In the world we live in, it seems like everything is moving at warp speed. As we age, time even appears to speed up. It is so dang easy to just let time continue to pass as we are totally distracted with the hustle and bustle that is our daily lives, the needs of those around us and the responsibilities that we bear. In all of that, it is also so dang easy to complete breeze past our own needs to take care of the things, or the people, who seem to need it more urgently than we do.
Self-care is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit in everyday conversation, not to mention on the internet. Blogs, social media accounts, podcasts and the like are fully dedicated to the subject (I mean, hello? Brutiful Journey is one of them!) But it is far less often that anyone takes the time to actually talk about what self-care actually is, at it’s core.
Self-care is an intentional practice. Generally, it refers to the idea of taking care of one’s physical, emotional, and mental health needs. But honestly, it is so much more than that.
Self-care is the action you take in order to nurture your relationship with YOU.
So, here is where things often go awry. We think about self-care without the intention behind it. Meaning, we know what we would like to do, but often don’t make a plan for how to participate in that action. And I don’t know about you, but I have had that Benjamin Franklin quote, “when you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” seared into my brain from every teacher I ever had. Here is a secret, I also said it myself to a few students back in my teaching days. And the worst part about it is that it is true. If you don’t make some kind of plan to do the thing at hand, the likelihood is that the thing at hand will never come to fruition. Or at least, won’t come to fruition the way we want it to, am I right?
What is more-lacking a plan is what makes it easy to skip the steps that take care of you. I will only speak for myself, but if there is a human in front of me that needs something and it seems more urgent than whatever I need, I am 100% of the time going to attend to the other person’s need before my own. And sometimes instead of my own. Because, you know, I can get to it later (famous last words).
There is another point here, though. Remember when I said that self-care is the relationship you have with you? Let’s hop back to that for a second. Because every time you are choosing someone else’s needs, you are choosing not to attend to your own. Even if it makes sense to do so.
Let me give you an example from my life. I am gearing up to train for a half-marathon. As someone who does not run all the time, I looked at the first long run of the training plan (3 miles) and said to myself, “ummmm, I am not even sure the last time I put on my running shoes, much less ran, much less ran three miles.” So, I told myself that I needed to step up my game and go on a run here and there so that the first three miler was not so jarring. That was about a month ago. I did not make a plan to “go on a run here and there,” I just mused that it would be a good idea for my future self to feel cared for because she was more prepared to set out on the first long run of the training plan.
Since that musing, about a month ago:
Work has been extra busy.
My beautiful Momma had a birthday, and I invited my family to my home for an amazing weekend of pool fun.
My husband’s car took its last breath and we had to travel out of town to purchase a new one.
A friend needed a ride to the airport.
My husband and I wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate our first year in our new home.
Someone I supervise at work needed some extra attention due to some personal matters.
And it goes on-just like it always does. So, in all that, even though I said to myself “I should probably step up my running game,” here I sit. The morning of that first three-mile run, totally unsure of where my running shoes even are because I still have not run a single step.
In my relationship with me, I have let myself down in order to nurture my other relationships. I have let the needs of other people be more important, and more urgent, than my own needs-just because I did not make a plan to take care of myself in a goal I said I wanted to achieve.
What could have been different? If I had pulled out the calendar and said, “my first three-mile run is in four weeks, and I would like to build up to that.” Then, chose one or two days a week to run a little bit as it fits into my schedule. Perhaps I didn’t work as far into the evening the night before, or told my family to arrive an hour later, or went to bed a little earlier the night before I needed to drive my friend to the airport so I could fit in a run. Or any combination of those things would have met the needs of other people AND my needs! I just needed to make a plan.
And that is what I (and probably a lot of other people, but I won’t speak for them) mean when I saw that self-care is about making yourself a priority. It is not about NOT meeting other people’s needs, in particular those that are more urgent and those that exist with humans who are relying on you to take care of them (like those cute kids all over your Instagram). It simply means, you have GOT TO weave yourself in there and the best way to do that is to make a plan. Or, even better, make a choice to plan yourself into your responsibilities.
So, this post is about self-care…. kind of. It is not about tools for self-care or “tangible ideas for self-care.” It is about making a choice that your needs are as important as other people’s. It is making a choice to set yourself up for success (yeah, that was another teacher thing. Thanks, 1990’s) so that you are already taken care of when someone comes to you with a need to meet. When I look back at the list of things and people that I took care of instead of myself over the course of that month, I know that there is not a version of this story where I would NOT have done that. There is not a version of the story where my family was not coming over to celebrate my Mom, or my friend had to find a different ride to the airport, or I didn’t toast the first year in my beautiful home with the man I build it with. There IS a version of the story, however, where I did all of that AND ran a couple of times so that my future self (i.e.: me right in this moment) didn’t feel so unprepared for this run. If only I had made a plan.
Sometimes it is easier to have a plan if you write it down. Check out my Self-Care Plans in the shop over at Brutiful Journey if you want some support in this practice!
WIth our without the Brutiful plans, I want to support you in taking a few minutes IMMEDIATLY after reading this post. Take a look at your calendar and make a plan for a minimum of ten minutes that you can dedicate to you. It does not matter what you do. In fact, you could choose to do absolutely nothing for those ten minutes. But plan it. Then plan everything else around it so you can do it. You are worth it, I promise.