When I moved with my family from Maryland to Massachusetts 16 years ago, I told my husband and my realtor that my two top requirements were to be within 3 miles of a health club and a great coffee shop. This specification was not simply on my wish list, it was on my required list.
At the time, I had four children under the age of six, three of whom were still in diapers. My family laughed, as did I, at how silly this sounded. Would I really choose my house based on these seemingly superficial and selfish requests? Would I even get to the gym or out for coffee?
The answer was, and has continued to be: You bet!
I love my house, which has become a treasured place for us all. Of course, when we were looking for homes we also required a community with good schools, a safe neighborhood and lots of outdoor space for our kids.
But it was equally important for me and my husband to take care of ourselves in this new home, and sometimes that meant going out without the kids. Sixteen years ago he and I would get a babysitter, go to the gym and out for coffee every weekend. We have continued this tradition (now without a babysitter) and both agree that this routine of self care has been absolutely essential to our family’s well-being.
Many people think that they need to forgo their own needs in order to take care of others: children, parents, other family members or work obligations.
Have you ever told yourself, “I will eat lunch after I get this one project done” or “I don’t have time to go to the gym with my busy schedule”? This type of thinking is misguided. Think about what you are told to do if traveling on an airplane and your oxygen mask lowers: Put on your own mask before assisting others.
Our instinct may tell us that we need to help other people first, but the simple fact is, if we don’t take care of our own immediate need, we may end up unconscious and unable to help anybody! Our mindset should be that self care is essential, not an afterthought or even a reward.
Self care is not complicated and does not even necessarily mean doing something out of the ordinary. Self care is about paying attention to what you want, in the moment, and honoring yourself by doing it. We all have responsibilities and those are important. Equally important is taking a break when your body says you need one or eating a snack when your body says you are hungry.
Research suggests that self-nourishing practices help:
- lessen feelings of depression and anxiety
- prevent or reduce the duration of colds and the flu and improve recovery from major illnesses such as cancer
- promote attention and focus
- improve productivity
- make it easier to maintain your weight
- improve the quality and the longevity of your life
- model good behavior for those around you whom you would like to do the same
By prioritizing self-care, you will be better able to pay attention to others as well as improving your opportunity to be happier, healthier and more productive.