Self-Care is totally underrated

Posted on July 21, 2010

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“Happy women know that if you want to take care of others, you must first-or simultaneously-take care of yourself.” -From What Happy Women Know

I know you’ve heard the lauding about self-care before. I know you have because I see this topic in women’s magazines and self-help books and scattered all over the internet. The message, albeit in different forms and genres, basically says the same thing: Ladies! We have to care for ourselves if we want to care for others effectively.

But how many of us are even paying attention? How many of us are really putting this into action?

A good friend of mine, who is a couple of decades older than I am, was describing the liberation of menopause. “For the first time in my life, I’m not concerned with taking care of everyone else,” she said. “I’ve stopped being the ‘nice girl’ and the people-pleaser and I’m going after what I want.”

That’s great and I hear that from a lot of women in their 50’s and 60’s. But why should we wait until then to start caring about ourselves? Why not start now? Wouldn’t it be great if we could give our daughters, no matter how young, different messages than the ones we heard about taking care of everyone else before ourselves?

Happy women know that caring for others is built into our genetic code. We are, by nature, the nurturing gender of our species. And many of us know that helping out other people just feels good.

But happy women also know that if taking care of others usurps your own self-care, then you’ll eventually become worn-down, burnt out and very unhappy.

You can prevent care-giving burnt out by having an important relationship with yourself. You can start having a relationship with yourself by taking these three steps daily:

1. Do something to care for your physical body.

Go for a walk, sleep an extra 15 minutes, eat a healthy meal, go for a manicure.

2. Do something to care for your mind.

Aim to learn something new every day about something that fascinates you. Talk to an interesting person.  Go to a lecture or documentary at a nearby university. Your brain has a lot of plasticity and needs to be stimulated.

3. Do something to take care for your spirit.

What brings you a sense of peace? For me, it’s being in nature and meditating. For some people, it’s going into a candle-lit sanctuary or an art gallery. Whatever brings you a sense of calm, find a way to slip it into your schedule.

All three of these-caring for your mind, body and spirit-will probably take about an hour a day. Before you start listing all of the reasons you can’t carve out an entire hour, think about how everyone around you would function if you had a heart attack. {Which is what you are setting yourself up for if you don’t start caring for yourself}

Who would drive your kids to school? Who would take care of your elderly parents? Who would do the dishes if you were in the hospital?

Those same people can help you out right now. Think of your own self-care as preventive medical care because that’s exactly what it is.

The truth is, everyone, no matter how busy, can find a way to devote an hour to their self-care if they get creative enough. Start a babysitting group with your neighbors, trade one of your services for a service you need, stop checking your email more than twice a day, quit watching television. The creative possibilities to find more time in your day are endless.

Happy women know that a healthy body, a strong mind and a sense of peace of priceless. They also know that they’re no good to another else if they’re sick and tired and worn out. Starting today, commit to making self-care one of your priorities. Whether you realize it just yet or not, everyone else will benefit too.

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Posted in: Love 101