“I don’t know how people do it. I just can’t juggle work and family and everything I have to do and take time for self-care on top of it all.”
Sound familiar? A lot of people think self-care, whether taking time for meditation, exercise, or even just lunch, is a kind of reward, that you get when all the other priority items on the to-do list are handled. But self-care is more like the engine that keeps everything moving ahead, it’s not something you have to earn points for. Giving care to yourself is what makes it possible for you to give care to others.
If you have fallen into the trap of thinking the to-do list is more important than caring for the person doing the work on the list (you), then you may have to talk to yourself more intentionally in order to establish new and healthier habits. Use some cognitive restructuring or reframing talk and remember:
- As a parent, you are a role model for a healthy lifestyle. Showing your kids that you care for yourself as well as them is one of the most important lessons you can give them. Think about having a family exercise time, going for a walk, or a quick game of driveway basketball at the same time each day. This is not an indulgence; daily exercise lays the foundations for a long, strong life.
- Take a quiet time. If necessary, establish a time for the whole family to take a quiet break reading, doing homework, or just looking out the window. Even for just a half-hour in the midst of a busy evening, a quiet time helps everyone regroup and process the day’s events.
- At work the same applies. Regular breaks are mandated for hourly-wage workers for a good reason. Make sure your boss understands that you give your best to the job when you’re there, and giving your best requires regular breaks and a healthy, unrushed lunch. Again, it’s not a “frill”. Taking time for rest and food is what enables you to do your job well. Exhausting yourself will not meet your employer’s needs.
A recent article in the New York Times referenced Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree, a childhood memory and model of generosity for many of us. But the tree dies in the end, worn out by giving and giving to her “friend”. We all need to relearn what generosity is. It is not pouring oneself out for others with no acknowledgement, rather, true generosity establishes a positive feedback loop where you are fed by the ones you feed.
If your “juggling” of responsibilities is not feeding you as well as others, something is amiss. Practice reframing your own and others’ needs to increase resilience and build a strong foundation that everyone can depend on.