This is the third in a ten part series called, Extreme Self-Care: It’s Not Selfish!
We, especially women, but men too, spend a lot of time focusing on taking care of others. We want to be there for the kids, for family, for spouses, for work and co-workers, for social obligations, even for pets! We feel good and valuable when we are there for others; yet, we often feel guilty when we are there just for ourselves.
We feel bad if we take time for ourselves or indulge in something we enjoy. We feel guilty if we take a moment to rest. On the one hand, we live in such a fast-paced society that we feel that we always have to be doing something. We can’t even just drive anymore without being on the phone, checking email on our Blackberrys or watching DVD’s! On the other hand, we put so much value on being there for others that it feels odd, almost wrong, for doing something for ourselves.
We like to be martyrs. We like to sacrifice and give to others. We consider it a badge of honor to give until we hurt. We think it’s a privilege to work ourselves senseless. But neither one is good for us in the long run.
We need to make time for rest and renewal on a regular basis. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People calls it Sharpening the Saw. He gives the example of a man sawing a log. If the saw is dull, it could take over a half hour to saw the log. However, if that man took just 5 minutes to sharpen the saw first, that same log can be cut in 10 minutes. You can be more effective if you just take a little time to sharpen the saw.
You are that saw. When you take time for yourself: to read, to rest, to enjoy a bubble bath, have lunch with friends, to get a massage, watch a favorite movie, you are sharpening your saw. Taking time for yourself makes you less stressed, less susceptible to illness, more patient and more focused. Everyone around you benefits when you take care of you.
My friend Tee planned a great weekend for her and an old friend who was coming to town for a visit. Together, they went to the spa and got manicures, pedicures, massages and facials She’d been manied and pedied and massaged before but this was her first facial and she loved it. Tee was amazed at how relaxing that facial was!
It was a revelation for her. She realized it had been two years since her last massage. She realized that she didn’t have to wait until a vacation or a visit from an old friend to treat herself. She didn’t need a reason to feel that good. She has vowed to make the facial a regular part of her routine. In fact, she plans on looking for other ways to indulge and relax. Like the old ad says, she’s “worth it!”
Think of how relaxed and focused and energized you feel after a good vacation. Why have that feeling just once a year? Make a list of affordable and available things you can do to relax and sharpen your saw. And then do them. Take that walk in the park, enjoy that hot bath, make a lunch date with your favorite girlfriends, have a date night, curl up with a good book, get your hair done.
If you still feel that caring for yourself is selfish, look at it this way. Taking care of yourself makes it easier for you to care for others. Self-care is one of the most selfless things you can do.