The Art Of Self-Care
Why putting yourself first is essential.
Hello my lovelies,
Today I wanted to talk to you about why it is so important to look after yourself, especially if you are a carer or parent to someone else. Many people are realising this after decades of being to told to put their needs last; otherwise they were considered "selfish" or not "work-minded enough" and so would not get ahead they way they wanted to.
I'm here to shed a little light on why you should not only put yourself first, but also how. The why is pointless without the how. So today I'm offering you three Golden Rules of Self Care, and simple ways you can implement them into daily life for a happier, more fulfilled You.
"But Tam, if I put myself first, then people will think I'm selfish!"
Sure, many people probably will think that, because they are still living according to old paradigms that don't serve anyone anymore. The real truth is that not taking care of yourself first is, in actual fact, the height of selfishness.
How dare I be so bold!
Think about it this way: anyone who has traveled in a plane will remember the blurb they give you before take off which includes all the safety information should the plane encounter problems. One of the most stressed points in these presentations is that you must put on your oxygen mask before you help anyone else, even a child in your care. Now doesn't that seem selfish to you? It certainly did to me the first time I heard it!
But consider that someone who has been hurt, or a child in your care, cannot help themselves as easily as you could and will need you to put their mask on for them. So if you were to put the child's mask on first, and then pass out from lack of oxygen yourself, who is left to help the child or anyone else that may need it?
When you care for yourself first, you give your body and your mind what it needs in order to best care for and help others. By not taking care of your needs and letting your body and mind become weak and tired, you are not nearly as capable of helping or caring for someone else. And if you are dealing with any form of chronic health issues on top of needing to care for small children for instance, you are doubly in need of solid self care.
I can tell you from experience that a lack of self care makes you far less of a nice person to be around.
Think about it, when you feel rested and relaxed it's easy to be patient with your kids or think of solutions to minor problems without major stress arising, isn't it? But when you are tired, worn out or feeling like too much is being asked of you, then your fuse naturally shortens significantly and even the smallest problem looks like a mountain. Your adaptive reserve becomes depleted - you can't handle daily stresses very well as the day wears on.
Before I started practicing diligent self care, I was a horrible mother to my kids and nothing short of the worst nag to my husband. I had NO fuse at all, and would blow up at the smallest offence, and I always felt like no one cared about me because I was working so hard and yet no one wanted to be around me for any length of time.
Well, no wonder! I spent all my time expecting other people to care for me the way I cared for them without realising that in actual fact, no one owed me anything and I was offering a vibe of bitterness that no one wanted to be around. I have always naturally been a giver (waaaaaaay too much so!) but no one was under any obligation to repay me. But I didn't see it that way because I was raised to be uber-sensitive to the needs of others and to anticipate other's needs. I was wearing myself out looking after everyone and I was becoming resentful and frustrated. Eventually it led me to believe that people didn't care about me and that they were using me.
In reality, I was the only one who could meet my own needs the way I needed them to be met. And if I couldn't meet a certain need, it was my own responsibility to ask for what I wanted, not expect others to read my mind and to notice everything I did and anticipate my needs! But because I was raised that way, I expected others to be the same - I never made allowances for people being different to the way I was and I couldn't see how they couldn't see the pain I was in, when I was always noticing things they needed!
It was not a pretty cycle to be in.
When I first read the book "The Surrendered Wife" by Laura Doyle, I encountered her philosophies on self care. To me, they were radical and frightening and yet made total sense - I just couldn't figure out how on Earth to begin. Tell my husband I was going for a nap and that he had to look after the kids? Tell him I couldn't handle the finances anymore and that he was going to look after them for us...?
I just couldn't imagine it - I was a people-pleaser to the end, and my usual tactic to get what I wanted without actually asking for it, was passive-aggressive hinting and whining. But this concept of self-care was a big deal for me and I knew I needed to take the step, for both myself and my family.
So I started small...
I took a long bath with a book. No one died or starved.
Then I started asking him to do some of the housework. No major complaints and again no one died and my husband didn't divorce me.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to tell my husband I couldn't deal with the finances anymore because they stressed me out too much and he was the one earning most of the money anyway.
