As recently as this week, a new client told me she considered taking the time to care for herself as an indulgence.
Her word was “selfish” with an obvious negative connotation.
She shared her reluctance to make time for herself with food, rest, and exercise.
In this article, I’d like to open a conversation about what we tell ourselves about making self-care a priority. Might we have told ourselves mis-truths on this important front? Getting clear on this topic can make a difference that starts, but does not end with, ourselves.
Please imagine a tank that holds energy. This energy is in the form of feeling well-rested, vitality, nourishment, peace of mind and self-love. The tank’s reserves are filled by familiar ways we intervene on our behalf.
- Ample sleep
- Refreshing movement and exercise
- Time to prepare and enjoy nutrient-dense food
- Spiritual practice; such as meditation and breath-work to unwind from stress
- What we tell ourselves about our worthiness
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT, AND WHY NOW?
At the writing of this article, to say that the world is in chaos is an understatement. Regardless of your political persuasions, the earth is in a delicate balance. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is particularly difficult at this time to remain unaware of challenges with immigration, global economy and the future of our planet.
Let’s connect the dots between self-care and the state of the world. It is crucial that we fill our tanks first. This is particularly true for any of us who feel strongly that we would like to make a difference and help others.
It’s easy to see how much more difficult it would be to, for example, lift others up who may be struggling if your tank is empty. Exhaustion, lethargy, depletion, overt stress and being our own worst enemy are all ways to ensure that the work we want to do to help others will be compromised; if not impossible.
I challenge the notion that self-care is selfish, holds a negative connotation and that making it a priority in our lives is somehow bad or wrong.
A tiny bit of my history reveals the love affair I have had with meditation and yoga since the tender age of 19. I count this among the greatest blessings in my life to have maintained my practice for over 45 years. To this day, I rely on my practice to help me feel centered and at peace. I simply cannot imagine being able to make a difference for others if I were to be wrestling with unmitigated stress. My roles as a wife, mother, health coach, daughter, sister and friend would be tested if I did not fill my tank daily.
WHERE TO START?
Let me switch from me to you; as we explore ways that you can fill your tank, cut the word selfish from your vocabulary and spread the wealth that comes from taking excellent care of yourself.
I mentioned meditation. Whatever word you use to describe your spiritual practice, the point is that you provide nourishment to yourself at the soul level. This means you invite relief, a sense of calm and inner harmony at a time when you and the planet can use all the positive energy possible. Gandhi said,
Be the change you want to see in the world.– Mahatma Gandhi
Another area where you can do some terrific tank-filling is around food and nutrition.
The food that you choose can make a difference in a few significant areas:
- Executive function. This is our ability to make smart decisions, to think clearly, and to have relief from brain fog. These functions are compromised in a body that is perpetually jacked up on caffeine and sugar, is exhausted from too much adrenaline and too few plants. Conversely, a diet rich in plant-based nutrients will not only give your brain the power to focus, but it will also help you feel grounded and centered. Junk food will not give you these important super-powers.
- Being well-nourished is like filling your car’s gas tank when you are driving from San Francisco to Chicago. Rather than driving on fumes, you are powered by the medicinal power of wholesome food. Whether you are going to change the world or change a diaper, being well nourished is foundational to you being the best you can be.
- Promoting health and avoiding disease is the difference between a wholesome diet and one filled with junk. It is hard to perform in a peak state if our bodies are missing essential nutrients that come from whole, fresh, nutrient-rich food. Having a plan to stay powered by whole food gives us the ability to look ahead, knowing that our bodies won’t conk out on us.
A million years ago, or so it feels, I allowed my body to be ravaged with debilitating stress, a life-threatening eating disorder and the effects of habitual self-deprecation. It has taken me decades of learning and re-learning to get myself squared away with a whole-foods plant-based diet, a tank filled with self-love and a pervasive sense of well-being. I know for certain that this gradual shift in my mental and physical health is for others’ benefit. As a Health Coach, it is imperative that I show up for my clients in a resourceful state. I simply cannot imagine being a guide for others if I bought into a false belief that it is selfish and therefore wrong, to prioritize taking care of myself.
One of my clients was so reluctant to quit putting others before herself until a major health crisis. Now, in her mid-60’s, she is practicing these new skills. She wishes she started sooner, but now is her time.
I encourage you to make this shift, to fill your tank. The world is a better place when you take care of yourself first.