It’s a busy week at work and you’re overwhelmed by all the things piling up for you to do. You are a leader in your church and have a program to plan and prepare for. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks.
So, how do you make room for all these things?
You overwork, stop going to the gym, cancel your yoga session, put the book down, even skip a few meals,, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go.
To keep up with this roadrunner form of living, we don’t think twice before putting self-care on the back burner. And that only makes things worse. More often than not, it takes a wake-up call, like an ailment, a breakdown etc to notice the toll this kind of lifestyle takes on our lives.
Self-care isn’t one of the topics people easily discuss or talk about. I mean, how can you think of self-care when you have deadlines to beat, a nagging boss, and all the things that demand our immediate attention?
Most of us grew up believing, while others have been told that the more you sacrifice, the bigger the reward. The more you work, the more sleep you deprive yourself, the more successful and productive you become.
It’s easy to take the “hard work pays off” adage too far, to the point that it becomes counterproductive. Your abilities are worn. Your skills aren’t as sharp. You lose focus. You might think you’re working hard, and maybe you are in some ways, but you’re not working efficiently.
Self Care isn’t just important, It’s Crucial
It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.
Picture yourself on an airplane.
Unless you have a flying phobia, that is.
In which case, picture yourself somewhere completely different, somewhere pleasant.
But for the rest of you, bring that airplane to mind.
You’re sitting in your narrow little seat, with those little grey tray tables that must be stowed and locked for takeoff.
Then the air hostesses begin their usual safety routines.
And you hear:
“in the case of an unlikely event that there is a change in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.” They show you how to secure your mask. And then they say “secure your mask first before trying to help others..”
The same message is given for wearing life jackets. “Always protect yourself first before trying to help others..”
Securing your mask first.
What gets in the way of doing this most-important-job?
And what happens when you don’t practice self-care?
Secure your mask first. Protect yourself first.
This is an important axiom.
It’s about putting yourself first as a matter of survival.
The oxygen mask notion goes like this:
If you’re in a life-threatening situation and you focus on stabilizing the people around you before ensuring your own safety, you’ll end up passing out and putting your wellbeing in the hands of bystanders, possibly even children.
Obviously, you’ll be of little help to anyone, because you didn’t take steps to care for yourself first.
This is clearly a bad idea. Even if it seems loving at the moment.
So secure your mask first. This remains true in everyday life just as well as in a destabilized airplane.
You’ve probably heard this message in lots of different language and metaphor:
In the Bible, after Jesus gave the greatest commandment, He said the second is like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself..”
“Keep your pitcher full.”
“You can’t help others if you don’t first care for yourself.”
“Don’t be the runner-up in your own life.”
“You can’t drive anywhere on an empty tank.”
You can’t love others effectively if you don’t love yourself.
Securing your own mask is all about self-care.
It’s all about the day to day things you do to maintain your wellbeing and your sanity.
It’s the habits you cultivate to preserve and protect your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
We need our bodies and mind to be in a good state to function effectively.
No human being is irreplaceable. Your job, organization or the things you put before yourself won’t come to a standstill or fall apart if you break down or suffer something more serious.
The people in your life whom you think can’t do without you will move on well the minute you are no longer there.
Take care of your self first. Love yourself first so you can love others the same way.
Self-care is entirely your job. And it doesn’t make you selfish or self-centered
Unless you are a child, your self-care is up to you. It is your job.
Even if you were raised to always put others first, or to see self-sacrifice as a virtue.
Even if no one ever really taught you how to do these things.
Even if you weren’t the recipient of love you needed and deserved growing up.
Even if you’re super busy and have children of your own. Especially then.
Certainly, parents and caregivers have their share of sacrifices to make.
They are constantly walking the tightrope of meeting the needs of all the people dependent on them, while also remembering to keep their own needs in mind.
Trouble comes when people end up on the wrong side of that slippery slope of sacrifice and end up mired in martyrdom.
That’s when things get ugly.
Recent happenings in my life have taught me in the hardest way to always look out for myself first before all else (because I am bae…) I have had to learn this truth in the hardest way. And I am still learning.
Having compassion for others is important, but often you should remember to show that same level of kindness to yourself.
Why is Self-Care important?
I’ll share 8 reasons why (not that they aren’t more…)
1. Increases self-worth.
You need you to do the things that you do. Be a priority in your life. Self-care encourages you to sustain a healthy relationship with yourself by increasing your confidence and self-esteem. Although you may have other responsibilities and demands, you also have a responsibility to yourself.
2. Self-care prevents burnout.
We’ve all been there: you push yourself to the point that you can’t take anymore so you just give up. Self-care helps you avoid getting to that point.
3. You cannot give what you don’t have.
For example – if you are tired and run down most of the time – what do you have to give? If on the other hand, you took better care of yourself by nurturing yourself, eating well, taking time out, having fun and exercising – what do you think you could give then?
4. Self-care reduces the negative effects of stress:
A small amount of stress can serve a purpose, but after a while, it just breaks down your mind and body. Taking care of yourself means keeping your stress from taking over so you can function at full capacity.
5. Martyrdom is over-rated!
We don’t have to suffer and sacrifice our happiness and wellbeing for the sake of the greater good. What good are you if you are sick and/or injured? or dead?
6. Promotes work-life balance.
Our society praises hard work, but overworking can decrease your productivity and leave you feeling drained and disorganized. On the other hand, taking breaks, setting boundaries, and avoiding over-exertion can help you stay focused, motivated, and healthy.
7. Your health (happiness) depends on it.
When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
8. Ignorance is not bliss.
Exhaustion, stress, and burnout do not equate to personal effectiveness or good results for anyone. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Self-care is about loving and nurturing yourself. If you don’t look after yourself, who else is going too?
Do you practice self-care? Why do you think it’s important to take care of oneself? When last did you give yourself a treat?