I feel like I can never say “no” to anyone. I must always put my children’s needs ahead of my own. I feel obligated to make my significant other happy first, because if he/she is happy, I am happy. I can get more sleep when I am dead. I do not have time or the means to exercise. I feel guilty for spending too long in the tub/shower. I feel guilty watching Netflix instead of cleaning. I feel guilty for buying something for myself instead of my family.
If you’ve been on an airplane, then you know that the stewardess will tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping your children or the person beside you. If you can’t get oxygen, you’ll die before you’ll be able to help anyone. Seems obvious, right? So why do we have such a hard time applying this in our daily lives? You better listen to every word I say, because you won’t be able to avoid turbulence your whole life. If you listen to me, you’ll be safe when your airplane starts to nosedive… and trust me, I work in aviation for a living, so I know what I’m talking about.
It has been three months since I have posted. I was on a rough patch of turbulence, and I needed the time to really date myself. I learned a lot about self-care and how detrimental it is towards my healing process. I found that writing this blog, as great of an experience as it has been, brings me a lot of depression. It’s hard to reflect on the abuse I’ve survived. However, it is all worth it. I have my oxygen mask on so securely, that I am confident that I’ll be able to help you with yours, so here we go. Don’t panic, it will be okay. I’m going to teach you how to safely ride out the storm.
What do all of the things I listed in the first paragraph have in common? These are typical thoughts of someone who doesn’t do enough self care. What is self care? Self care is taking care of your mind, body, and spirit before all else. You may be thinking that this sounds selfish. I should be taking care of my family, my work responsibilities, household chores, schoolwork etc. before focusing on myself. Um, no. How can you do all these things if you’re depriving yourself of oxygen? You’ll die before you can help others. Remember? Put your mask on first!
I’m not saying you’re going to immediately start helping people with their problems. The whole point of this post is to help you realize how incredibly important taking care of yourself needs to be. If you have a significant other, children, or someone you care for, you will not be able to fully provide for them if you are not providing for yourself.
If you do not have anyone but yourself at the moment, you will have a hard time being happy, living life to the fullest, finding that significant other, being a good friend, coworker, daughter, son, sibling, etc. if you are not taking care of yourself.
Trust me, it took me many months of my counselors telling me to do this before I finally took their counsel, and before I finally saw a change in my life. It takes practice. I’m going to share with you a few things I have done and a few personal insights I have learned along the way.
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up So you had a bad day. You have been working on being positive, and you realized you said a lot of negative things about yourself and about others. You are working on quitting smoking, and you had a cigarette. You are an alcoholic in recovery and you had a drink. You are a survivor of abuse and you miss your abuser. You feel like staying in bed all day. You don’t feel like cooking a healthy dinner and eat a greasy hamburger instead. So what? You are not perfect. There are days where you will slip up. As long as those bad days don’t outweigh the good days, you’re still ahead! There will even be days that you feel like you’ve taken five steps backwards for every one step forward. As long as you don’t give up, you are still making progress.
- Positive Self-Care Quotes There are so many quotes on self-care on Pinterest (where I’ve got all the cute pictures for this post), and everyday I take at least 15 minutes to find quotes, write them in a journal, and write about how that quote matters to me. It felt like another chore at first, another thing to add to my to-do list. I’ve been doing it at least three times a week for two months now, and not only is it amazing to read my older entries to see how far I’ve come, but I’ve come to realize that reading positive thoughts and really pondering them have really helped my self-esteem. I wrote this one on June 10th, my very first entry:
“One day, I woke up and realized I was not made for anyone. I was made for me. I am my own”
I worry too much about what people think of me, especially at work. I find myself saying things to “fit in”, and when I’m not included in something, I feel bad and question myself. What I like/dislike, speak about/don’t speak about, agree/disagree, how I spend my time, my religion, where I live, none of that truly matters to anyone but me. Who cares what others think? The most important person’s happiness is mine and my daughter’s.
- Take a Bubble Bath or a Long Shower I am a huge advocate for bubble baths! I was a skeptic at first. They take too much time, and I’ll get bored. I started taking them when I was pregnant. My sweet daughter kept knocking a rib out of place, because I’m short and had hardly anywhere to put her, and my lower back was constantly aching. A bath was the quickest form of temporary relief. The more I did it, however, the more I noticed how calming it was. My abuser created a lot of unnecessary stress, obviously, and I loved the alone time taking a bath gave me. Sadly, though, there were times where he’d barge into the bathroom and yell at me for something while I sat there naked and exposed, trying to relieve the hurt he constantly put me in.
