I was strong enough to keep going. But the truth is, I wasn’t. Instead, I was pushing down the negative feelings, saying it was ok, it will get easier as the kids get older, etc. And I love my family, my husband, my job, and it was worth it to me if I could make sure that all of their needs were being met. The problem was that I was unknowingly battling the stress and exhaustion by binge-eating, and even binge-drinking, to the point where I didn’t feel like I could control it. I was becoming crabbier with the people closest to me. And I was just so frustrated that I couldn’t keep up the crazy schedule and the perfection that I was seeking in myself.
I have done a lot of “work” since then, through reading (I highly recommend any of Brene Brown’s books!) and therapy (I also highly recommend Melrose Center if you think you possibly have any form of disordered eating or a negative relationship with food). One of the first things I learned is that I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders. In fact, all of the pressures I was feeling to perform were actually put there by no one other than me! I needed to give myself a break and start saying “no” to things that sucked my energy, and saying “yes” to the things that gave me energy. Basically, I needed to start some form of “self-care”.
I often see this quote, which motivated me for a long time:
I would think, I need to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of others. But you know what is wrong about this? It is still focused on putting others first, as if I am the mat for which they can wipe their feet, and I need to make sure that my bristles are strong in order to support them.
Now I prefer this one:
You know why I like this? Because, I am important! You are important! We do NOT need to justify self-care! I still feel guilty when my doses of self-care become more extreme (like this week, when I’m on a paradise retreat with 7 friends and none of my family).
I keep reminding myself that I really need this rejuvenation in my life right now. And self-care does not need to be that big of a deal. I started out by jumping back into a volleyball league one night a week, a sport that I’ve played and loved for over 25 years. It brings me back to happy memories, reminds me that my body can still do a lot of cool things, and refreshes me even when I feel like all I want to do is sit on the couch. Self-care can be as simple as running out for a coffee and 5 minutes of solitude. It can start as you talking to your spouse about your needs, and allowing him to take something over (even if he doesn’t do it the way you would).
Right now for me, it is my 5 am workout at Fuse Fitness Coaching every morning (I know, shameless plug), where I not only get to make my body stronger, but where I have formed some amazing friendships with other strong females. And to do those early workouts, I need to go to bed by 9 pm every night (I’ll admit, I’m not always successful with that one). And of course I still play in my regular volleyball league. These are the things that I do to remind myself that I am worth it. They are the things that give me energy, fuel my body, and feed my soul. They have become some of the most important activities in my life, and I protect them because I need them. I still spend a lot of time as a wife, mom, employee, but no longer at the sacrifice of myself.
For some other ideas for self-care, check out this article.