Recently my husband and I hosted a game night at our house. I love having friends over to enjoy nice conversation, laughs, and food, but the preparation leaves me exhausted. That night I was so excited for everyone to be there but I had a headache and was tired.
During the gathering, I pulled one friend aside to check in and see how she was doing. She’s a mother of three small children with a demanding job and she is very involved in the community – she’s constantly serving others and is the epitome of a selfless, good person. She does so much that I know she leaves very little time for herself. I asked her how she was doing and she told me she was taking on a lot and that she needed to take better care of herself. She suggested that I was really good at taking care of myself. My first reaction was shame and I wondered if she saw me as selfish. Then I took a step back and realized that taking care of myself isn’t a shameful act. But I did wonder if I actually do a good job or if it just looks like I do a good job. I try to exercise and read on a regular basis, but is that self-care?
Self-care is prioritizing activities that are essential to your well-being. It is taking care of yourself by meeting essential needs first.
Self-care is prioritizing activities that are essential to your well-being. It is taking care of yourself by meeting essential needs first. Exercise and education are good for you, but self-care begins at a physiological level. First, food, air, and sleep are critical to survival. Next, would be psychological needs – relationships, education, self-esteem. I’m primarily focused on my psychological needs but these days I’m not going to bed on time or sleeping well. I am certainly not making the healthiest food choices. I am breathing, so I’ve got that going for me.
When I played soccer as a kid, my coach would remind me to “Do the simple.” In other words, focus on fundamentals. If a game is going downhill or, in this case, the stress level is going up or health is declining I try to remember the basic skills that will guarantee my success:
Breathe: Take three deep breaths when the stress starts.
Sleep: Push all deadlines and obligations aside and sleep. Set a bedtime timer and go to sleep when the timer reminds you to sleep.
Eat: Eat intentionally when hunger starts and pay attention to the sensations that go along with a meal – enjoy the flavor, texture and smells.
Self-care is not a new concept. It may seem too simple to really work, but for the most part, it does. At the very least it is diagnostic and helps to determine if there is something really wrong with a person’s body. Think about a car, if a car won’t start the first checkpoints are gas, oil, and the battery. If those basics are fully functioning then the problem lies somewhere else. In order to resolve my discomforts I begin with the basics: air, sleep, and food. Once I’ve checked to make sure those needs are being met it’s usually like pushing a reset button and my body and mind start functioning smoothly again.
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