Self Care has been a challenge for me for a very long time. Over the years I became an expert at making excuses to not take care of myself. I told myself that with my responsibilities of family, children, spouse, job, household management and (fill in the blank here) there was no possible way I could take even one minute to take care of myself; that would be SELFISH!
There seem to be two basic types of responses under long-term chronic stress; there are over-functioners and under-functioners. I am definitely an over-functioner. The more stress I have, the more I take on – to the point of burying myself with to-do list items and filling every single box of my digital daily calendar.
By contrast, most people around me are under-functioners. We seem to have attracted one another and the relationships spiral into codependency, resentment, and frustration. The less they do, the more I would take on. Or was it the more I took on, the less they would do? I felt like I was on a merry-go-round and couldn’t make it stop.
Breaking this cycle can be tricky. Over-functioners like me might actually believe the world will fall apart if they don’t do everything. I began to doubt the ability of others around me, opting to do things myself to ensure they were done “correctly.” I grew more tired and frustrated. Strained relationships, feelings of dissatisfaction and the loss of joy in my life became unbearable. I knew I had to do something differently.
Fast forward several years and thankfully, I have much more balance in my life. I’ve done a major overhaul, including my lifestyle, eating habits, career path, relationships, sleep, and most importantly SELF CARE. You see, it wasn’t until I started asking myself what I wanted and needed in order to live better that change began to occur.
At first, I wrestled with the guilt of being selfish. I changed my schedule to accommodate investing time into my health and well-being. That meant asking my spouse to do more for our family than he had been doing. I was met with resistance, but over time we were able to communicate, compromise, and the outcome is improved health and well-being for our entire family.
When I am asked for advice on how to begin the process of change, my mind is flooded with a long list of to-do items that I’ve done over time. It can be overwhelming for a beginner, or for anyone who already has too much to do – just about everyone I know!
People don’t need more to do and in this case, less is definitely more. My suggestions include simplify and practice the pause. Ask yourself, “What is the simplest way to do this?” I have been guilty of analysis paralysis on several occasions. Thinking about what to do, making lists, and planning do not equate to doing. These activities are, however, a fantastic distraction from the tough work of doing. Or more importantly, deciding what to do or not do.
We are all given the same 24 hours each day. How do you choose to spend your time? I’ve come to realize that whenever I say YES to something, I am also saying NO to something else. There have been too many times I said NO to me, to my self-care, to my wishes, desires, and joy.
To name one small action I’ve adopted that has made a great impact on my ability to demonstrate self-care, it to practice the pause. No matter what the thing is that I am faced with deciding to do or not to do, I pause. I take a breath, and ask myself these important questions:
- If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to? And am I okay with this?
- Will this choice enhance my life, get me closer to my goals, or bring me joy?
It doesn’t matter what you choose for any given decision. What matters most is that you take the time to make a mindful choice. I choose to live an intentional life rather than get lost in the distraction of busy-ness for the sake of being busy.
How might you choose to simplify? Live with intention? Practice being mindful and present?
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AND… Exciting News for 2017! I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but I can’t resist 🙂
- Nourishing Start – 12-week Healthy Eating Habit Coaching Program. Online nutrition coaching that is simple, supportive, and satisfying. No counting calories or dieting here! Starts February 6th.
- Strong Connections. Recently, I began volunteering with an organization called Girls Gone Strong (GGS) whose mission is to empower women with body positive, evidence-based information about strength training, nutrition, women’s health, injury prevention, fat loss, mindset, and much more. They have a Facebook Group called GGS Strong Women Lift Each Other Up where women of all ages, abilities and fitness interests can come together to share stories and support one another. You are welcome to join me there.