“The greatest wealth is health.” ~ Virgil
“Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~ Anne Lamott
“If you don’t love yourself, nobody will. Not only that, you won’t be good at loving anyone else. Loving starts with the self.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Seems as though we’ve turned an interesting corner when it comes to self-care: what was once an unknown recommendation became a much sought-after reason (excuse?) to be self-involved or shower yourself with sweets and treats or to spend exorbitant amounts of money on unnecessary wellness “accoutrements”. It is today’s buzz word, and not necessarily with a positive connotation.
Here's the thing: self-care is still a necessary group of activities or habits we do to deliberately take care of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. AND, more importantly, without taking care of ourselves, we cannot be available to take care of others.
We all age, but we do not all age equally. Some age with grace, while others age disastrously, and while part of that may be due to factors outside your control, much of it is up to you.
One of the greatest regrets people have, in my experience, is simply not taking care of themselves — not only because it hurts them, but because it puts a burden on those they love as well. Health is wealth, but it is also a gift you give to others, because when you take care of yourself, you are also, secretly, taking care of those who love you.
Think of old couples, the ones that aged well and live together with a youthful love even when they are in their twilight years. There is something beautiful about seeing two old folks in their armchairs in their home, smiling and laughing, while the old photographs of them in their youth smile on as well. They take care of each other, but just as importantly, they took care of themselves. “I will take care of me, for you, as long as you take care of you, for me.”
Take care of yourself not only for your own well-being, but for the well-being of those who care about you. When it comes down to it, you will be proud that you were a faithful steward of your greatest possessions: your body and mind. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to take time that you could be spending with your kids or taking care of one of the myriads of tasks that are a part of running a household and spend that time on yourself. Weird thought, right? Because the vast majority of being a parent is being selfless and focusing on the other important people in your life (kids, spouse, pets, etc). What we forget, though, is that without self-care, we fall apart. And if the parent falls apart (especially the one that does most of the parenting), then where do things end up? The pieces fall, and there is no one there to catch them. But is that really true? Try to take a step back and really analyze: can you take time for yourself without the walls crumbling? I think you’ll find that you can.
What does self-care involve? It is so highly individual and situation dependent; what works for me may not even remotely appeal to you. Perhaps it is a solo run in the park. Perhaps it is an art class or a chance to learn a new skill. Perhaps it is a soothing yoga session. Perhaps it is gifting yourself time to journal. Maybe you gift yourself a break from reading news or checking in to social media. Maybe you get rid of your bathroom scale. Or stop drinking alcohol. It can be something social, like taking the time to stop at your favorite coffee shop on a regular basis or meeting friends for lunch. Whatever it is, it is important to you, and it feeds you. Self-care is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. Taking the time to do something(s) important to you is a necessity, not a waste of time.
A couple of nudges about what self-care is NOT: it is not a night of eating the largest bowl of ice cream you can eat. It is not an occasional pampering session. It is not a reason to push back the loved ones in your life. It is not necessarily a bubble bath. It might not even be relaxing. It is not a reward, or a tangible gift you give to yourself. Self-care does not have to be alcoholic nor chocolate, nor related to any commercial item.
Instead, self-care is the habits you embrace that take care of your wellness, that help you balance the scale of the things that empty your tank, and refill it. It may be something you do with other people or it may be something you do on your own. Self-care is as much about your thinking as it is your behaviors. How you self-talk, and you gift yourself self compassion, how you address and acknowledge emotions, how you forgive your errors and how you connect with your community.
Without proper care, even a car will fall apart. A living organism needs care, love and attention. Moms are great at so many things, but giving themselves time and attention is often not among those skills. True self-care is not soft baths full of bubbles and chocolate cake. It is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
Some of the articles linked below include suggested activities or practices that may spark your interest.
Take it from me: You are important, too. Give the kids the love and attention they deserve, but don’t forget about you: give yourself the love and attention you deserve, too. I promise you’ll be a better parent for it.
For further reading: