Taking Care of Myself

Practising what you preach can be difficult sometimes!  As a coach I encourage my clients to practise good self care and I work with them to find ways that they can do this.  However, I have found lately that I’m not doing very well at taking care of myself.

Lately I have noticed that my daily calendar is filling up.  I have coaching sessions with my clients, networking events, meetings with people I want and need to get to know, and a course that I’m taking.  This is on top of keeping in touch with family and friends.  All of a sudden, I have gone from having lots of time to myself to rest and recover, to hardly none at all.  Some people may read this and say, “Well, that is great!  Being busy is a good sign!”  My mind, always an eager beaver, agrees with them.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t, and if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is to listen to what my body is trying to tell me!

A few years ago a psychologist told me two things that radically changed my world.  The first was that, in this age of technology where so much emphasis is put on logic and mind-work, we depend on our minds so much for information that we have become disconnected from our bodies.  Our bodies are a great source of information.  How your body feels is a good indication of the state of your thoughts and emotions.  For example, if your stomach is upset and your muscles are tense, chances are very good that you are thinking fearful and stressful thoughts.  Your stomach and your muscles are trying to tell you that it is time to let your body have time to rest and recover – time to sit down and spend some time meditating, reading a book, or going for a walk.

The second piece of information she shared with me was the difference between being an introvert and being an extrovert.  Basically, extroverts are people who gain energy when they are around people.  Introverts, on the other hand, find their energy draining away if they are around people too much.  For example, extroverts leave parties energized and ready to party all night while an introvert may be so tired that they are ready to leave the party (if you were able to get them there in the first place!) after an hour.  I am an introvert.  Although I love working with people I find that I need a lot of time to myself so that I can build my energy level back up again.  So if I am meeting with people and working with clients all day, I really need a nice quiet evening at home with a book in order to be recharged enough to face the next day.  Knowing this is one thing, but actually doing this is another!  Like most other people, my own self care often gets pushed aside to meet other demands for my time.

Why have I been neglecting taking care of myself when I know I need to?  I think, for me, it comes down to two reasons.  The first is that age old nemisis guilt.  I’m in the process of building a new business.  Many small business owners that I admire have told me that you have to work long and hard to build a successful business.  They are right.  It takes time and effort to be successful, so if it has been a choice between going to an evening networking event and staying home to rest, you will find me out networking.  This wouldn’t be a problem if I took time off during the day to relax, but I don’t.  I often feel guilty if I don’t go to an event I should be at because I’m tired.  And I hate to disappoint friends when they ask me to join them for coffee or to go out for an evening.  So I go and neglect myself in the process.  Not good.  I mean, after all, aren’t I being selfish if I put my own needs before someone else’s?

The second reason I will often neglect taking care of myself is that I think I can handle it.  I think, wrongly, that I can keep going non-stop because, after all, lots of other people can.  But I tried doing this once and suffered the consequences as a result.  I let the stress build up until my body decided that it was time for me to stop, and since I wasn’t listening, it was going to have to do something drastic to make me stop.  It worked and I did.  But if I was smart, I wouldn’t have let it get to that point.  I have learned that I can’t handle burning the candle at both ends – so why do I often think otherwise?

Are you beginning to recognize yourself in some of the things that I have said?  If so, that is a good thing.  I know that taking care of myself may be seen as selfish by some people, but I have to take care of myself in order to be able to continue to take care of others.  After seeing my insane schedule for the week printed out for me, I realized  that I can’t let this go on.  I’ve decided to learn from my past mistakes and start doing what I need to do to stay healthy and happy.  If that means that I have to say no to some events and invitations from friends, so be it.  If that means that I schedule time for myself into every day, whether that be a walk around the block at lunch or an evening relaxing at home after being with people all day, I will start doing it.  Why?  Because I care enough about myself to put myself first.  I want to stay healthy and happy, and I’m willing to do what it takes to accomplish this. 

So what is your body telling you?  Is it telling you that it is time to slow down and smell the roses?  What have you learned from the past about what your body and mind need to be happy?  My challenge for you is to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.  Start with one small thing – taking a lunch break today for example – and work up from there.  It will be hard – believe me I know – but it will be worth it.  And if you find that you can’t do it on your own, it never hurts to ask for help.  Get your family, friends or a coach on your side to help you in your quest for health and happiness.  You will be glad you did.