Well, this one met with some resistance because my husband has had many lessons to learn about money, but once he took it over, many things got better and have continued to do so over the years, despite the debts we have accumulated and are now clearing off.
And with each incremental step in my self care journey I found myself relating to my family better and better, because I felt better. Simple as that. I was rebuilding the reserves I needed to function well in my roles as a mother, wife and colleague. When my daughter came along and I realised that I did not want to return to work (even if we'd had someone to look after all three children at the weekends that my husband was on shift), I really had to bite the bullet and accept that my wish was in fact reasonable. This was very hard for me to do! Many mothers wish to be at home with their children, but because I'd always worked, even just part time, and because our family was on a low income as it was, it felt like the ultimate request.
But although money was really tight (and I tried many work-from-home scenarios, including writing for E-How.com, that never quite fit) we made it through and now I can see how valuable this time with my children is, and how much I have grown (and continue to grow) as a person because of it. It was the foundation laid for me to become the woman I am now and am evolving into.
So, here are the three Golden Rules of Self Care:
1. It is selfish NOT to!
Whatever you feel you need, right at this moment - whether that's a walk outside on your own, or a night off in front of a favourite movie, then do it. Life is not about cataloging sacrifices you made for others, it's about enjoying your life moment by moment. And "indulging" (it's not indulgence if your body and mind really need it) in an activity that makes you feel nourished and restored is vital if you are to be your best self for those in your care. You owe it to them to look after yourself as best you can, so you can be your best for them.
I truly believe that success is not measured by how much stuff or money you have, but by how much joy you have in your life. What brings you joy nourishes your body, mind and soul and that is powerful medicine in this day and age.
2. Remember who's watching you.
When you feel bad about doing something for yourself, stop and ask yourself: would I want my children to feel bad about wanting what I want right now? Would I deny my children what I am yearning for in this moment?
If your answer is NO in any way, shape or form, then realise that by allowing yourself to have what you need in the moment, to take care of yourself, is to set a good example for those in your care. And by setting a good example and being a good role model for your children, you are helping to shape a healthier future for Humanity.
You are also providing inspiration to others who see you taking care of yourself and how it affects your family dynamic for the better, and this is as powerful as being a good role model for your Children. You unconsciously give permission to others (who subconsciously seek it, as we all do), to take care of themselves too and to give themselves a little of what they need to become their best selves. This creates a beautiful ripple effect across the ocean of Humanity. Never underestimate how powerful one small act of inspiration can be.
3. If someone resents you for it, then they need it too.
Remember that anyone who gives you crap over wanting some time out for yourself is subconsciously just as desperate for a break themselves. This can be hard in the moment, because you feel like your desire to be a better person and to take care of yourself is being thwarted by someone who is supposed to care about you. As Laura Doyle says in her book, "Listen for the Heart Message".
If your husband moans at you for wanting to go out with your friends, think about when last he got to go out. Was it also a long time ago? Does he long to spend some alone time with you?
Or if your child moans at you because you're going shopping and never take them with you, think about how much time you are spending with them directly. Do you spend a little time one-on-one with them each day?
If your friend openly says you are selfish for going back to college to learn something new, don't just scoff and turn away from her! Think about how much she may want to do the same, about how dumbed-down her life may feel since having children herself. Every mother wants to feel like she is the world to her children, but every mother finds herself in moments where she wishes she could have her original identity back too.
Recognise, and honour in others what you hear from their heart. Many people believe that they are not worthy of self-love and self care, and to see someone else doing things for themselves and showing love and respect for themselves can be very hard for them to bear. Be kind and inspiring to those who show you resentment and try to stop you from having what you want. They simply want the same but don't feel like they can have it.
At the end of the day, what people must begin to realise is that we all live in a friendly Universe! Everything is available to all of us, but we must choose it and allow it into our realities. This includes abundant health, wealth, happiness, joy and time. And the process of choosing and allowing it into your life is to first acknowledge what you want, or at least, how you want to feel.
Don't think about what you don't want, or don't want to feel, anymore; that will just bring you more of the same. It can sometimes help you determine what you do want though, so if that's where you need to start, then by all means, start there.
