Learning to Put Myself First
As a woman, I know how hard it can be to focus solely on yourself. The thought of putting away the “to-do” list, ignoring the children shouting various versions of “mama” and silencing all distractions to pay attention to ourselves seems impossible. It doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything, let alone to set aside even five minutes for myself. There’s work, making dinner, doing homework, preparing for the next day, and giving my family the attention that they need. Where does “me” time fit in? The reality is, that it doesn’t, however, the more you mature, the more you realize that taking care of yourself is essential to having the energy to take care of others.
The first step in self-care is realizing that you can’t be everything to everyone. Yes, the people and things in my life require my attention, but before I can give them 100% of me, I need to give 100% of me to me. What’s crazy is that it has taken me over thirty years to realize this. As a wife and mom, I would always feel guilty when I spend time alone with my friends, took time to relax, allowed the laundry to pile up, ignored the dishes in the sink, or took a nap when there was cleaning to be done. I’d convinced myself that I can rest when I’m done doing everything that I need to do. The way life is set up, I’d only be able rest in my grave. I had to realize that, even if I conquered my to-do list, the pile will grow again tomorrow. With that being said, why not take time out to recharge.
The next step in self-care is recognizing the signals your body is sending you. I can remember times when I was utterly exhausted, yet continued on as if my body runs on Energizer batteries. My energy level and health dwindled while my list of expectations continued to mount. The end result is feeling ill or becoming so exhausted that I couldn’t do the one thing on my list that mattered to me the most. Lesson learned. Now, when my body says it needs to rest, I rest. Yes, my planner says that I’m supposed to be working out right now, or reading, or folding laundry, or even writing blog posts, but my body is the commander-in-chief. I’ve learned to never feel guilty about giving my body what it needs.
Self-care means taking time to focus. I don’t know about you, but my mind runs like a Ferrari, on Red Bull. There are times when I am a prisoner of my thoughts. The constant influx of information, thoughts, lists of things to remember, and mental check-offs can be overwhelming at times. It seems I have never been able to shut my mind off or mentally reflect on what I need because I’m so busy trying to keep up. My counselor (yes, superwomen need counseling too) challenged me to create a space where I can go and let my mine be free. Those of us who are mothers know that the bathroom is not that place. Children will hound you as soon as you close the door and the peace you are searching for will never come. I chose my closet. Decluttering it was liberating and worth the labor because the end result is magnificent. I now have a place where I can hide, turn off the lights, lie down with my comfy blanket, and reflect. Or read my Bible. Or meditate. Or pray. No matter what, I can go into my little slice of heaven and gain a few uninterrupted moments of solitude. I never realized how escaping and being alone can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on life’s challenges.
Lastly, self-care means doing things you like with people you love. At least twice a month, I make an effort to connect with my friends and have sister dates. Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter if a woman is married or single, we all have obligations that consume the majority of our time. Being able to connect with other women, vent about our lives, share our accomplishments, and hash out our fears is essential to taking care of ourselves. Just having another set of ears to say, “Girl I understand” or a chorus of “Oh hell no!” can work wonders when you doubt your sanity. Some of us can’t afford a therapist, so as women, we can be that for one another. Having time away from the house where you aren’t focused on the needs of others and you can be an “adult” will re-energize you while also giving you something to look forward too. As women, taking care of our family can cause of to lose touch with our friends. I’m here to give you permission to cultivate your sisterhood and make a conscious effort to plan time with your friends. Sip your wine, or tea and be you. .