In respect of Man in the Mirror week, please enjoy this guest post by Dr. Voss of Amber Creek Counseling to teach us how important it is to take time for ourselves, and how it's actually hurting those we love MORE if we don't! Take it away, Kirk –
It’s Thursday morning, and you’re on your way to the grocery store with the baby during the half-hour break you’ve got between dropping off the preschooler and getting the baby down for a nap (because we all know what life will be like if she misses it!). Your brain is swimming with everything you need to buy, the laundry that needs to be folded, and you still need to do for dinner. And… the gaslight in your car has been on ever since you left the house this morning. There is NO time to get gas… you’re already stretched to the limits of your time. What do you do?
Well, you get gas, of course.
Why? Because no matter how long it takes to fill up that tank, and no matter what you have to juggle in your day to make it work, it’s worth it. It's necessary. Because if you don’t, you’ll run out and end up destroying not only your plan for the day, but also any remnants of emotional balance you’ve got left. Getting gas at that point is a no-brainer.
If it’s so easy to make the decision to stop for gas when our cars need it, why is it so hard to make the decision to stop and fill our emotional tanks when WE need it?
Well, because so much is hinging on us, right? We are juggling so many responsibilities and relationships every day, it just doesn’t seem possible—or RIGHT—to take care of ourselves first.
Isn’t that selfish?
The answer is an emphatic NO.
Just like a car’s fuel tank, every person has an “emotional tank” that needs to stay filled in order to best maintain our relationships and fulfill our responsibilities—whether they be taking care of the kids or scoring a merger deal with a powerful company.
There are lots of things that can fill our tanks in a healthy way, most of which are relationship-based: a kind word from a friend, a love note from a spouse, a hug from a child.
The thing is, we don’t have a lot of control over when those moments will occur. So, we need to carve out time in our day for ME-time. Ideally, we’d have daily ME-time for an hour, but at minimum a half-hour. We NEED that time, every day, when we are not answering to anyone but ourselves.
How do we do we carve out ME-time?
Plan it out. Time for self-care won’t usually fall into your lap. But you need to find it—or create it. Maybe that means getting up a little earlier or leaving the dishes in the sink a little longer, but plan time (30-60 minutes per day) for yourself so you can look forward to it. There is magic in “anticipated rewards.”
Tell your family about it. Let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. When you model healthy self-care, your kids will learn it, too. This skill is invaluable to teens dealing with the social, academic, and personal pressures of adolescence. Encourage your spouse to exercise self-care as well. In the end, everyone will benefit!
Be willing to say NO. Keep your ME-time sacred—plenty of things are going to try to fill it, many of them good things, but be willing to say no to them. It’s okay to put your self-care ahead of the emails you need to respond to, the bills you need to pay, the laundry you need to fold, and even the dog that needs walking (unless walking the dog is your ME-time, of course!). Most things can wait a half-hour.
Then… fill your time with whatever you want! A good book, a TV show, a manicure, a walk, a nap… anything that helps you feel nourished, refreshed and relaxed.
This small act of daily self-care will make a huge difference in your relationships. By filling your tank, you can give more willingly, smile more sincerely, and just plain survive more cheerfully. And guess what? That will, in turn, help fill the emotional tanks of those around you. It's a fantastic cycle… that all starts with taking care of you.
Self-care isn’t selfish… it’s sustaining.
* * * * *
Wow, how amazing does that feel? We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we should NOT feel guilty taking time for ourselves. Now…who wants lunch and a manicure??