How to take care of yourself
Spouses, children, friends, bosses, parents, neighbours -- so many people, so many needs to prioritize and attend to. And since most of us are spending too much time taking care of others, our own needs can easily end up at, or near, the bottom of the list.
My clients are often pleasantly surprised when I suggest that they start to take as good care of themselves as they do of the people in their lives. And the benefits of self-care are plenty: you feel less tired, irritable, anxious, and unsatisfied, and start to feel energized, centered, and strong. You feel like you are in the driver's seat of your life, which is precisely where you belong.
Here are six ways you can begin to self-care now:
1. Prioritize your pleasure
Treat yourself to something you love to do on a regular basis - go to a movie, join a class, spend a weekend afternoon reading. Ignore interruptions, turn the phone off, and book this time into your schedule. It's important to say no to requests that intrude on this time.
2. Start a journal
Writing every day in a personal journal is a terrific way to self-care. Just sit quietly and write about whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment. You'll be amazed at the insights that come, and at the feeling of unburdening that putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can create.
3. Ask yourself, "What do I really want?"
Whether it's about large matters or small, listen carefully, and answer truthfully. Do you really want this job? Do you really feel like going for Thai food tonight? Do you really want to spend two weeks in July at your parents' cottage? Start voicing your true desires to others around you.
4. Let others take care of themselves
Sometimes we do more caretaking of others than is necessary. Learn to delegate and don't put pressure on yourself to make things perfect. Let others be responsible for themselves, both practically and emotionally. You don't have to be a therapist to your best friend, rescue your brother from his latest crisis, or do everything perfectly at work. You are entitled to say no, do less, and not get involved in situations that deplete you.
5. Exercise your way
Choose a form of physical exercise that you enjoy and makes you feel good about yourself. I am often amazed at the torture people put themselves through in order to work out. Exercise should be about taking good care of our physical selves, not punitively trying to create an ideal body that we probably can't attain anyway.
So many people hate going to the gym. So don't! Instead, play a game or sport that you enjoy. Take a dance class. Consider yoga, which is a very self-loving form of exercise that emphasizes the mind-body connection.
6. Take time off
Take vacation time at regular intervals throughout the year. Pay attention to when you feel stressed or burned out, and take a long weekend. Regular time spent relaxing will go a long way toward a happier, more energized you.