Posted on March 25th, 2010 by Colin and is posted in Growth
Here are just a few examples of putting ourselves at the bottom of our to do lists…
You agree to a night out ‘living it up’ when you really need a goodnights sleep. You say ‘yes’ to an extra project, which eats into your weekend time. You eat frozen microwave oven meals three nights on the trot because you haven’t had time to cook a fresh meal.Sound familiar?
Often we hit midlife and realise we’ve been functioning rather than living. We’ve found ways to cope with the demands of everyday life, often pushing ourselves way beyond reasonable limits. Like the energiser bunny, we keep on going and going long after we feel the need to stop, consistently ignoring our bodies’ warning signals, usually until it’s too late.
I’ve found the issue that many of us need to address the most in mid-life is… Self-care.
In this blog I’d like to advocate the idea of becoming self-care centred by putting yourself at the centre of your life and making YOU the highest priority. It’s a philosophy of building your ideal life from a solid foundation by making time for yourself.
What is Self-care?
Being Self-care centred starts when we learn to become Selfish. For most people, this is where the challenge lies. The word ‘selfish’ has had a bad stigma attached to it, conjuring up an image of someone who is nasty, unpleasant, and basically disliked.
Being selfish has had some very bad press over the years but I’d like to challenge that view, or at least clear up some misunderstandings.
Consider that there’s a middle ground between the extremes of the martyr who always subordinates his/her needs to the needs of others, and the egoist who thinks only of themselves.
My definition of selfishness is a person who takes care of their needs first, so they’re fully available to others without any ill feeling. It’s an enlightened selfishness.
To help you relate to this problem, I’d like to use a real life example of Grace (name has been changed to protect her identity)
Grace is single, 39 with two children and lives in South London. For the last seven years she has worked as a secretary and admin assistant for a small firm of solicitors.
Grace was somebody who felt her life was significantly out of balance. A single mum trying to hold together a household, a full-time job and bring up two children.
When I first spoke with Grace she felt very depressed and believed she was close to a nervous breakdown. Her life was hectic, stressful and sleep deprived.
As I gathered more information about her life, I could see why she was overloaded. All her time and energy was being spent taking care of the needs of everyone around her – children, boss, clients, elderly mother – at the expense of her own needs and especially her health.
She was emotionally drained and running herself ragged from trying to keep a million balls in the air. With all the demands on her time she had forgotten about the most important person of all – herself.
We started to explore some small changes she could make immediately to free up time for her self-care needs. One of the ideas she really liked was to create a period of time each week that was sacred and dedicated just to her.
I call this Self Indulgence Time….or a S.I.T.
Grace decided that one evening of S.I.T a week would be a manageable step towards living her new priority of self-care. She chose Wednesday nights; middle of the week as her pure self-indulgence time. She would drop the children off at her sisters for the night and pick them up in the morning to drive them to school.
I asked her what things could she do in that time that would bring her the most joy. We started to create a list of activities but I felt most of them were ‘shoulds’ rather than coming from the heart. I invited her not to give into the ‘should do’ voice and take a deep breath and listen a little deeper.
As she closed her eyes and relaxed more, I asked her to remember times in the past where she experienced the most joy and happiness. She went quiet for a while, then, lifted her head, opened her eyes wide and said in a rather embarrassed voice, “knitting!”
She recalled how, as a little girl, her Nana had taught her to knit. It always brought her a real sense of joy and happiness. I asked to tell me more and as she started to revisit those childhood memories she became inspired and animated.
She spoke of how when knitting with her Nana she’d always found it soothing and fun, and whatever they’d knitted was given to the local charity shop. So it also gave the whole thing a sense of meaning, and the young Grace a sense of pride.
I explained that this sacred time should be filled with simple pleasures and achievements, just like this one.
As she freed up more time, she was able to commit to one self-care action a day. Some days that consisted of simply allowing herself a period of time to do absolutely nothing. Because Grace had so much on her plate to begin with, we started out small, but even those small changes had big results.
As she says…
“It was hard for me initially, mainly because I felt so guilty about putting my needs first. Of course there’s been times when my family have needed all my attention, but once the crisis was over, I returned to taking good care of myself.”
“I had to explain to my children, friends, even my boss what I was doing, and that self-care would make me a better person and ultimately, better for them.”
“By being a little more thoughtful about my food choices and making time to exercise, I’ve lost the extra ten pounds that I’d been carrying for a few years. I’m a happier, calmer mother for my children and I’ve started doing more things that bring me joy, happiness and fulfilment.”
“I feel like I’m gradually getting my life back and finding out who I really am and what I stand for. By taking time out for me I’ve been able to put more back into my life and consequently, everyone around me wins. I now believe that looking after myself is the greatest gift I can give to anyone else.”
“Above all I feel good about myself.”
Grace has learnt first-hand the benefits of being self-care centred. She’s laying a firm foundation on which to build the second half of her life on….
Now it’s up to you!
Many of my clients are surprised at how long it’s been since they’ve really experienced the things that ignite their hearts desires. The fast pace of their life having disconnected them from any awareness of how they’re truly feeling.
- What’s your attitude to being Self-care centred?
- How can you put yourself at the top of your To Do list?
- How will it benefit YOU to start living in this way?
Sometimes it’s just a case of freeing up some time to let joy back into your life.
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