When you take a flight and the crew goes over emergency procedures, they stress the importance of putting your own oxygen mask on before you attempt helping anyone else. If you’re not breathing, you’re of no use to others. This applies across our whole lives—if we’re not taking care of ourselves first, we’re of little use to anyone else. What’s that saying? “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Ain’t that the truth?
Oprah extols the benefits of putting self-care first and it’s become somewhat of a buzz-word over recent years. Countless articles tell us the importance of self-care, self-nurturing and the effects of burnout. We know we need to take care of ourselves, yet here we are: resentful, drained, guilty, heads down and barely pushing through the days. We often feel selfish for taking care of ourselves, but the messages we’re passing on to those around us is that we’re not worthy; we’re martyrs.
As parents, we tend to put the needs of our families ahead of our own, then wonder why we’re suddenly running on empty, feeling completely exhausted and unfulfilled. Our relationships with spouses suffer, we lose interest in connection with friends, we’re left empty and looking for answers when the truth is, a little preventative self-care really can prevent these situations.
It’s easy to say, “Fill your own cup!”, but what does that really mean? It means something a little different to everyone, but here are some general ideas to get you started.
We’ve come to idolize the “busy” people somehow. But here’s the thing: if you’re always busy, you’re either taking on way too much or you’re really awful at time management. Nobody needs to be hustling 24/7, so slow down, say “no” more often, and enjoy a more relaxed pace.
Every day, set aside at least ten minutes where you do absolutely nothing but relax. No tidying up, no contemplating work, no talking. Just be.
There were many years when I wore ratty clothes and my kids looked like they stepped out of magazines. I sacrificed my own style for them, spent all my free money on them. But I realize now, it was at my detriment—I missed having my hair done professionally, missed having fashionable clothes, missed having my nails done. Whatever special thing you love, treat yourself to it first. A brand new book, a fancy latte, whatever. You deserve to be treated, too!
Discover What You Love
Hobbies are so important for sanity. Get out of the house for an art class, or learn a new skill. Try a new sport. Lighting your passion for something outside family and home life helps keep you engaged and refreshed.
Adjust Your Schedule
Finding it difficult to find time for yourself? Adjust your schedule. Get up earlier to take advantage of some quiet time alone, or set aside your lunch break to just do something for yourself. Everyone gets the same number of hours in the day, it’s up to you to fit yourself in there somehow.
Meditate & Exercise
Whether you’re a newbie or old hat, shutting everything off for a few minutes is good for your whole being. No distractions, no stresses, no electronics or conversation. Focusing on the good things has proven time again to have a positive effect on overall physical and mental wellbeing! Exercising boosts endorphins, which send out happy vibes through your whole body, (and they make me feel better about the banana bread loaf I baked then promptly scarfed down).
Surround Yourself with Positivity
There’s good reason your Facebook friends post those sometimes-irritating über positive memes: they make people feel good. They really do. Repeating positive things to yourself will become part of your internal dialogue just as much as negative ones so often do. Stuart Smiley was onto something: you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it, people like you.
There’s little as uplifting as getting together in person with friends. We rely on texting and emailing these days, which can leave us feeling disconnected. Even setting aside an hour for coffee with a friend can change your entire week.
We Canadians get far too little vitamin D for the majority of the year, made even worse by the fact that we typically work indoors There are easily days when I see no sunshine at all. Taking a midday walk, getting fresh air into your body, or taking a hike on weekends will boost your mood and add cardio to your schedule—always a great thing!
Don’t Be a Martyr
Really, just don’t. There are no medals for being the busiest, most tired or most burnt out. Your family and friends genuinely want you to be happy, so take some time out for just you and do everyone a favour.