The summer has ended, the schools have started and you start to see holiday decorations in the stores. You know another very busy season is ahead. A busy life can offer some sense of satisfaction and fulfillment as we can multitask and attend to different areas of our lives. However, one big fall out of such business is that taking care of ourselves becomes the first thing we neglect. Let’s do a quick test! Look over your to-do list and tell me how far down on the list is there an item about you? How often the first few things on the list are about running errands, completing tasks and attending to others’ needs. Let’s be honest, was there even an item on the list about you? It seems like there is a lot of talk around self-care but not enough action! It feels as though we are creating some type of a culture that promotes and support self-care but how well have we integrated this notion of self-care into our daily choices and actions? In order to truly engage in self-care, I like to tackle some on-going underlying believes we have around it. I believe there are still some of us who think self-care is just not the term for a busy person. Do you think how busy must I be if I have time for myself? Do you some how measure your sense of productivity and success with how busy you are? Most importantly how do you define self-care? Now this is the deal-breaker. For those of you that view self-care as some fancy word that mean you must be self-absorb, selfish, or self-indulgent, then it won’t make it on your to-do list. However for those of you that view self-care as a necessity and act of self-love and compassion, then you have the right mindset to master the art of self-care. A recent quote I read from Serene Williams effectively captures how self-care is a necessity.
Serena Williams recently shared one of her conversations she had with her trainer who mentioned to her the Oxygen mask theory. Before taking off, all flight attendees review the use of oxygen mask in the case of a change in altitudes. All passengers, especially parents, are advised to put on their oxygen mask first before helping the one next to them, even if it is a minor. This safety tip has now become a very popular analogy to help people understand the concept of self-care. The moral of the story is that you cannot help others if you don’t take care of yourself first. In the context of physical health, most of us can agree quickly that we do need to secure our oxygen levels first before helping anyone of else. However we tend to minimize that this works exactly the same way when it comes to our emotional and mental health. The truth is we are not going to be good or effective in being there for others if we are feeling exhausted or burnt out. So self-care is the “oxygen mask” of our emotional health. We have to make sure we are emotionally well rested, re-charged and refreshed in order to attend to those around us. Here is another popular quote to make my point: “You can’t pour from an empty cup; you must fill your cup first.” When you take care of yourself and make sure you are feeling good you become a better version of yourself for those around you.
Like all changes, it starts with having the right mindset. I hope reading this blog has helped challenge and reframe some of your viewpoints around self-care. Once you truly believe in the power self-care, then I suggest you start with small changes. Throughout your day take 5-minutes break from work or when kids are napping, to take a walk, get some fresh air, shower, text a friend or meditate. With practice, increase the duration. Once you can allocate longer periods for self-care, it can include activities such as getting a haircut or massage, taking a trip or eating at one’s favorite restaurant, as well as attending to one’s basic daily needs.