Are you 'really' being self-ISH?

calm habits happiness mindfulness self love stress management Jan 27, 2021

I couldn’t tell you how many friends and clients I’ve had the same conversation with for years now. In a nutshell, they share how busy they are running their kids here and there, taking on more and more work projects, constantly cleaning their house and doing house projects, helping this person with that, being on that committee, running here, running there… How they’re always on the go and how they never “have time” to exercise, cook healthy meals, get enough sleep, meditate, or, a radical idea…simply relax.

Does this sound painfully familiar to you, too? Have you shared the same story about your life?

In these conversations, I’m always amazed at how many people feel like they’re being selfish when they even consider doing something for themselves. When I hear people talk about this particular struggle, one thing comes to mind, which is that very important safety precaution that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline: make sure that your air mask is securely on before helping anyone else with their mask.

I have no doubt that you understand the metaphor, but indulge me as I expand on this a bit.

The bottom-line is that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to support the people in your life who are counting on you to the best of your ability. Ultimately, you’ll have a negative impact on yourself and will end up providing sub-par support to those around you. You HAVE to take care of yourself so you’re able to be at your best when you’re helping others – not to mention so that you can actually thoroughly enjoy your days, too!

Stress is a top contributor to an incredible number of diseases. When you don’t slow down to take care of yourself, you are more likely to struggle with your stress level. And when you live with such a high level of stress on a regular basis, you increase your odds of having to face all sorts of ailments and diseases triggered by stress, such as weight gain and heart disease. (And let’s face it, the past year has been pretty full of stressful events, in addition to what we already had going on.)

We all understand what it feels like to be stressed. We tend to have a shorter fuse before we get snappy with people. We don’t listen or engage fully. We’re more likely to become resentful and judgmental. And then there's the physical feeling of tense muscles and a clenched jaw. Yuck! I’m not sure about you, but that’s not how I want to feel.

Do you want to feel that way?

Why is it such a battle to take care of ourselves? Where do we learn that that’s acceptable or “normal” behavior? Why do we fail to communicate our needs or desires? If you’re like so many people I’ve talked to or heard from, you don’t feel like you have time. Or maybe that you have simply given up even trying because no one listens to you anyway, right?

The harsh reality is that it’s not that you don’t have time to take care of yourself, it’s that you aren’t making yourself a priority, and you aren’t communicating your needs and actually treating it as a priority to those who need to hear it. You’ve been choosing to put others' needs before your own basic needs and they’ve gotten away with it because they’ve been allowed to.

Growing up, my brother and I always understood that it was sincerely never a good idea to “pounce” on my mom as she walked in the door from work. We knew that she needed to have some transition time to herself (a whole 15 minutes), so we left her alone until she was ready. Once she had that time, she was in a much better place to give us her full attention to and be engaged with us. Of course, she had to express that this was a need of hers and make it very clear that this was a nonnegotiable.

Have you expressed your needs like this? Have you remained diligent in making sure that you got what you were looking for? Have you held your commitment to yourself in this too?

Considering everything we’ve been through over the past year, getting clear on our self-care needs has never been more important. I’m not talking about coping methods here. I’m talking about truly honoring yourself.

So, let’s start by talking about our very basic needs. Everyone has to eat and stay hydrated. This doesn’t mean grabbing another #5 from the local drive-thru and washing it down with a diet soda. It means to actually take the time to be mindful of your food selections and to allow time to buy and prepare foods that will truly nourish your body. 

Basic needs also include getting exercise and enough sleep. This does not mean walking to the bathroom so many times from drinking all of that water, or learning to calculate your number of hours of sleep to cups of coffee ratio. When is the last time you woke up on your own? That can serve as a good guideline for how many hours of sleep you need, but a good ballpark number to shoot for would be to get around eight hours of sleep. Then exercise your body five times a week on average. (Of course, check with your doctor on this.)

The thing is, all of these so-called “basic” needs are things that our bodies and our minds literally physically need in order to survive. If we are too rushed and don’t have time to eat healthfully or exercise, our longevity will likely be impacted!

So … why do we decide that it’s okay to put ourselves behind others? Where do we learn to put our own basic needs behind the needs of others, especially considering a lot of those needs aren’t even that basics? Sure, “once in a while” is just fine, or when your child is sick. But not when it has become the expectation...the norm.

When you take time for self-care you will:

  • Make better decisions
  • Be so much more efficient
  • Be in a better mood and a better overall mental state
  • Be in overall better health
  • Feel so much happier
  • Be more likely to create a life of your dreams

When you take time for self-care, you will also have the opportunity to be an even more positive influence on others, whether for a younger person or others struggling just like you to incorporate the self-care time they need.

Often, people push back by saying, “Yeah, I know, but I feel so selfish if I take time for myself and don’t do the things that I’m supposed to do for others.” Again, I have to ask: Where do we learn that? Is it true?

Beyond what society may consider basic, we all also truly need to have quiet time to ourselves to contemplate, transition, meditate, journal, or other things that support mindfulness. We need quiet time to get clear on why we’re here and what our purpose is. Time to understand ourselves and the impact that we can have on this world. Time to get our thoughts, feelings and visions clear on what our passions are and how to go about following our dreams.

The bottom-line is that we are all in this world to serve a purpose that is as unique as we are. A purpose well beyond hoarding work projects, carting everyone to their activities and running errands. Consider when it was in your life that you felt the healthiest and most alive. What did your life look like at that time? In what ways were you taking care of yourself? What boundaries had you established? How can you restructure your days and weeks to up your self-care game so that you can stoke that fire inside again? How can you get more support in your life?

I’d like to propose that we stop using the word “self-ISH” when we’re talking about taking time to care for ourselves. Instead, let's listen to our loving inner voice that’s wisely telling us that it's okay, and that it's actually in everyone’s best interest that we take time to be “self-FUL” ... often.  :)

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