This clear message to focus on self-care appeared on my daily calendar right on the heels of a similarly veined conversation with a friend. We were discussing our recent struggles with being over-booked; striking a balance between committing to too much and leaving enough space for down time.
The struggle with balance is not new. We toss around this subject with regards to our diets; to love, life and work; to our children and our partners; to our hobbies versus our paid endeavors… the list goes on and on.
But what often gets thrown out first is time spent dedicated to just being. To replenishing the spirit. To feeding the soul.
To taking time to love yourself… so you then have the capacity to love and care for others.
To saying, “Stop! Enough is enough; it’s time to fit in some me-time!”
Our society does not encourage this habit of self-care. We live amongst a go, go, go mentality. The idea that if you say no to one opportunity, another one will never come your way. That if you take time to pause and rest, someone else will take your place.
When my body fell off the gerbil wheel and effectively shut itself down as my autoimmune disease announced it was now taking over control of my ability to do or not do, a new challenge arose in the strive for balance. A similar struggle is heard echoed by friends with various chronic illnesses (mind and body). We spend so many days as slaves to our disease, that when we have a “good patch” we want to take full advantage of it. So, we too, push, push, push, until we reach overload and crash.
I recently read about why we have resistance to letting go of these patterns of behaviors. It comes down to one of two fears: 1. A fear of losing something we already have or 2. A fear of not getting something that we want.
When stripped down to this straight forward approach, my friend and I could clearly see the impasses in our behaviors. For her, it was an abundance of exciting opportunities to suddenly participate in the craft she loves. She feared losing this new-found standing in the community as a respected musician. And was afraid to say no to even one opportunity, leading to being “put off the list” and never asked again. As well, she feared losing this dream. She had prayed and the Universe had delivered; how could she turn down that?
For me, I didn’t realize it came down to such a blunt answer until I said it out loud. I fear losing my life. I fear that each day may and well be my last, so I certainly do not want to squander what precious time I do have, and the beautiful opportunities presented to me to spend that time. For me, it was (and is) this insane grasping at all life has to offer after another extended hospital stay.
So where does one go from here? …
The first step is asking yourself that very same question, “What am I fearing right now?”
Then it’s reminding yourself that you are no good to anyone, especially yourself, if you do not incorporate “me-time.” You could say yes to everything, forgetting your own needs in the process. Think back to times you’ve made that choice. Many times we run ourselves into the ground to the point where we may show up for each thing, but are not wholly present for any one thing.
Remind yourself you have choices. My friend decided to keep her present commitments, but to not commit to taking on anything new for the fall. As for losing out? She can let these generous offerees know that she is fully booked now, but is still interested and would like to check in with them in December.
Me? I listed my obligations and put them in order of priority. What is most important? I had to cancel almost half of my “dates” and trust that there will always be something new around the next corner. Also, I will be better equipped to fully enjoy the choices I “kept” because I put moments to pause in between each.
Which leads me to the most important suggestion I have…
Look at your calendar right now and schedule time for yourself. Yes, at least a full hour of “me-time.” Put a big X through it. Do not attach any thoughts to how you are going to spend this time. This is truly down time… you’ll know what you need when you get to it. It is NOT a time to do errands, or catch up on work, or clean the house, blah, blah, blah! Do something that recharges your soul; whether that’s a nap; a walk in the woods; or watching funny kitten videos on YouTube. This is your time — relax, rejuvenate… refuel.
Your first reaction may be the same as my friends, “but what if I schedule it during a day/time that I don’t really need it?”
It doesn’t matter… take the time no matter what. Treat it as responsibly as you would any other appointment with a colleague, doctor, etc. You wouldn’t cancel or double book on someone you respected, so don’t do the same for yourself. Respect yourself as highly as you do others!
Once you get in the habit of honoring yourself with a “me meeting” each week (or several times a week!), your mind and body will start to naturally remind yourself when it’s time to fit in some self-care.
I have shared this idea with some who have met it with aplomb, and others still that have great resistance to the idea. But, can you honestly say you can not find one chunk of time (just 30 mins) that you can dedicate to yourself for just this week?! At least give it a try…
This is the first step in retraining yourself to put yourself first.
So that you may be fully present in all things and for all others.