A weird phenomenon in a society that is so much instant gratification and making sure “I” get my fair is that individuals are notoriously bad at self-care. Individuals take their responsibilities seriously and want to do great jobs at being a Social Worker, Parent, Friend, Caretaker or son or daughter, that all energy is focused on this task. It is admirable to live up to responsibilities and care for others, but there are pitfalls to not also focusing on self.
Imagine you are a teapot. Yes – You are a teapot. In this teapot is your favorite, finest tea steeped perfectly. You share your tea with anyone who needs it. You share with your partner and kids. You share with your clients. You share with your friends. You share your wonderful tea with anyone who could use your help. People aren’t always appreciative of your tea but you know as a parent, partner, social worker (or anyone else who works with people like nurses, customer service, firefighters, teachers etc.) that not only do you have responsibility to be a good parent, partner and worker but that you like helping other people. You like seeing people succeed. You like seeing your kids happy. So you give your tea to others. There comes a time when your tea runs low and you are tired and just don’t have the time to blend your tea perfect so you throw some water in your teapot and a couple of tea bags and keep sharing your tea. It might not be as good tea as you shared before, but that is the way life is. We keep going. As much as you like sharing your tea a little bit of resentment starts creeping in. A part of you think – why can’t they get their own tea. You starting thinking “can’t anyone else help out here?” You are doing what you’ve always done, but now you can’t seem to replenish your tea fast enough. You keep running out of tea and you just can’t keep up. You are now a frustrated, tired and sometimes resentful teapot. You don’t have to be the empty teapot. You are allowed to spend time replenishing it. If you take the time to replenish your teapot you will feel more balanced and productive and you will actually help and care for those in your life better.
Some tips to refill your teapot. (AKA Tips for Self-Care!)
- Let go of the guilt of time for yourself and stop thinking it is selfish. Selfish is a pattern of putting yourself before everyone else in your life. If self-care is something you struggle with, the chances are being selfish isn’t your problem.
- You don’t have to make it a production. Self-Care doesn’t have to take lots of time. It can be a small ritual you do every day. You could put 15 minutes aside to read your favorite book or sit at the kitchen table and drink your coffee alone or take a daily walk around the block. Self-care doesn’t have to be a big project – it can be about taking advantage of little moments what present themselves.
- Remember respecting yourself enough to provide self-care is a great way to role-model to your clients, children, co-workers, friends and family how to take care of themselves. It shows them how to honor themselves enough to care for themselves.
- Sleep 8 hours a night. Stop laughing. Sleep is imperative to rejuvenate us. I hazard a guess that most adults do not get enough sleep.
- Remember your passions and hobbies. I bet you used to have hobbies and things you liked to do that didn’t revolve around your work, partner or kids. Focus on reigniting your passions and spend a little time doing the things you love.
- Don’t eschew social activities because you are tired. A feeling many of us may be familiar with is dread before going out to a social activity because it is just one more task to do and then elation if it happens to get cancelled. Pick and choose some social activities that you actually enjoy and make yourself get up, get dressed and go.
- Say no sometimes. Although you are irreplaceable to those who love you, it turns out you are not indispensable for everything. At work, if you can’t take on one more project because you are stretched too thin, the project will go on with or without you. If you can’t make dinner one Thursday night – your family is unlikely to starve and they will figure it out. You are not required to do everything everyone asks of you. It is ok to say No.
- Keep your body as healthy as you can by activity and eating well. I am pretty terrible at this one but when I focus on it I feel better and have more to offer others. Is this possibly true for you too?
- Find moments to be grateful. Don’t use being grateful as an excuse to not take care of yourself. Use gratefulness to change your attitude and help you find moments that are healing you. Gratefulness may help you find the moments that are helping you care for yourself the best.
Don’t assume it is hopeless or “just the way it is.” If you tell yourself that life is just busy and no one who is doing what they are supposed to finds time for themselves – that just isn’t true. If you believe self-care is futile until some later date in time (until you retire or your kids are grown for example) then you will be letting a great portion of your life pass you by and likely enjoying it much less than is possible and even being much less productive than you would like. You don’t earn points for being the most tired or wearing yourself down to the bone. This is it. This is your life. Take some time and fill your teapot.