You've just finished a fulfilling, yet tiring day at work and all you want after dinner is a bath and your bed. Just as your head hits the pillow, you hear your four year-old cry out from her room with the stomach flu. Another sleepless night might just push you over the edge, but you get up anyway. You watch the invisible gauge on your mental tank plummet to zero.
A friend once said, "Parenting is a give and take. You give. The kids take." While that's certainly an exaggeration, there is something to be said about lopsided relationships. When placed in the position of caretaker for young or old, it is essential to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others.
Whether you are a parent, have a super demanding boss or are stuck in a one-way relationship with someone, you know the toll it can take to be there for everyone but yourself. As we are living and working longer, we have to build in self-care strategies to sustain the level of productivity today's world demands. In the spirit of "you are as worthy as the people you serve," try some of these self-care strategies so you're not running on empty.
1. Purchase the first good harvest of your favorite seasonal fruit. There is nothing like the taste of a strawberry after a long, hard winter. Savor the flavor as it lingers on your tongue. Scarfing down a pint of berries on the way to pick up the dry cleaning is not recommended, but make sure to set aside a portion for yourself so you get your share!
2. Read your favorite book. According to a study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading just six minutes can reduce your stress level by 68%. It is believed to be a positive distraction from the world around you, which allows you to release tension in your muscles, especially your heart.
3. Dedicate one evening a week to your favorite pursuit. Whether it's that Pilates class you love or a weekly book discussion group, plan some time to enjoy a hobby, but only if it doesn't feel like yet another to-do. If that's the case, plan for some breezy moments of nothingness. Think you don't have time? Think again. The American Time Use Survey states we have almost five hours of leisure time at our disposal every work day. There's got to be an hour or two of you-time in those thirty-five leisure hours between Monday and Friday.
4. Learn to say ‘no'. I have said this before, but it bears repeating here. When you fill up your plate too high, it's bound to crack. Give yourself some relief by declining a few requests just because you want to: guilt-free.
5. For your next birthday, ask for a gift certificate from your loved ones for an entire day off to do what you want. Ensure you spend your time on you and not once again on fulfilling everyone else's needs but your own. Giving yourself the gift of time is one of the greatest gifts of all.
Sometimes we have to teach others how to treat us. That might mean scaling back on a few activities or delegating tasks to make room for your own needs. Being at the beck and call of others all day long can be exhausting. As we set boundaries and give back to ourselves, we ensure we are the best we can be for the world resting in our care.