Well, I forgot to practice self-care. For 8 months.
For many of my friends and clients, I often recommend they practice self-care and make it part of a regular routine. When you are feeling stressed, tired, or anxious, taking the time to care for yourself is so important. I fully believe that in order to take care of others we must first take care of ourselves. It can be so difficult to put our needs first, even if only on occasion. I know this because I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, the “COO” of my home & family, a student, an employee, a coach, and a (sometimes lousy) friend. The millennial generation is often shamed for their emphasis on practicing self-care. But it’s a true sign of emotional intelligence, as one NPR article explains.
While I’ve been preaching self-care, it hasn’t been a true practice of mine for some time. And the realization hit me hard. Actually, it knocked me on my butt. One evening while working on my laptop before bed, I suddenly felt a wave of heat through my body followed by significant dizziness. Having vertigo is nothing new for me. I’ve had random bouts of it since freshmen year of college, with only a couple being severe.
This time was different though. I’ve never had symptoms which changed my body temperature nor has vertigo hit me while I’m just sitting still. So, I quickly went to bed hoping to sleep it off. This has usually helped in the past. But the next morning, I was still spinning. I had to cancel all my meetings I had planned for the day and ask for help to get our daughter to and from school. Vertigo can be debilitating and frustrating. If it’s not severe enough to have uncontrollable vomiting, a person can seem just fine. I won’t have any outward physical ailments but I won’t be able to “function”. My head feels like it’s floating above me and I’m trying to hold it down without moving.
What I wanted to do was sleep all day but for some reason, I really struggled to doze off. Maybe it was because I had work I wanted to accomplish or the frustration that I was losing an entire day to laying around. It felt like a waste. And if you know me, you probably know I can’t stand inefficiency or waste in any aspect of my life.
Since I couldn’t nap but felt a slight improvement, I went to Art Therapy in the late afternoon. I enjoy going to Art Therapy because it helps me understand myself better (there’s that emotional intelligence thing again) while developing my artistic and creative sides. During this session, I pulled out magazine images that I was drawn to which I had selected in a previous session. Pulling these images out again, I picked a few to put onto a collage. The collage of images made me smile ear-to-ear and I couldn’t stop staring at it. I then explained what the images represented to me and that’s when I realized that all the images individually represented relaxation and peace. When I put them all together, the collage looked like a beautiful vacation spot in the mountains, somewhere I’ve never been.
“I need a vacation”.
When Brenda, the Art Therapist, asked me when the last time I did something for myself was, my response was, “In April…. 8 months ago”. It was the last (employer-benefit) massage I had. Eight months earlier, I had quit my “safe” and superb-benefit career to venture out as a Freelance Consultant. The high-stress, anxiety and complete unhappiness I felt of my decade-long career also allowed me to have monthly massage benefits in which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I LOVED massages. I made sure I went every month, fully believing in the healing it offered. I also gained an incredible friendship with my then-massage therapist. Massages gave me a chance to stop thinking, reconnect with myself and clear my mind. (I wasn’t yet practicing meditation)
If I enjoyed massages so much, why didn’t I keep going? How did I forget to practice self-care?
I am blessed to have the option to work from home and to continue earning another degree from home as well. That sounds relaxing, right? But self-care is more than just relaxing. It can be about pampering yourself or simply giving yourself what you feel you need. I didn’t feel I deserved that anymore. I felt that having the ability to work from home, make my own schedule and spend more time with our daughter should be enough. Pampering myself? That was for people who worked full-time in an office or factory, or for a parent who didn’t have help from a supportive partner to pay bills or take care of the children.
Reading my own words now makes me feel sad. I have heard similar stories from friends and clients who feel the same way as I did. Which brings me back to my old saying, “take care of yourself first”. And I wasn’t practicing what I preach.
Even though I was sad, I was enlightened as to why I was feeling sick and for the need to take care of myself. I made a mistake and I am reminded of the importance of self-care. Getting back on the right track, I made an appointment with a new massage therapist that day and actually felt better by the next!
Share your story about self-care with me in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter: @LeadershipIsArt or @gnobile9
And if you are looking for guidance on having a better work-life balance, call me at 717.430.2850.