The Power of Self-Care: It’s NOT selfish, It’s NOT indulgent IT’S NECESSARY

Written by Michele Dial, M.Ed, LPC

  

“If the airplane cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth before helping others.” You know the drill – put your mask on FIRST. Even though our instincts often guide us to take care of EVERYONE else first, or at least those closest to us. Especially our family, right?


Wrong.

 

Yes, making you partner, your kids, your siblings and parents a priority IS important. We are humans; we are built for connection. For many, nurturing is instinctual. But how nurturing can you be if your resources (empathy, patience, lovingkindness, understanding, energy) are completely depleted?

 

If you pass out from lack of oxygen, how the heck can you possibly help anyone else with their oxygen mask?

 

You can’t. In order to serve and care for others, we have to have something to give. If this concept of taking care of yourself sounds impossible, try not to worry. The last thing we want to do is add more stress to your life. Instead, take a few more minutes to read this brief blog about easy ways to sprinkle in some self-care, and see if it doesn’t actually boost your ability to help others.

 

Take Five in the Morning

How many of you wake up with your mind racing about all the things you have to do that day? How does your day unfold on days like this? If you’re like me, you hit the ground running – feed the dog, the kids, and anything else that breathes, check the weather, check traffic, get yourself clean and clothed, round everyone up along with all their gear, and pray you didn’t forget anything. By the time you reach your destination, you may feel as though you’ve run a marathon and the day is just getting started.

 

Try This: Set your alarm five minutes earlier than usual – that’s not much sleep to sacrifice, and the benefits can be life-altering. During this five minutes, choose something enriching to help ease your racing mind, and take control of your body and your day, before it runs away with you.

Some suggestions:

-       Read the news with some coffee

-       Meditate on a handy app with time-sensitive meditation options (Calm, Headspace)

-       Read a devotional or inspirational passage

-       Do jumping jacks or jog in place to expend nervous energy

-       Practice deep, controlled breathing and stretching to slow your thoughts

-       Take some tips from the 6-minute Miracle Morning (https://halelrod.com/6-minute-miracle-morning/)

 

Make Time for Lunch

If you’re accustomed to eating in your car or at your desk, you may find that you get indigestion, eat unhealthy foods, or even forget that you’ve eaten … or haven’t. Absentminded, rushed eating wreaks havoc on the body and the mind. Dedicating even just 15 minutes to eating and nothing else, can allow a brief interlude in your day to relax, reset, and refocus on whatever tasks are awaiting your attention.

 

Try This: Plan your lunches ahead of time. If you know what you’re eating the next day, you can take some of the uncertainty off your plate and make dedicating that 15 minutes to eating much more feasible. Bonus points if you schedule a leisurely lunch with your significant other or a friend.

Some suggestions:

-       Pack up dinner leftovers in to-go containers

-       Use a mail-order meal service

-       Buy pre-made, health-smart lunches at the grocery store that you can grab-and-go

-       Eat in the kitchen or dining area at home, or a common area away from your desk in order to truly disconnect from projects

 

Get Your Body Moving

Exercise is often at the bottom of the list of priorities when we start to feel the time crunch. It’s an unfortunate casualty because the benefits run far deeper than just shaping your body. The release of endorphin and adrenaline boosts mood and releases tension.

 

Try This: Try not to feel overwhelmed by hour-long classes at the gym, which also requires round-trip drive time, or a run in the heat that requires showering and getting ready all over again. Instead, get your body moving in small spurts throughout your day to increase blood flow, boost your energy, and clear your mind.

Some suggestions:

-       Take a 5-minute stretch break

-       Walk around your block or office building during lunch or on a break

-       Walk the dog

-       Look for online guided exercise, such as yoga or Zumba that you can do in 20-30 minutes at home

-       Set up a portable table tennis net on your dining room table and engage the whole family

 

Take 15 Before Bed

At the end of a busy day, diving straight into bed can leave us tossing and turning as we struggle to settle our minds. We may find ourselves critiquing our choices and actions from the day and fretting about tomorrow’s to-do list. It’s no wonder we find it difficult to get deep, restful sleep.

 

Try This: Take 15 minutes to wind down intentionally. Slowing your mind and body, and working through the whirlwind of racing thoughts  can make a world of difference.

Some suggestions:

-       Take a hot bath or shower

-       Read a book

-       Meditate (remember those apps!)

-       Journal – a simple debrief of your distress and sources of joy for the day

-       Make a list for tomorrow to clear out the worry

-       Make a gratitude list

-       Practice deep, controlled breathing and stretching to slow your thoughts

-       Cuddle with your partner or your pet

 

See a Professional Counselor

I know you’re busy taking care of everyone else. You don’t have time for therapy. I get it. But who’s taking care of you? When your resources are depleted, you have nothing to give. Enter your therapist. A professional counselor or therapist can serve as a compassionate source of support, and an objective resource for working through difficulties, restoring your emotional reserves, and strengthening your sense of self. When you fill up your tank, you have so much more to give in your quest to serve and care for others.

 

Remember: taking care of you IS taking care of others.