I am, admittedly, not very good at self-care.
That whole “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” symbolism.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always associated self-care with self-indulgence.
It’s easy to see why – nearly every article I’ve read suggests self-care involves lounging in a bubble bath with cucumbers on your eyelids while a scented candle burns nearby.
When stress hits, I’ve never really longed for the tub. Or cucumbers, unless they’re in a cocktail.
I’m more of a Get Sh*t Dne kind of person.
So much so that when there was so much to do, I fell into that swirling State of Crazy that didn’t include self-care at all. So stubbornly determined to not lose a step, I gave up anything that didn’t seem “productive.”
On rare days off, I’d still be tied to my phone and email, answering round the clock communication.
Though I loved to read, I stopped sitting with a book. Whenever I did, I’d either wind up falling asleep in it from flat-out fatigue or reading the same paragraph over and over again without absorbing a word.
Cocktails with friends? How could I go out in the evening when my in-time for the morning show I supervised was 4:30 am?
A leisurely walk? Sure, while returning phone calls or sending texts and trying not to trip over the curb.
I stopped doing those seemingly unnecessary things and stubbornly powered on. Until I fizzled, burned out and found Work No Longer Worked for me.
I missed reading a book, seeing friends, taking a walk.
They felt like integral parts of me. And removing them from my life also removed the clarity, connection and creativity they provided. It’s something I wrote about in Why I Walk.
Those seemingly unimportant things were, in actuality, incredibly important. They’re what sustained me.
What I realize now is that self-care is about recognizing what you need and giving it to yourself when you need it most.
For some people, it’s a bubble bath and scented candles and spa visits.
For me, it’s making time to read, joining friends for an evening out and spending time outdoors.
When I can’t focus to read – and stay awake for a good book – something is wrong.
When I deny myself the opportunity or can’t summon the energy to join friends for a cocktail or a cup of coffee and some conversation, something is wrong.
If I only hike or walk when I’m simultaneously working on my phone, I’m missing all of the benefits. And it’s all wrong.
It has nothing to do with a bubble bath. It’s about listening to myself.
Self-care doesn’t mean self-indulgence. It’s asking yourself the simple question:
“What do I need most, right now?”
Ask it when you wake up in the morning. Ask it when you go to bed. Ask it when you’re stressed and irritable and yelling at your kids or crying in your office or eating that extra donut just because it’s there.
“What do I need most, right now?”
Maybe the answer is the energy and focus to get through your do to list. (Or to establish your To Don’t list). Maybe it’s a ten minute walk away from your desk, a quick second cup of coffee, a yoga class.
Maybe it’s a half-hour to read a book or watch a quick show or catch up with a friend.
Maybe it’s knocking out three annoying errands because you’ll feel so much better when they’re done.
Maybe it is that bubble bath with a scented candle nearby. Or a spa day.
It’s not what I need, but maybe it’s what you do.
Start with the simple question, “What do I need most, right now?”
And then acknowledge the answers with action.
For more than twenty years, Valerie Gordon put compelling stories on television. She now has turned her attention from producing to presenting and helps women with the storytelling skills necessary to speak up and stand out from the pack. Through Commander-in-She, Valerie works with conferences and corporations to provide unique workshops on personal branding, networking, negotiation and other storytelling topics.