There are a few basic things we can all do to improve our mood, our health, and in the end, our productivity. Often people tell me they’re too busy to incorporate these items into their lives. I challenge that mindset: What is the cost to you and those you care about if you don’t do basic self-care? Your moods and unavailability for your own life comes at a steep cost to you and those who love you. Think: Place your own oxygen mask first, then help others.
I hear many reasons that prevent people from taking care of themselves. Here are the top ones:
4. Elderly parents
If you want to be your best self, and have increased capacity for those five things and the rest of your life, you will bump self-care up your priority list today. If you feel resistant just reading this, ask yourself hard questions. How come you don’t want to take care of yourself? Do you think someone else should do more? Do you truly feel worthy of your own care?
The truth is, there will always be more to do, no matter how much you do, or your partner does. Chores will always be there. If you wait to have fun, or have sex, or do self-care until the chores are finished, you won’t get to those life-affirming activities.
Let’s look at the list why people don’t get to being “Self-full” vs selfish.
1. Work. No matter how much time you spend, you won’t finish or catch up. You can run yourself ragged trying. As I wrote recently in another column here, more hours doesn’t increase productivity; it actually decreases it. It’s hard to be productive or have good ideas when you’re fried. I know you might be concerned about losing your job. However, if you’re fresh each day, you’ll bring more to the table.
2. Kids. Tricky topic. Kids need time to stare at clouds and play outside. It’s not healthy for you or your kids for them to be the focus of all your hopes and dreams for their future. Unspoken (or spoken) parent competitions and keeping up/exceeding what you perceive other parents are doing is a rotten cycle that serves no one. It hurts you and your kids. Excessive focus on kids hurts your marriage. And in the end, that causes more harm to your children since they have no example of a healthy adult relationship. If you’re focused on your kids because things are not good between you and your partner, you’re actively causing damage to your kids.
3. Chores. They never end. If you can’t relax because the towels aren’t folded or there are unread emails, you’re depriving yourself of life. And you’re setting an example for your kids that you can’t take back.
4. Elderly parents: Yes, they raised and cared for you. You want the best for them. You worry about them. Do they want you to be happy and fulfilled? Healthy parents want that for you. If they’re demanding and difficult, that’s likely affected you your entire life, and it’s time to address that in yourself, and heal.
5. Money: This is a huge topic. Do you want enough that’s sufficient for your needs and leads to retirement? Or do you want to do or have whatever you want, whenever you want? That’s not only expensive, it likely takes a toll on our planet, and sets what example for your kids? Plus, when do you actually have time to spend your money on meaningful activities?
A healthy life is about balance and moderation. Yet that’s not the actual culture of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. I asked you last week about where your focus is. I’m asking you to take a hard look at your stated priorities and what’s healthy for you.
I don’t have the answers for you. We’re all unique and while we have our own specific goals and needs, there are many foundational needs that we all share--based on the human brain. We need safety and security, we need food and a roof over our heads, we need love and community. Are you doing what it takes to achieve those items? Are you caught up in unresolved childhood or inter-generational issues? When you’re on your deathbed, what will you regret, what will you feel good about?
Here are essential items for self-care:
1. Sleep Hygiene: Without sleep your capacity for any and everything is greatly diminished. Get on a schedule. No devices (TV and phones/tablets included) for two hours before sleep time. No TV in your bedroom. If you would rather watch others live their TV lives instead of talking with your partner or making love, maybe it’s time for couples counseling.
2. Exercise: You can make 20-30 minutes several times a week to take care of your body so it serves the rest of your life well. Walking and looking at trees and flowers, listening to birds and the wind in the trees, smelling jasmine and roses is good for your physical and mental health.
3. Food: I know, tough area. You want to eat healthy, and you want junk food. Mostly eat well and have some treats. Being a food sergeant is rigid. Think moderation. Denying yourself treats makes you want them more and can lead to unhealthy eating behavior--plus all the angst and guilt takes its own toll.
4. Being outdoors: Let yourself slow down outdoors. Find new rhythms. Try being outdoors without imposing your regular speedy/goal driven self to it. Breathe slower. Of course, at times you’ll want to be goal driven outdoors; let that be an ‘at times’ mode of behavior. There’s lots to learn and admire about nature’s cycles.
Creating time for these things will improve your relationship, too. Sex can be an essential, joyous physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual activity.
If you are having trouble shifting gears, talk with your partner. Make a pact to support each other in these life-affirming activities. It may require big changes in your lives. Is it worth it? I say absolutely. What is your answer after spending time alone and searching your soul?