It seems a simple topic and you probably think you could write your own blog on Self-Care but you also know that you are not taking your own great advice.
That was me exactly 12 months ago. I fitted in a few work-outs a week, an occasional massage or facial, an occasional diet change. But my priority was everyone else in the family and then the top things on my To Do list. But 74 days after my 50thBirthday I got the call from my doctor to advice that I had Breast Cancer. Don’t worry – I’m fine now but here is what I have learned in the last 12 months:
As I interviewed Cancer Survivors for my new book, the number 1 thing that each survivor said is that before they got diagnosed they did not put enough time or priority into Self-Care. That has led me to expand my definition of Self-Care. The simple definition is “providing yourself with adequate exercise, rest, relaxation and social time and a healthy diet.”
I prefer now to increase the definition of Self-Care to include the above PLUS setting time aside for the important emotional and tactical areas of our lives. Looking after ourselves can mean eliminating toxic people from our inner circle, making sure important appointments are not overlooked like dentist and pap smears, taxes and bills are paid on time to eliminate stress, we have our own social and travel fund and we don’t feel guilty taking time out for exercise, reading, chatting with friends or meditating. I used to look at my many exercise loving friends and think their 2-3 hours a day riding, swimming and running made them selfish. But I now realize that by putting themselves first, it made them better parents who were great role models for their kids.
Another self-care lesson greeted me this past New Year’s Eve when my dog somehow escaped and got hit by a car – apparently a common time for this to happen due to the animals being scared by the fireworks. My whole family was devastated and we had not realized how much a part of the family she had become. We had no idea how sad we would feel or the hole this created in our family. For animal lovers, a pet is important for mental health and exercise. Our Dog Park is 500m around and it is easy to add 3km walking to my day by taking the dog out for her playtime. My husband mentioned that while I was going through my year of Chemo our dog was a source of comfort and joy when he was worried about me. Hence our new puppy has joined the family. While puppies are a lot of work, their sense of joy is endless and they make everyone smile when you walk them down the street.
Self-care therefore is anything that makes you happy, cares for your body or cares for your soul. Put yourself first out of necessity, without feeling guilty, and enjoy your special “Me Time”.
How does a busy, working Mum fit self-care into an already overflowing calendar?
Firstly you must acknowledge that this time you carve out for YOU is a necessity and makes you better prepared for the rest of your responsibilities.
Secondly you need to decide what is right for you. Is it 1 spin, 1 yoga, 1 walk per week, 2 hours reading per week, 1 hour meditation, 1 social a fortnight and 2 hours of either massage, hair care, or lying on the beach? Write a list of the things you would like to do for self-care, start by adding things in slowly, research where and what you like to do. Is there a gym near you that offers yoga and Pilates with a nice community? Is there a dancing class you have been wanting to try? Is there another educational class you have been thinking about but never researched or signed up for? Maybe a book club or craft get-together you have been thinking about? Want to learn Bridge or golf?
And third, it needs to be scheduled into your diary. The more you write things down and plan the easier it is to fit everything in. Include drive-time in your schedule.
I have tested this with many of my coaching clients. Once they find the activities that give them joy it becomes easier to find times in the calendar to fit these things in. Once these activities become a regular event, the family will work around Mum’s schedule and we know it for a fact that when Mum is calm and peaceful, the family routine flows with more ease and less yelling. My clients find that having a friend commit to the same weekly exercise session also helps. 1) it makes the time more social and 2) there is no way you will miss the event and let your friend down 3) you get your exercise done for the day.
Today, please take a moment to think about some activities that bring you joy, make you fitter and stronger or improve your mental health. Add it to your To DO list today to check out the activity, schedule it into your diary and SMILE.
YOU are important in so many people’s lives. Take YOUR time out to be healthy and happy so you can continue to give so much to the people around you.