Anyone who has ever been on an airplane has heard it… the announcement over the speaker that says “In the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will drop down. If you are traveling with small children or someone who needs help, please put your own mask on first, before you assist them.”
Make sure that you are breathing, so that you have what you need to assist someone else. It’s a basic need, one that we know and commonly accept as necessary for our survival in an emergency. And yet, how often in our parenting, our working, our loving, and our daily living do we forget to put our own masks on first?
Self-care can stir up a lot of negative mind chatter. Just the question, “How’s your self care?” is enough to make some feel anxious and edgy. It’s wrong. It’s selfish. It’s indulgent. For some, it’s even guilt provoking. We are told, and accept, that a “good enough” parent, or spouse, or friend, or lover, or community member will give their all and then some, with no complaining. Then, reality bites back – sometimes very hard – with anger, resentment, fatigue. We get burned out. We feel hollow, with nothing else to give.
Self-care is not the indulgence of the negligent parent, but the responsibility of any loving and caring adult. It’s ok to make sure that your needs for nurturing, comfort, and care are met. It’s good to feel nourished, sustained, and fulfilled. It’s ok to love yourself enough that your “cup runneth over”, giving you enough resource to assist those who are traveling with you in this life journey.
Healthy self-care begins with checking in, with love and kindness, to see if you are meeting your own basic needs, and then working to fulfill them. Jennifer Louden**, in her book The Woman’s Comfort Book, shares a basic needs checklist that is an excellent starting point for taking a snapshot of your own lifestyle, and considering where some new self-care baby steps might be beneficial. Please hold in mind that the intention here is not to guilt or shame, or make you “feel bad”, but to take a good, honest look at how you are loving yourself.
So, with a deep breath, let’s begin:
Which needs are you meeting regularly?
Do you usually get six to eight hours of sleep?
Do you eat something fresh and unprocessed every day?
Do you allow time in your week to touch nature, no matter how briefly?
Do you get enough sunlight, especially in the wintertime?
Do you drink enough water?
Do you see your gynecologist (or the equivalent) at least once a year?
Do you see a dentist every six months?
Do you know enough about your body and health needs?
Do you get regular sexual thrills?
Do you feel you get enough fun exercise?
Are you hugged and touched amply?
Do you make time for friendship? Do you nurture your friendships?
Do you have friends you can call when you are down, friends who really listen?
Can you honestly ask for help when you need it?
Do you regularly release your negative emotions?
Do you forgive yourself when you make a mistake?
Do you do things that give you a sense of fulfillment, joy, and purpose?
Is there abundant beauty in your life? Do you allow yourself to see beauty and to bring it into your home and office?
Do you make time for solitude?
Are you getting daily or weekly spiritual nourishment?
Can you remember the last time you laughed until you cried?
Do you accept yourself for who you are?
How does that feel, to look at where your basic needs are? Would you be willing to choose one need, just one, where you can take a baby step today towards taking excellent care of yourself? The people you love need you nourished. The people you love need you vibrant and fulfilled so that you have enough to give. Today, give yourself permission to put your own mask on first, Mama, and take a deep breath.
Blessings on the journey.
**Special thanks to Jennifer Louden for letting me share her work. I don’t think she knows that I’m her biggest fan. You can find Jen online at http://jenniferlouden.com/blognews/ where you can sign up for her list to get her wonderful freebies about self care. The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book was just released in e-book format, too. Well worth a read. Go find it on amazon.com!