“In case of emergency, air masks will drop from the ceiling. If you are traveling with a minor, please put on your own mask before helping the minor.”
We hear these words every time we travel by plane, and yet in the moment, if there was such an emergency, it would be ever so challenging NOT to save our child first. As parents, and especially mothers, we are biologically wired to care for the needs of others.
I was watching my favorite show, “This is Us”, after the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago…(spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it yet).
In it, we FINALLY learn after nearly 2 seasons of waiting how the hero father Jack dies…
He returns back into his burning down house, after having already rescued his family, to save his daughters mangy dog.
He actually does manage to save the dog, but dies in the hospital hours later of smoke inhilation, and in that moment we learn how the heartache that has rippled through the family for the next 20 years began.
He lost his life saving a dog because his only instinct was to sacrifice his own wellbeing to prevent his daughters potential heartache.
For hours after the show ended, I thought about how often I sacrifice my own wellbeing for that of my family.
It happens so instinctively that I don’t even think twice.
Sleepless nights, spending extra money on him even when he has more than enough of everything, free time spent doing things that make him happy, cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, carpools, the list is nearly endless…
Then it catches up to me, usually because I feel myself growing short tempered and easily upset over nothing, and I remember: I haven’t done anything nice for myself in days, maybe even weeks or months.
I have learned the hard way that when you put yourself last, you rarely have enough energy to give back to everyone and everything that matters to you. And you end up feeling stressed, frazzled, burned out, resentful and frustrated.
Not only does this impact your relationships, your performance at work and your overall sense of happiness and well-being, it has real impacts on your health.
3 Ways Ignoring Self-Care Impacts Your Health
- A lack of self-care manifests in many women’s lives with emotional eating.
It’s so easy to “treat yourself” to something that tastes good in the moment, at the end of a long day, even though you know you’ll regret it later. Because you’ll feel bloated, tired, achy and creaky the next day or throughout the week.
- Another effect of ignoring self-care is stress.
Some intermittent stress can serve a purpose (think being chased by a lion), but when it becomes chronic, cortisol floods your body leading to inflammation, which wreaks havoc on your mind and body. Taking care of yourself means keeping your stress from taking over so you can function at full capacity.
- Ignoring your self-care strains your relationships and leads to resentment and depression. Even though taking care of others is natural for a woman, it doesn’t make it healthy or sustainable over the long term. The reality is that it is your responsibility to articulate your needs to your spouse, coworkers, boss, friends and family.In my experience, Craig is more than happy to give me the space for myself when I am able to articulate that I need it, because he isn’t a mind reader. But when I forget or get too caught up in all of life’s demands, I become depressed, bitter and resentful, and only have myself to blame.
- A lack of self-care manifests in many women’s lives with emotional eating.
3 Ways To Care For Yourself Today
- Get clear on the activities that “fill your tank”. (I learned this from the”Queen’s Course” hosted by Allison Armstrong.)
Make a list of the things that rejuvenate you. It may be spending time in nature, doing crafts or art, going to a yoga or dance class, making yourself a healthy meal, reading a book, going shopping, spending time with uplifting friends, having a date night or taking a self-care vacation (more on that in a minute).Once you’ve made a list of all of the things that you love doing, determine how many times a week/month/year you need to incorporate them into your schedule to feel full and then DO THEM! You will be amazed at how quickly your life, health and relationships improves when you take the time for yourself.
- Learn your love language and the love languages of the people you spend the most time with.
Here’s the quiz to figure yours out. The basic idea is that we all have the predominant ways that we give and receive love. Problems arise when the people we spend the most time with have a different primary love language than ours. Your spouse may be loving you in the ways he knows how, but because its not your primary love language, you may not be able to see it. You do the same, and while you may both be trying hard to love the other, its all being lost in the translation.Identifying your primary love language is so powerful because it allows you to ask for love in the way you need it and also love your spouse and anyone close to you in the way they need it. Knowing how to ask for and give love is among the most potent acts of self-care around.
- Take a self-care focused vacation.
Vacations, in general, are a great way to fill your talk, rest, recharge and unwind, but you may not be getting the biggest bang for your buck.I remember saving up for a vacation with some friends about 6 years ago to go on “The Rock Boat”. It was a cruise with lots of music, long nights and drinking and I took a week of of work to go and spend thousands of dollars on it. I did not have nearly as good a time as my friends because it simply didn’t fill my tank.My idea of a restful and rejuvenating vacation is having deep conversations, being in beautiful nature, eating good quality food and leaving a better person than I came.
After this trip, I felt emotionally empty from shallow conversations, bloated from the all-you-can-eat-everything, tired from sleepless nights and a couple night of drinking and the only nature I experienced was on a huge boat on the ocean. It was a great lesson for me in being much more intentional with the vacations I take because I don’t want to need a vacation following a vacation, but maybe thats just me.
So next time you’re planning a vacation, make sure it includes doing the things that you actually love doing and actually getting to relax and refresh as opposed to just going with whatever the people around you want to do. I’m not sure a family trip to Disney World is any moms idea of a great time beyond seeing the joy it brings to their children. That definitely counts for something, but let that not be the only trip you take this year!
This whole conversation and focus on self care has become a passion of mine, not only because I need my own personal reminders and structure in place to take care of myself, but because I see that MOST women have a poorly-developed self care muscle, especially those caring for young children or aging parents or have very stressful jobs with long hours.
I have a couple parting questions for you:
Is your self-sacrifice truly of service to your family?
What are the long-term repercussions of putting yourself last?
Remember, self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. You’ve got a ton of responsibilities, and you spend so much time taking care of everyone else.
You prioritize your children, your spouse, extended family, home, and your career and its time to find out where YOU fit in.
Lasting weight loss, reversing chronic conditions or simply FEELING GOOD and having energy requires more than just sticking to the right diet. It’s about learning to take excellent care of yourself–without guilt, stress, or apologies.
I hope you will choose YOU today!