As I write this we’re in the final days of September which is Self-Care Awareness Month. By the time you read this, we may be into October which is Menopause Awareness Month. Don’t forget October 10 is Mental Health Day. Regardless of what day, month, or season you are in, self-care is important and connected to your overall well-being.
For most of my life, I lived by the philosophy Work Hard, Play Harder. My order of priorities was work and then play. Rest was simply not in my vocabulary. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I thought. When challenges or obstacles came my way, I worked harder. If my body hurt or my soul was weary, I pushed through.
Until I couldn’t.
Surgery in my early forties took me down and forced me to rest. After my hysterectomy, things were not the same. Not only did I have to physically recover from major surgery, but I had to adjust to my ever-changing hormones, emotions, and symptoms of surgical menopause.
As my hormones plummeted it felt like every aspect of my life was out of balance. I struggled with the common symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats but there was also insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. My stress levels were through the roof.
Maybe you can relate. And I’m not just talking about menopause. I’m talking about those life events that add additional stress to a life you are already struggling to find balance with. It’s an accident or illness. It’s surgery or job loss. You find a lump. A friend moves. Someone dies. It’s a heart attack. Cancer. Divorce. It’s adjusting to a new way of working or learning. It’s everything going on in our world including wildfires. Racial tensions. Elections. Covid19.
Life Events are Life-Changing
Often it takes a major life event to realize how stressed, overwhelmed, or out of balance you are. These life events force you to pause, reflect, and reprioritize.
Instead of treating self-care as an afterthought, begin to see it as a daily habit, part of the natural rhythm of your life.
Self-care is easier said than done.
You may not be so great at putting yourself first.
- You work hard, you play harder and if there is any time left (there never is), you rest.
- You create your to-do lists and figure you’ll practice self-care when the list is complete (it never is).
- You take care of everyone else first and when everyone’s needs are met (they never are), you think of yourself.
It’s time to be more aware of and intentional with your self-care.
Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand
There is a story about rocks, pebbles, and sand that is used in time management seminars and teachings about priorities. You start out with an empty jar and stack of rocks, pebbles, and sand. You’re told all the rocks, pebbles and sand will fit into the jar, as long as you add them in the right order. Start with the wrong item and you will run out of room. Without awareness and intention, you focus on the wrong thing in the wrong order and all the priorities and requirements of your life don’t fit. You look at self-care like a piece of sand instead of the rock that it is.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned not only from surgical menopause but also from setbacks and challenges is that when I make self-care a habit instead of a reward, I feel calm and balanced and more able to handle life events with more ease.
Self-care is about being aware of what builds you up, replenishes you, and restores your energy. It is knowing yourself and your needs and knowing what fills your cup, so that you can share joy and light and love with the world.
What activities drain you? Let those go.
What are the moments in life you are completely engaged, relaxed, or happy? Do more of these.
Do you need solitude or connection?
Do you need to take a nap or dance out your frustration?
Some of my favorite forms of self-care include:
- Quality time with my husband
- Laughing with my sister
- Riding my bike
- A walk in nature
- Kayaking, SUP-ing, or simply being near the water
- Fueling my body with good nutrition
- Taking a nap
- Enjoying a cup of tea with a friend
- Relaxing in a bath with Epsom salts and essential oils
Your list of self-care tools may look slightly different. I have friends that run, ride horses, workout, and play volleyball as a way to unwind and reduce stress. Others paint, draw, sing, cook, dance, or pray. Many find joy with their dog, cat, or beloved pet.
Whatever self-care means to you, do more of it. Do more of what relaxes and recharges you as well as what brings you joy and laughter. The stuff that drains you? Find a way to do less of.
When you are aware of your self-care needs you do it with intention. When you purposefully add self-care to your schedule and make it part of the natural rhythm of your life instead of a reward, you’ll find you have greater clarity, creativity, and productivity. You’ll find that all your rocks, pebbles, sand, and everything else in your life simply fit.
From my blog:
- The Forced Rest… Learning #SelfCare before life forces you to
- Finding Your Balance – Know the Spokes on Your Wellness Wheel
- Stress, Sex, Sleep and Self-Care: The Four S’s of Health
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