The other day I went to the grocery store with a list of things, determined to get in and out without forgetting anything important (like coffee) or buying anything superfluous (like salted caramel brownie bites).
Proud that I had stuck to my list, I wheeled my cart to the checkout lane behind a few people, grumbled to myself as I realized I would have to stand there for at least ten minutes, and automatically pulled out my phone to kill time. A few minutes of scrolling through the political rants of casual friends on Facebook left me even more irritated than the extra-chatty, extra-slow cashier.
And so I glanced at the covers of the magazines on the racks close by and grew even more annoyed, this time I didn't look like the models, couldn't decorate cakes like Martha Stewart and didn't know the secret to Warren Buffett's financial prowess. By the time the cashier finally asked me how I was doing, I had to bite my tongue to keep from answering, Fat, Untalented, and Broke.
What I was really doing, was sabotaging my self-care. It seems trivial at first. All I was doing was waiting in a line instead of doing things with my time that make me a better person (like deep breathing, offering to help the older lady in front of me unload her cart or appreciating the ability to buy food, or planning my evening. I was bombarded by my negativity and unrealistic expectations, which were, in turn, taking a considerable toll on my self-esteem and well-being.
Have you ever taken a serious inventory of your time? A few minutes here and there on your phone, computer or in front of the TV add up in mind-blowing amounts. Some people refer to these as "Low-Value Habits". I think of them as Pac-Men (yes, I'm dating myself), eating up pellets of precious time. Scrolling through Pinterest and Facebook, flipping through channels, constantly checking emails--these things will sap your time with little return on your mental investment.
Self-care starts with an attitude adjustment. It begins with recognizing you are worth the time to take the best care of yourself. Because let's face it if you don't take care of yourself, who will? If you believe that everyone else must come first, then you will always come last, or never. The point is, you need to make the time for self-care so that you can be your best self for others.
But who has the time to do that? We have families, jobs, commitments and responsibilities, all demanding our time, our energy, our best effort. Sometimes it seems like everyone in your life has needs only you can meet. And spending too much time on yourself will rob them all of what little time you have. Heck, we are lucky if we have time to eat in our car on the way to another activity we've overscheduled.
The good news is, self-care doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out event shaking up our entire existence. In fact, self-care can be as simple as taking a minute or two to appreciate the Fall leaves, crank up our favorite song on the radio, make a healthy smoothie for the road instead of the shame-spiral drive-thru.
The first step toward feeling better is to challenge some of your assumptions about self-care. With some mindful effort, you can find five minutes to be still, breathe deeply and look around you. Beauty is everywhere, and with an attitude of self-love, you will find it. It's believing you, and your needs are a priority; only then will you make the time to take care of yourself. Here are a few ways to help you get started on your journey of self-care:
- Schedule in time for self-care. You'd be surprised at how you will stick to a routine if it's on a calendar
- Make a list of some things that might be getting in your way (technology, toxic relationships, etc.) and make a concerted effort to limit and eradicate them from your life
- Try using the You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide
- Write for 10 to 15 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning. Journaling, creative writing, poetry, anything
- Make art for 30 minutes instead of surfing the web or watching tv
- Use a mindfulness or mediation app like Headspace or Calm.
If you decide that your needs are also important, and make one or two tiny changes, you may begin to see changes in your energy, mood, and your health. You deserve to be taken care of too!