Recently I have had several conversations with wonderful clients, friends, and family about the "demands of upkeep" our bodies place on our time. Someone likened going to the doctor to taking your car in for a tune-up. Another felt overwhelmed at the prospect of taking five minutes for themselves in the morning before jumping in to help everyone else. I found I had written "take a bath" on my to-do list, next to washing the shower curtain and paying a bill.
I am going to write a sentence here. Before your read it, I invite you to take a deep breath. As you let the words wash over you, notice how your mind and body respond.
You deserve, as a person, to take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
How do you react to those words? Do you roll your eyes? Do you brush it aside? Do you think "who has time for that"? Or do you let it sink in, like the wave of permission I hope it can be? I encourage you to sit still for a few moments, and repeat, under your breath or in your mind: you deserve, as a person, to take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
Americans have a culture of productivity and self-reliance, and there is much to admire in that. But without the balance of self care and rest, it is entirely unsustainable. Despite endless evidence that our productivity is far greater when we get enough rest, we continue to sacrifice sleep in order to "get more done." A large study this year showed a third of Americans are not getting enough sleep - and the cut off for the study was seven hours, not the eight that many of us need.
I have come to see this as a question less about time, and more about self-love. When we reach a point where we see everything else as more important than ourselves (those who depend on us, our work, and so forth), everything else becomes a higher priority, and we - the agents supposed to somehow accomplish so much - see ourselves as worth less.
You are worth caring attention and time.
The spiral of "no time for self care" winds its way to dark and exhausting places. When we do not value ourselves enough to grant ourselves permission to take care of our bodies, minds, and spirits (whatever that means for you), we "sandpaper" ourselves down until our bodies give out. Eventually, they demand we stop, and we become sick - either acutely (that flu that comes at just the wrong time) or chronically (adrenal fatigue, autoimmune conditions, etc). The irony is that had we taken the time to nourish ourselves from the beginning, we would have more capacity to get through more of our "to-dos." We would be healthier, happier, and more accomplished.
We cannot help others if we do not help ourselves. Every plane trip should remind you: you have to put on your own oxygen mask on first. Yes, even before your children. Because if you pass out, you are no good to anyone.
Grant yourself permission to take care of yourself, you wonderful human being.
Self care is not something for a to-do list, it is your right as a person, and you deserve it.
Self care of body, mind, and spirit, means something unique to each of us. Some of the ways I practice self care include:
- prioritize eight hours of sleep as a rule
- take hot Epson salt baths a couple nights a week (even if I have to put on a study video at the same time)
- make meals that I know nourish my body and keep my mind clear
- ... but occasionally eat something just because it makes me happy
- get massages
- go to the sauna or a hot spring
- stop answering phone calls, texts, and emails after 8pm (limit screen time)
- ... so I can cuddle on the couch with my partner and dog
- take 5-10 minutes when the sun is out to simply sit and let my skin soak it in
- go on "nature walks," preferably near water
- spend 15-20 minutes doing light yoga and Pilates or shaking meditation most mornings
- say "no" when it is truly what I need or want
- attend cultural and artistic events that keep my creative mind flowing
- ... and sometimes stay home to do absolutely nothing (aka Netflix binge)
How do you practice self care? Leave a comment - our ideas can inspire others!