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Self care

Self care-your life depends on it

In August I attended a conference where life coach Cheryl Richardson spoke about The Art of Extreme Self Care which is also the title of a book she published a few years ago. I find this a much neglected practice among many of us.

I speak to so many people who neglect their own wellbeing while they invest big in the welfare of others. I know managers who over-work themselves so their staff don’t have to. I know many mothers who are so consumed with the work-family juggle they feel they have little time to sleep, let alone any time to look after themselves. I have friends who join me in that elusive pursuit of getting 7 or 8 hours sleep at night. To me, self care is not an option and it is not a ‘soft warm fuzzy’ for women who watch talk shows. It is the foundation of a vibrant, energetic life, high productivity, good relationships at work, quality time with family and being fully present in whatever moment you are in. Finding time for self care is a challenge, but it starts with how much we respect and value ourselves and how much of a priority we place on our wellbeing and ultimately our quality of life. Think of the poster that says ‘If you don’t have time to take care of yourself now, how will you find the time when you are ill?’

When I returned home from the conference, I found I had a profound shift in paradigm (the sleep thing is still a challenge, but I’m getting there). I no longer let whims and unnecessary demands hijack my diary. I quarantine time for family, dog walks and play time, healthy eating and an exercise routine. I carefully consider what invitations I accept and am getting much better at saying ‘no’ to requests for my time that are not appropriate-even if it is met with disapproval or anger. When confronted with a difficult decision I ask myself ‘what is the self care’ choice? This approach is far from being self centred. It is refuelling me to be the best I can in my work, my relationships and my health and fitness; giving me the time to help those that I feel called to support rather than wearing myself out giving a reflex response and time to every need that comes across my path-with little time and energy left for the people and things that are my real priorities. The result? In a few short weeks, I’ve found time to spend with dear friends I have not seen for awhile. I’m more fully focussed on work projects because I’m not racing around every day meeting demands that are not really my responsibility. I am more present wherever I am and I find that as busy as my schedule is, I have time to reflect, write and refuel. I still have a long way to go, but the benefits I’ve reaped already have given me the motivation to continue on this path.

Two questions that I’ve heard asked before could really be the only lines written in this blog post:

  • Do you treat yourself with the same care, attention and priority that you do a special friend or family member?
  • If a close friend described their life to you in terms of your ‘self neglect’ habits, what would you tell them?

How are you doing in self care? What are you doing well? Where can you improve and who or what can help you? What is holding you back and how can you break that bondage?

Self care. You have one life. Be as generous with yourself as you are with others.

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