But once you know what you want for your life, and how you want to feel, focus on that and how wonderful it will be to have it, and how wonderful it will be for those around you to share that experience of joy with you. That will magnetise those things and feelings to you. You must believe that you are worthy of this for it to come through to you though. Here's a fantastic video that I believe everyone should watch!
How to incorporate self care into your daily life
So, you now you have the why, let's look at the how because that is where things can get sticky. Here's a few tips on making self-care a feature of your day, from my personal experience.
1. Use nap-times / school time wisely
Sure, you could catch up on housework or sneak in some trashy TV while your baby or toddler naps or your kids are at school, but is that fulfilling you? Is that making you feel happy? Or is it just soul-destroying daily-grind stuff (or, in the case of trashy TV, infusing you with the drama of the outside world that doesn't belong to you)? I have not watched actual television in over 3 years (we use Amazon Prime and Netflix) and I can't tell you how much of a difference not having to see adverts and news has made to our lives. But I digress...
During your child's nap times, or school times or your lunch break or whenever you have a small block of time free to yourself during the day, I want you to dedicate just 10 minutes to yourself entirely. That's doable right? Make a cup of tea or coffee and just do something you love and enjoy deeply for 10 minutes. Set a timer if you need to to avoid feeling bad about it. But here's the caveat: you must do it before you do whatever else you need to. The work/telly/dirty toilet will still be there in ten minutes time, yes?
This is a simple but powerful way to start the process of rewiring your brain to the fact that your needs are important too and that it's ok to put yourself first, even just for ten minutes each day. I highly encourage you to work up to a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and preferably 3-4 hours.
2. Create a bedtime ritual
Just as Children settle better with a good bedtime routine, so do adults.
Before you go to bed, take the time to either have a bath or shower, by candle light, and to allow your mind to just relax a little. I don't bath every single day, I bath every other day for many reasons I won't get into here, so on non-bath nights I instead spend time cleansing my face, brushing my hair and teeth and, sometimes, reading before sleep. Whatever you do to make this time your own, whether that is to listen to meditation music or read a book in the bath (something I highly recommend :) make sure you are consistent about it.
Avoid using your phone at all for the last hour before sleep, or watching TV or using any device at all as this prevents your brain from slowing down to facilitate good sleep, even if you have a blue-light filter on it. And good sleep is a VITAL element of self care, especially for new parents, or those who get interrupted sleep.
Don't worry if you miss a night. Just start again the next night. It's far better to be imperfectly consistent, than perfectly not-at-all.
(Here's a tip from Donna Eden, master Energy Medicine practioner, that I've just learned today and haven't even tried yet! Use a stainless steel spoon (it must be Stainless Steel, and not silver, as SS is magnetic which responds to the electromagnetic nature of our bodies) and rub the back of it up and down the bottoms of your bare feet to ground your energy before sleep, or indeed any time of the day. She says you can also rub it up and down your spine (or get your significant other to). It helps to reset the nerves in the spine which will help with better-rested sleep.)
3. Create a morning ritual too
This is one I struggle with, because I am not a morning person! But whenever I can, I wake up early before my kids, make a cup of tea and spend a few minutes looking out over the dark garden and imagining a wonderful day ahead of me. I'm working on a meditation practice that is having a wonderful effect on my basic vibration during the day, but I've not yet got this down.
Even if I wake up late, I spend time before I get up thinking about how grateful I am to have what I have (my children, my husband, my friends and family, my ever-increasing health and vitality, my crazy, loveable pooch, my personal and spiritual growth and so on) and this raises the vibration and energy in my body so much that it's hard for bad experiences to happen to me. My good energy and perception prevents situations from appearing bad to me, I should say. Everything is perception.
There is a noticeable difference in me on days when I don't do this little practice. I can get cranky and easily upset and it's harder to avoid allowing my empathic nature to absorb outside energies. So taking a few minutes in the morning to infuse my energy with love and gratitude is kind of like a psychic shield against negativity that also helps me to be more fun and enjoyable to be around. Isn't that a useful way to spend a few minutes, looking after yourself so you can look after those around you?
What steps will you take to make self care a part of your daily life? Weigh in with any tips you have to share!
PS: This post may contain affiliate links which, if you should buy through them may mean I make small commission from it. It has no effect on the price for you, and I truly appreciate the extra bump!