There are very few things in life you can control, and for many people the focus is on those things they can’t control. Anxiety, depression, worry, and fear can result from looking “out there” and seeing everything that is happening where you have no control at all. One often overlooked area you can control is that of self-care.
Self-care is a touchy subject for some people, because of the concern that it can border on narcissism or an overly developed ego. The adage “looking out for numero uno” is often said in a negative sense meaning “only I matter and the heck with any concern for you.” But taking care of number one—i.e., you—and learning how to implement appropriate self-care is not only important; it’s necessary.
Mothers of all kinds, and working mothers in particular, are often told they are doing too much and if they don’t care for themselves, they won’t be healthy enough to care for others. You hear this said to people providing round-the-clock care for an aging parent, or a sick child or spouse. You might be told “you need to take care of yourself!” But how realistic is this when you’re working a long week, rushing to get home to take care of those who need you, and using your downtime for cleaning the house or doing grocery shopping? For many people, the idea of self-care is overwhelming—taking time for oneself, when there is little time for the necessities of life, seems a daunting task.
But the adage is true—the mind and the body can only take so much. Running on empty can wear you down in many ways, and often sleep and eating habits are poorer, tension gets higher and stress seems constant. Some people talk about adrenal fatigue, where the body just starts to give in because the system is overloaded and can’t take much more.
The answer isn’t to stop being a caregiver, nor is it to push yourself to the point where you are the one needing care because your body finally gives up and you collapse. The answer is to become aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it, and to make conscious choices throughout the day; to take control of your mind and your body and be present, instead of running in circles and jumping from one commitment to another.
If you are a giver and need to start taking more—in terms of taking care of yourself—consider these steps, which you can take without disrupting your entire life and schedule. The harder it is, the less willing you will be to do it, so think about some easier things you can do now to get yourself on the road to self-care.