Self-Care: When You Should Put Your Needs First

A better sense of self-awareness brings its own reward. Swiftly shifting your attention to what you have accomplished in the past year awakens your CAN DO! attitude and gets you back in touch with your innate ability to make things happen in the year to come. But you need to prioritize self-care first.

Self-Care: When You Should Put Your Needs First

I keep having a recurring dream about finding myself in a new house with lots of new rooms I hadn’t realized were there; so much potential to explore! A quick Google search (and a check-in with my inner knowing) tells me this is a good dream, a sign of bigger and better things to come.

It was a great reminder that this is life at any point in time for any of us; what lies ahead is bigger and better and full of potential.

In my dream the rooms were empty, so I have a blank sheet with which to design my future – as do you.

Now, to be fair, the house wasn’t exactly in great condition, there was some work to be done. So if I stick with this analogy of the house representing me, I suspect it’s a valid point for many of us. Are we really taking care of ourselves? Are we really being kind to ourselves and nurturing our potential?

Or, are we busy being busy and chalking up the productivity wins? Meanwhile, our house (our selves) is starting to become a bit run down, a bit neglected?

I was thinking about this at the weekend when I took my kids to watch an amateur dance production that featured many of their friends from school. In the interval, we got to talking about school and I had a rant about how hypocritical I felt the school was being over a particular issue.

No one responded, no one joined me on the rant train, and I felt quite isolated and alone in my frustrations and indignation. As I sat there during the second half of the performance, which was both inspiring and uplifting, I allowed my mind to drift. There were moments where I glimpsed the potential of my own future.

These moments were like smoke, as soon as I stared to try and focus on the thoughts they were gone. Nevertheless, the overriding message was: THINK BIGGER.

It’s true; I’ve been losing my perspective and getting stuck in the weeds. I can trick myself into thinking my eye is on the bigger picture, especially when I’m thinking about the education system. But it’s not what I’m thinking about, it’s the way I’m feeling and acting.

Looking after me? I can point to the yoga, pool time, regular meditation and trips to the osteopath but, still, life has been busy. In the run-up to Christmas here, the crazy social season kicks in, on top of the (self-perpetuated) Christmas deadline. You would think living here in the Southern hemisphere stops for a long time after Christmas, everything has to get done now.

A case in point would be the dance show we went to see. With such a large cast, I understand there were three full rehearsals in the last week alone (a school week). Then the first performance was a Friday evening, followed by another on a Saturday afternoon and a final one on a Saturday evening.

With so many young children involved there would have been a lot of frazzled households over the weekend and beyond I’m sure. So why does it all have to be done in these crazy pre-Christmas weeks? There may be a very valid reason, but there are so many examples like this. It seems like we (the human race of today) set ourselves up for failure.

So to set ourselves up for success, it’s important that we keep our house in good order. Taking care of ourselves physically results in many of the common new year resolutions, but what about emotionally and spiritually? This means making regular time to do the things that help you unwind, that make you feel like you have a clearer view of where you’re going.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” ~Paulo Coelho

This might start with a promise to yourself to do this, but it takes more – you have to honor your promise. When someone asks whether you can or would like to do something that coincides with time you’ve set aside for you, remember, it’s not free time. This is an important time, it’s your much-needed maintenance.

For me, it’s just spending time in nature that helps me recalibrate with my inner world. Regular time in the garden or walks on the beach and I’m in a much better state because I’m not doing, or I’m doing with so little focus, that I can just be.

I am still practicing the art of saying no to things that have their roots in saying yes to me.  When I worked I was hopeless at keeping a clear calendar while I was in the office, I literally had to schedule a day at home to get headspace and – as a result – was always a lot more productive.

Even now, there are social events I’d really like to go to, but I need downtime more, the kids need downtime for sure. Even though I’d said no to a party for my daughter’s birthday, it was still fraught with little things like running across town to get strawberries for the fruit kebabs she wanted to take for her class. Since they have to be made in the morning, and the strawberries dipped in chocolate, these are the small things we take on that erode our wellbeing to a chronic state.

The truth is until I have made space for myself, that blank sheet could stay blank for a long time. The empty rooms full of potential will just gather dust. So open the doors, let the air in and breathe in your best life in 2019!

Happy holidays, everyone!

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