A friend brought up her health during lunch the other day. Pam recently went to see her doctor and mentioned that she had put this visit off for some time. You see, she was too busy working or doing any number of things that would stop her from self-care.
Pam received her test results back and said luckily nothing much had changed. And she emphasized the word “luckily.” After breathing a sigh of relief, Pam asked, “was everything and everybody really more important than my own self-care? Is self-care being selfish?”
The Demands of Life are Increasing
Many people have become stretched thin with increasing responsibilities, such as family caregivers and job requirements. According to a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 38% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.
The level of job stress continues to rise as well. Many research studies have been done about the connection with stress and illness over the past two decades. Many people experience early warning signs of job stress that are sometimes dismissed. The long-term effects of stress take a considerable time to develop but may result in chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease.
Does something bad have to happen before we listen to our bodies?
Ignoring your health can become a matter of life or death. Denial can blind us, shifting our perception from feeling vulnerable to invincible. Denial can be helpful in some situations. But it can also block us from taking care of ourselves when there is an imbalance in self-care.
Have we become a population of superhero figures, crusading through the streets taking care of everyone except ourselves? When did the line blur between self-care versus taking care of others?
Eventually, a life-changing moment can happen as your body, mind, or soul breaks down without a self-care plan. This shift can happen suddenly, or at least just seem that way. Most likely there were many signs along the way, such as back pain, insomnia, headaches, or a feeling of disconnection from everything around you. Ignoring aches, pains, fatigue and other symptoms is an option, but can be a dangerous choice.
How to make a habit out of self-care
Invest in yourself.
You are important and worthy of all the love you give to others. Reflect on what stops you from taking time for yourself. Are you making excuses or why you don’t give back to yourself? Many people state they may not have the time or money for themselves. While there can be truth to that, it is really worth examining your resources in more detail.
Where are you borrowing your health resources from? It can be just like trying to remove money from an empty bank account. Nurture your body, even if you are beginning with 10 minutes. Health choices that are made today will definitely reflect in the future.
Prioritize what you really want.
We honestly can become numb to what we really want out of life. Our days can consist of to-do lists, and a once vibrant life can turn robotic. We choose to plow through task after task for the sake of getting things done. The joy of crossing one more thing off your list turns into an insatiable drive to do more rather than be more. Clear direction and priorities can really help reduce stress.
Plan, plan, plan.
One of the biggest pitfalls in self-care is not scheduling “me time.” Planning is vital for creating healthy habits. Open your calendar and count how many times you have blocked off for yourself. A warning sign for lack of self-care is if no spots are marked off for you. Begin to look at breaks as opportunities to stretch or listen to a relaxation app on your phone. You can then be able to introduce longer periods of time to nurture yourself.
Develop calming techniques that you can use each day. Deep breathing and meditation can be fit into your day in short periods of time. Keep essential oils like lavender in your desk to add to your self-care plan. Reach out for support if your stress seems too overwhelming.