How often do you tell yourself that taking the time to nurture yourself is selfish? Do you take care of everyone else first and THEN take care of your own needs? It seems we often put the needs of our partners, our friends, our family, and our children before our own. But how can we logically care for others when we’re not taking care of ourselves? There is a saying that I often share in my work with clients, “Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.” There is nothing more true than this.
When I became a mother seven years ago, I slowly started to neglect my own needs and shift the focus to caring for my children. Before motherhood, I was quite attuned to the things that nourish me. You could find me in a candle lit bathtub each night, at the bookstore in a comfy leather chair reading with a vanilla latte in hand, in a yoga class or at the gym, in my bed journaling, or at a personal development seminar. Looking back, I recognize what a great job I did of taking care of myself! But, to no avail, this all slowly started to slip away after the birth of my first child.
You may be thinking, “A good mother sacrifices herself for her kids.” As a new mom I might have agreed. Today, I wholeheartedly disagree. I’m not saying that when you become a parent you should continue to live the same life you did pre-kids. What I am saying is that you must find balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. My life was about working and caring for my children. Period. I turned down coffee with friends, date nights with my husband and stopped tending to all the things that once gave me a sense of passion. My relationships were impacted and, more importantly, the relationship with my Self was lost.
This past year has been monumental in re-awakening my relationship with myself. I am finally starting to reclaim some “me” time. Sharing this in a public blog feels shameful in some regards. As a therapist, I feel as though I should have figured this out years ago. To be honest, I always knew the importance of self-care but I just couldn’t seem to find my way back.
Being a mother isn’t the only thing that we may throw ourselves into and lose our footing. It may also be your job, your church or spiritual community, caring for an elderly or sick family member, or a committee you are involved in. Taking time to focus on YOU is necessary not only for emotional well-being but for physical health. Some experts estimate that 85% of illness is caused by stress. When you are overstressed your body pumps out stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline which cause numerous negative effects on the body.
Many of you may be great at taking care of others but continue to struggle to take care of yourself. I invite you to get honest about who you are, what you feel and what you need. Consider starting with giving yourself 15 minutes a day to practice focusing on yourself. If that feels good then possibly commit to a daily self-care ritual such as morning meditation or nighttime baths. Every day you have the choice to take care of yourself. Think of it as an act of survival.
Signs that you are in need of self-care
- Feeling exhausted and tired even after a night of sleep
- Feeling anxious or keyed up throughout the day
- Feeling depressed
- Inability to focus on tasks
- Feeling angry, irritable and resentful
- Eating too much or too little
- Shoulder, neck and back pain
- High blood pressure
Things you can do to nourish yourself
- Go for a walk
- Sit in the sun for 15 minutes
- Read a book or magazine
- Soak in a hot bath
- Light candles in your house
- Practice yoga
- Take a new class at your gym
- Get a massage
- Give yourself a facial
- Paint your nails
- Meet a friend for coffee or tea
- Take a class on something you’re interested in
- Take a nap
- Watch a movie
- Study with a spiritual teacher
- Go to therapy