Recently I have been thinking a lot about the topic of self care and why it is so difficult for many of us. We read everywhere about increasing levels of anxiety, obesity, lack of exercise, being over-committed and time poor, so it’s clear we need to pay more attention to ourselves. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I attended a workshop to help me cope. The ladies emphasised how important it would be to take care of myself this year and to do what I needed to fight this disease. People repeatedly said “this is your year, you look after your needs and let every else sort themselves out”. I remember thinking who on earth would need to be reminded to do that at such a difficult time in their life! The truth is I did struggle and serious illness or not, we all “forget” to look after ourselves. We all know how important it is, yet struggle so much with the act of doing it.
So why is this? Is it because when we are young we hear the word “selfish” more often in a negative context -“Don’t be selfish; it is good to share”. Perhaps we do it and are so wrecked with guilt that we don’t enjoy it! Or is it that we think we will get to it when everything or everyone else is sorted. The trouble is we never get to that place, particularly in today’s crazy, full on world – busy lives, demanding jobs, kids, elderly parents, friends and family, social activities, plugged in 24/7, the list can go on. We eventually find ourselves exhausted, worn out and running on empty!
So that’s the problem, what’s the pill? Firstly I recommend you start putting yourself at the top of your to do list! Start thinking of these as acts of self love and essential rather than being selfish. A safety briefing on an aeroplane clearly tells you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others around you (even your children). Then take the first step by identifying 1 thing you are going to start, stop or do more of in order to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture or activity – have the cup of coffee, a relaxing soak in the bath, switch off your mobile, say no to 1 invite. As you read this you will already be thinking of lots of things you could do. Just pick one for now and do it regularly. You can form great habits just as well as bad habits. I know you don’t need permission from me and anyway I am busy listening to my own preaching! Please give yourself permission and take a few moments to make the commitment. You will be glad you did. And at that moment when you are tempted to de-prioritise yourself again and fall back into your old way, remember secure your own oxygen mask first …………!