Life is going smoothly. Everything at work is fine, you enjoy what you do and you are doing it well. Your family and home life is full, but everyone is healthy, the kids are managing school and extra activities, your spouse is also busy with work and the other things he/she loves to do, but you are able to make space to connect as a family and as a couple. Amongst the busyness, you are also able to find time to do some self- care practices that you love, whether it is walking in the woods, yoga, eating right, spending time with a good friend, gardening, etc. Whatever it is, you are able to make the time you need to fill yourself up.
And then, something happens. Your spouse loses his/her job. A dear family member becomes ill and requires special care. One of the kids begins to have trouble in school. All of a sudden, the smoothly flowing routine that had felt like you were in a boat being carried down a pleasant stream begins to feel like you are in a too small boat on a very rocky sea.
You begin to feel overwhelmed, like you can’t do everything that is on your plate, and you put everyone’s needs ahead of your own.
The one thing that you do for yourself each day, your self-care routine – the one thing that fills you up, is the thing that drops off the list.
You say you don’t have time for self-care. But the truth is, you don’t have time NOT to practice self-care.
Most all of us have been an on airplane at some point in our lives. If we pay attention to the flight attendants speech before take-off, most of us could recite what they tell us: In the case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop. Put your mask on first, and then help the person next to you who may need assistance with their mask.
Put your mask on first. Why? Because if you can’t breathe, what good are you going to be for the person next to you? How can you help them put on their mask if you are fighting for air? And, taking the extra few moments to give yourself the gift of being first, will save not only your life, but the lives of those around you who need your help.
It makes sense in a life or death scenario such as a plane crash. Why does it seem to be so hard to carry that through to our everyday lives when things get a little out of control? And how can we remember, and feel good about putting ourselves first?
First and foremost, remember that you don’t need 2 hours to practice self-care. It does not have to be a long drawn out routine, but can be simple and easy, as long as it is done with the intention of taking care of you.
Second, take 5 minutes to yourself.
Put yourself into a room or location where no one else will bother you. It could be the bathroom if that is the place where you know you will be left alone. Turn off your phone (don’t even bring it in there if you can help it) and shut the door.
Third, get comfortable, you can sit, or you can stand. Then close your eyes and take three very long, very deep breaths.
Fourth, feel your feet (or your seat) on the floor. Really feel it. And then remember, you are supported.
Fifth, ask yourself one simple question: What can I do in this moment to take care of myself?
Listen to what comes up. Your answer will vary. One day, just these five minutes alone in the bathroom breathing will be all you need to find the strength and energy to move back into the world. Another day, you may need a bath. Or a friend to listen to you. Or a run. Or a walk. Or time with your spouse. Or the opportunity to draw or paint.
Six, do it. Whatever “it” is. Give this to yourself. Make it non-negotiable.
You already know that self-care is not only important, but necessary. Remembering that when things get overwhelming is the difficult part. Know that when you are able to put your life saving mask on first, you will be more present and more available for those around you who need you.