While wandering through Target, I noticed a Barbie display on an end cap from the toy department. Above the display hung a huge sign promoting ‘self-care’ and the dolls below were all doing some form of exercise. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, now that Barbie is doing it, is self-care going to be OK for us?”
Pick up any women’s magazine and you’ll see something about the value of self-care. In fact, two were in my mailbox on Saturday, and both mention carving out “me” time. And they’re right: it’s valuable. Then why is it so hard for women to do it?
It’s not that the concept is new. I looked up the definition of “self-care” in the dictionary and it’s simple: take care of yourself. I was surprised to read that the term was first used in 1841. We are almost 200 years later and we are still working on it.
I think part of the challenge for me is that I feel like I have to put everyone else’s needs before my own. If I take a few minutes, hours, or – my God – an entire day to do something just for me, I’m being selfish or giving in to my own needs.
This was brought to my attention recently during a conversation with my counselor. She asked about my priorities and I rattled them off. I ranked myself at the bottom and she suggested moving “me” to first place. The example she gave was one I had heard before and you might too. If you listen to the flight attendant give the safety talk, they tell you that in case of an emergency, put on the oxygen mask first and then help your neighbor.
It’s the same concept: we can’t help anyone else if we pass out from lack of oxygen. That may sound extreme, but I was on the verge of exhaustion and still pushing myself to do what I thought was so important. And maybe it was, but I was so exhausted that I had nothing to give.
The truth is that self-care isn’t just a fad. It’s a legitimate way to take care of our physical, emotional, and mental health. It helps us manage stress and anxiety. Self-care isn’t just about getting a pedicure (although I highly recommend them!). It’s about taking care of yourself first.
Yes, that sounds great, but how do we find the time for that? We have to make the time. Get up half an hour earlier every morning to exercise, meditate, pray, read or do something that recharges you. Walk during a conference call. Instead of scrolling social media again, write in your journal. Get someone to watch your kids so you can go do something you want to do, not something on the to-do list. Say no to other things so you can say yes to yourself.
As women, we juggle a lot of responsibilities. We won’t be able to keep all the balls in the air if we don’t take care of ourselves first. What can you do for yourself today?