Self-Care – The value of valuing yourself first
What is it that gives you a sense of peace and bliss? How do you relax? Is it sometimes common for you to find that when crunch time comes, or the stress rises in your life, that you feel as if self-care and the things that you like to do, are the first things to be compromised? If you do, you are probably one of thousands of women who may struggle with the balance of self-care in the midst of so many daily responsibilities and identities. I know that I have certainly experienced that feeling. Why we do so neglect our own needs so often? Self-care has often been looked upon as being “selfish” or being extravagant in indulging in one’s needs and wants. This belief is strongly held particularly in the U.S., where we place a high value on “doing”, accomplishing and achieving, which can trump the need to just “be” and to care for the body, mind and soul with time to slow down and take care of ourselves.
I have most definitely caught myself countless times, at moments where I felt that those things that I desperately needed, such as a long walk along the water, an hour phone call with a friend, the bubble bath at the end of the day, or nap outside in the sun with a good read, were luxuries and that I did not have “time” for. I came to realize that these experiences or things, that I truly enjoy, that feed my soul, and nurture my spirit, are key to being able to manage stress, and do so in a healthy way. Choosing to do these things and break from the whirlwind of go, go, go, are not only vital for me especially when finding myself in challenging times or periods of transition but also on a daily basis. This choice can actually create the distinction between getting by, and the feeling that I can choose how to respond to situations and empower myself by caring for me! Miraculously, I can then think more clearly, and feel more at peace no matter what levels of chaos and unexpected events fall out around me. I actually feel a sense of rising above my situation and can more easily remind myself that I am not my situation or circumstance. That is simply one part of my life. This holistic view somehow helps me to take steps forward to take action.
When we trust that voice that tells us what we need in the moment, instead of dismissing it, we are actually serving ourselves and answering the call to take care of ourselves. Then, we have more of the authentic “self” to truly give to others – family, friends, work, our community – and we can be our best in each role that we hold in our multifaceted lives. Why do we so easily forget to take care of ourselves first? Probably because the U.S. culture, as perhaps other cultures, does not value this “me” time as so valuable to our survival. In fact that time for self, allows us to thrive rather than feel as if we are simply surviving, going through the motions, and getting through the days. Also, as we are all well aware of, women have a long history of overcoming those natural tendencies of caring for others before caring for themselves. While this maternal and nurturing instinct is such an incredible gift, it also prevents many of us from truly honoring ourselves when we most need to, so that we can be the best, mom, daughter, sister, spouse, girlfriend, friend, manager, co-worker, we can be. So simple, yet so difficult.
Perhaps it begins with asking yourself what is it that you need more of – could be sleep, rest, healthy foods, exercise for starters. These are vital elements of self-care that easily become compromised in times of transition and stress.
I challenge you to remember that you are the most important asset in your life, and to start with what makes you smile, gives your whole body a sense of “aaahh”, and carve out at least 20 minutes for yourself each and every day for doing one of those activities. You will surprisingly find that all those “to do’s” and responsibilities you have will still be there after you give yourself the gift of being you and filling a need – except you may even feel as if you can do more with less time, because you have more energy to give after caring for yourself. When we value ourselves, our choices change and our lives more easily fall into sync with what we want and aspire to.
A few surprisingly simple ways that I care for my soul, mind, body and spirit:
20 minutes of yoga
Writing in my journal
Spending time with friends
Reading that magazine or book that takes me away
Spending time in nature – to just be
What’s on your list? What steps will you take today to care for yourself, first? And notice how it feels.
Thank you to our contributing expert :
Rebekah Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org), spends her time between Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. She is a coach, educator, and intercultural trainer, with experience training, advising, and coaching professional adults along their career and life changing journeys. She empowers and supports women in career and life transitions, cultural adjustment and in pursuit of their personal and professional development goals and dreams.