Between work, family, friends and our homes we tend to find very little “Me” time. Often it seems the days will simply become one big blur as we progress activity to chore without once stopping to rest or enjoy life. The problem is that as humans we want to belong, we want to feel needed and wanted, we want a purpose. Those who find fulfillment in their job may stay late every night making sure every project is done. Someone who finds fulfillment in parenthood may take on yet another PTA Project. Someone with fulfillment in friendship will never let a phone call go unanswered or refuse a shoulder to cry on. And an individual who finds fulfillment in a family will of course, not only host Thanksgiving but accommodate the extra people guests decided to invite last minute.
Now, obviously work ethic, parental involvement, being a good friend and family bonds are not bad things in themselves. We prioritize them because they give us that purpose and make us happy. So then why do these things become a burden?
The first issue is exhaustion. I’m sure most people have heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Well, it’s true. If we are giving all we have and never getting what we need, we will eventually run dry. When this happens we may resent those asking things from us, thus turning purpose into an obligation. This can easily become a slippery slope. The more we give to others, the more we need for ourselves. But if the more we give means, the less time we have for ourselves, we will eventually burn out.
Another issue people may face is losing personal identity. It is amazing how many individuals I talk to, who suffer from lack of self-care and therefore don’t know little things about themselves such as favorite ice cream flavor. What’s more amazing is often times they can tell me more about the likes of a spouse, child, or other important people, proving where the priority lies. These little things may not seem like a big deal, but when they are added up they make up who we are.
So the question is how do we find purpose and a sense of belonging without letting it get out of control? The answer is a balance. First, it is important to remember that self-care is anything we do for ourselves that brings joy.
- Short self-care is still self-care – Remember self-care inst always about long vacations or hours at the spa. Self-care can be found in treating yourself to an iced caramel macchiato, spending the last hour before bed reading, or turning on your favorite music and dancing while you clean.
- Have something to look forward to – Schedule a day off work, plan a vacation, pre-order the tickets to a movie you really want to see. Always have something big to look forward to that is just for you.
- Set boundaries – This is the hardest, but sometimes it’s important to say no. This is especially true if you have fallen into the area where things are just expected from you. Shake it up and break that cycle. People will understand, and if they don’t you are better off without them.
- Do things with purpose – We want to enjoy what we do for others. Remember that just because you are giving to one area doesn’t mean you have to give to all. For example, helping with the school bake sale when you like to cook is not the same as coaching the soccer team if you hate soccer.
- Take up a personal activity – There is definitely something to be said about the powers of yoga and meditation. However, if these are not for you I still encourage you to find something you enjoy. Maybe a book club, hiking, art, anything that is only for you. Not only will it be a great outlet for self-care but having something on the schedule will make sure you are getting periodic time for yourself.
Self-care if not selfish, it’s necessary.