I recently attended a conference that focused on self-care and wellness. It was absolutely wonderful to spend a weekend doing yoga, movement, meditation, mindfulness exercises, drumming, massage, reiki, and acupuncture. I came home feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and inspired to not only integrate these practices to my work with clients, but also to my own life. As I returned to my normal hectic life, although my intentions were still there, they began to dissipate, little by little, day by day.
Why is it that as mothers, fathers, therapists, teachers, and caregivers we nurture our children, ensuring that all of their physical, social, and emotional needs are met, yet when it comes to ourselves, it’s so difficult for us to do the same? I speak to so many adults who tell me that they don’t have time to go to a therapist, workout, cook a gourmet meal, read a book, take a bath, or meditate. And then when we do actually take time for ourselves to do something to promote our own self-care, many of us tend to feel a sense of guilt. Guilt that we are not spending time with our partners, guilt that we are not taking care of our children, guilt that we are not working, guilt that we are spending money, the list is endless.
Many of us tend to focus on others' needs first, and putting our own self-care on hold. Furthermore, society often tells us that being a good mother, employee, or friend is about putting other peoples' needs before our own. What are the origins of this message? And how did it become so embedded in our psyches? Is it that we live in a society that tells us these things? Or is it learned behavior that has been passed down through generations? My guess it’s probably a bit of both.
How can we break this cycle of meeting our own needs before others without being labeled as selfish? How can we truly care for ourselves in a nurturing and compassionate way without the guilt and shame that goes along with it?
The first thing we need to start doing is truly listening to ourselves, that inner voice that tells us what would make us happy, calm us down, relax, and recharge us. Whether it’s taking a walk, a bath, watching a silly movie, or cuddling in front of the fireplace with a good book or magazine, take time for yourself daily. Even if it's for five minutes, check in with yourself, breathe, meditate, and relax.
I also recommend that we focus less on is what others may think of us for making “me” time. Your true friends and loved ones will support your efforts and encourage you devoting time to self-care activities that promote your overall wellness. And the ones that you feel are judging you for doing so may be feeling deprived in their own lives. Modeling self-care for may inspire them to do the same. The time that we make for ourselves is invaluable, and I guarantee it will make you an overall happier and healthier person.