Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation” – Audrey Lorde
With a new year into full effect I can’t help but think of the many times I have told myself, “This is the year! This is the year I will treat myself better, sleep better, eat better and exercise regularly. I will dedicate more time to myself. I will spend more time with my family and practice more patience. I will work harder. I will be more giving and thoughtful.”
Things start out great. I start to feel like I can’t be defeated and then, BAM. You know the story: you over commit. You’re taking care of yourself and everyone else. You give, give, give and give. And before you know it you fall flat on your face. You’ve forgotten about yourself.
You missed mom’s important appointment, a deadline missed at work, and a birthday forgotten. The worst part is that in doing so it doesn’t just make us stressed, but it invites illness. Overworked systems, not enough rest, and little mental downtime are a perfect concoction for health and emotional issues. Throw caring for other human lives in the mix and the concoction is even stronger.
Then the guilt kicks in. We start beating ourselves up for not doing things “right.” We deny ourselves the time and resources necessary to actually be able to accomplish our goals. As compassionate beings, we treat our friends and family like the wonderful people that they are, but why when it comes to ourselves, we blame, judge and usually end up a downward spiral?
We were all given this special temple to live in… Our own body, mind and soul. It’s our responsibility to take good care of it and treat it with ultimate respect. It carries within our special gifts and talents that are uniquely ours. If we don’t dedicate time to maintain our own quality of life then how can we anticipate helping others in maintaining their own high quality of life? Attendants on an airplane will tell you to apply the oxygen mask on yourself before you give it to someone else. And there is good reason for this! Remember the old cliché? “Take care of yourself first or you will have nothing left to give others.”
A caregiver’s life is wrapped around finding the best care for their loved one, when all too often they forget to find the best care for themselves. Caregiver burnout is real and research shows it is a growing concern. I know the challenges in finding time or a piece of happiness for yourself, but this New Year, focus on how you can find joy in even the smallest of things. Rejuvenate yourself.
In these long and cold winter nights, take a few extra minutes to enjoy your favorite cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Sip slowly and savor it. If you have family members that can step in and give you a short break, take advantage of it. Go for a walk, jog or take a fitness class…. Or close your bedroom door and catch up on some sleep. And don’t feel guilty about it. Do you feel resentment towards mom when she takes a midday snooze? No, so why can’t you?
Stop overthinking or discrediting the little things that bring you joy. Take a bubble bath. Watch a movie. Eat an extra slice of cake. Sign up for yoga class. Take a selfie. Do whatever makes you feel good about being you and living your life. Quality of life is not something we should only focus on during our aging years but something to constantly maintain. The perception on quality of life varies from person to person so find what makes your life better!
You made it through 2014, and you deserve a pat on the back. Remember to take care of yourself no matter what that means to you!