“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde
I once had a supervisor who at the end of every meeting asked “what did you do for self-care this week?” I’d sigh and think to myself, “who has time for self-care?” At the end of one particular meeting, I sat and listen as my co-workers responded. They talked of gardening, walks on the beach, hobbies, and other fun activities. When he turned and asked what I had done, I replied, “Um, well I took a bath.”
You see I thought taking a bath was self-care for me. As a matter of fact, if I could use the bathroom without my 3 year old staring me in the face or pounding on the door asking multiple questions, I considered it self-care. However, as I sat and listened to all the responses around me something hit me. I began to realize that I didn’t engage in self-care at all, I just took advantage of small breaks.
Self-care is the intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. I think the key word is intentional. It’s the time you purposefully set aside for yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s not self-indulgent, and it’s not laziness – it’s essential.
You don’t have to earn self-care, you can just take it. I used to tell myself, “if I finish (insert task here), then I’ll take some time and (insert reward here).” However, what I found was that once I finished a task I was often on to the next without a break.
I admit that I still struggle with self-care. I often find myself feeling guilty for taking time for myself when I could be doing something else. I just have to remind myself that self-care is equivalent to self-preservation.
If you find that self-care is difficult for you as well, here are some tips for incorporating self-care into your life.
1) Set aside time. Make a date with yourself. Pick something you enjoy and commit to doing it. Life happens, so your plans may get cancelled – but make it a priority to reschedule. You wouldn’t cancel a date with someone without rescheduling would you? So don’t do it to yourself.
2) Sneak a little in. If you’re like me, you may not have large chunks of time to dedicate to self-care. If you don’t, make sure it gets in where it fits in. When you’re waiting at a doctor’s office, it’s a perfect time to read a book. What about when you’re stuck in traffic? That’s a perfect time to take some deep breaths and practice gratitude. If you want to exercise and find you just don’t have the time for long workouts, take a 5-10 minute walk. Make it work!
3) Stop feeling guilty. There is laundry to be folded, phone calls to be returned, emails to be read, and planning to be done – these are facts. Want to know another fact? Those things can wait. If you take time to do something for yourself, you can do those things later – and maybe you’ll be a little more relaxed while getting them done.