There are many different ways to make your bath time extra special: bath bombs, epsom salt, bath salts, candles, oils, sugar scrubs, and bubble bath soap. I like to take a book or a magazine in with me, and even just play on my phone. I also bought a waterproof pillow specifically made for taking baths. It’s heaven!
Believe it or not, there are actually health benefits to taking baths. I could do a whole post about this, but someone already did the hard work for me! I’ll highlight the best ones , but you should check it out when you have time. Baths reduce stress, reduce joint pain, decrease depression, improve your immune system, increase your metabolism, and aid in reducing insomnia.
- Learn and Practice Saying “No”My mother is a perfect example of someone who serves everyone before herself. She is seriously amazing. She decorates incredible cakes, and doesn’t even charge very many people. It takes her an entire day, sometimes two, and although she loves doing it, it requires a lot of sacrifice. On top of that, she runs my younger siblings around, does cooking, cleaning, shopping, is in the Primary Presidency at church, a member in our state’s choir, and I could go on and on. She hardly has time for herself. She would sacrifice whatever small amount of time she has left to herself to help someone else. When I first left my abuser on the day I gave birth to my daughter, she sacrificed months of her life to help me through the most difficult time of my life. She is the best person I know. My father has tried to tell her, however, that she needs to learn how to say no to people, because she never has time to relax. She has good intentions, but she isn’t taking care of herself. All of the good things she piles on top of each other become just as stressful as things we don’t like doing. Don’t feel guilty for saying no, it’s critical for your self-care.
- Exercise Walk, lift weights, run, play a sport, swim, whatever it is, get your heart pumping, use those muscles. I know, you don’t have time, exercise isn’t for you, I’m too old, I have an injury, what do I do with my kids? I’ve heard and used all the excuses in the books. BUT, exercise releases that commonly heard of chemical called endorphins. It’s not a load of bull. I promise, it really helps. Not only does it help you feel better, look better, make you stronger, and control weight. According to the University of Michigan, “The Lancet released a series of studies that attribute positive outcomes to physical activity, including ‘a sense of purpose and value, a better quality of life, improved sleep and reduced stress, as well as stronger relationships and social connectedness'”. You should really read this article too.
- Keep a Journal I can’t stress enough how essential this can be. Journaling is a way to relieve stress. All the things you wish you could say to someone but could never say to their face, write it in your journal! When you feel like no one would understand you, no one wants to listen to your problems, write it in your journal! Sometimes getting a bad day out on paper is what you need to calm down. Not only does it help relieve stress, writing about positive events and experiences is a special way to be grateful for the good things in your life. It’s really neat to go back years from now and read the good and the bad feelings and events that you recorded. By the way, if you despise hand cramps and inky-fingers, online journaling is a thing now too.
- Read a book or watch a movie Who doesn’t like an excuse to read all day or binge-watch your favorite T.V. show on Netflix? Need another excuse? Reading and watching a story is one of the cheapest, quickest ways to forget about our problems. Doing so helps us escape into the story and the lives of our favorite characters. Want to forget about your problems? Need to focus on someone else’s for two hours? Read a book. Watch a movie. When your spouse gets on you for spending too much time reading or watching Netflix, tell him/her you’re taking care of yourself today. You deserve it.
Below are few other ideas to try, but I’m not going to expand on them:
- enjoy nature
- color, create, enjoy art
- go on a drive
- cook your favorite meal
- eat something “naughty”
- serve others
- be grateful
- be kind
- compliment others
- read this 64 self care ideas from another blogger
- and this 108 self-care ideas from yet another blogger
- Go to my Pinterest Board of a TON of other blogs with self-care tips!
The more you give yourself clean, healthy oxygen, the more you will be able to withstand any thunderstorm that hits you. Once your mask is on securely, you’ll be able to take care of yourself and others around you. We all have valid reasons for giving up. Life isn’t easy. But life can be so much easier, so much more enjoyable, if you don’t give up.
As always, I’m here for you. Feel free to comment or email me if you need a friend, advice, or a listening ear.