Self-care is an art that most women don’t practice. It involves creating time for activities that matter to you. Most self-care activities are independent of a woman’s other roles in the family, workplace, or society.
Many women spend their whole lives taking care of everyone else and some never get to put themselves first. Others are lucky and get a chance to change things, even in their old age.
For example, my mother did the unthinkable last weekend; at least for a woman her age.
She took a 2-day holiday (gasp!)…
…without my father (even bigger gasp!)
As if that was not enough, my two sisters went with her so it was a girly weekend out.
It took some time before my dad accepted that his wife could take time off from him and the home at her age (mum’s over 70 years old).
The girls had an amazing and relaxing time and they came back quite refreshed.
As we talked about it later, my sis and I realized that family holidays almost always end up with the women doing a lot of work, while the men and children rest and have fun.
By the time the holiday is over, you need another holiday to recover from the family one!
Why is self-care important?
My mum’s decision to do something purely for herself got me thinking about the fact that most women don’t practice self-care.
I mean it’s easy to dress well and take care of the physical part – the look and image – and then forget to take care of our own emotional and motivational needs.
So you find a lot of women trying to get these needs fulfilled outside of themselves.
If you expect your husband, boyfriend, relatives, children, friends, colleagues, business, job, chama, etc. to fulfil and motivate you, you will always end up with something missing in your life.
This is because no one can fully satisfy the emotional needs of another as some of these needs can only be met from inside yourself.
I work with women and one thing I get my clients to do as homework throughout their coaching program is to find ways to reward themselves on a weekly basis or when they achieve their goals.
All my clients have had a hard time with this exercise in the first few months they try it, and some actively resist it. They simply don’t know how to reward themselves.
In all my years of coaching, I’ve only met 2 women who told me, “Caroline, but I already do that.” These two women schedule some time to pamper themselves, do things that they love, and reward their efforts. And they’re able to do these things without family and friends.
I had a hard time when I started practisingMany women spend their whole lives taking care of everyone else and some never get to put themselves first. Click To Tweet self-care. While I’m an extreme introvert, most of my relaxation and reward systems used to include close friends and family. It took time and saying “No” to other people in order to have time for myself.
Here are some things that have worked for me and other women I know.
1. Schedule ‘me-time’ each day
This is not time for catching up with pending work, but time for you to unwind and let go of the day’s stuff. It’s a ‘Do Not Disturb’ time for family and friends unless it’s an emergency.
For example, my family knows that I should not be disturbed during my me-time unless the world is falling apart or there is a major catastrophe.
During your me-time time you could:
- relax with a glass of wine;
- read a book;
- listen to music or an audio book;
- have a long bath with your favourite bath salts;
- do some yoga stretches;
- or do just anything you want to relax at home.
Start with scheduling 30 minutes daily, preferably early in the evening or just before bedtime. Commit to this appointment as much as you can until it becomes a regular part of your day.
2. Have a day of the week that is just for you
No errands, no running around, no cleaning up the house…it’s your girly day and you have 100% control of that day.
Monday is my rest day and I don’t make a plan for the day. It’s an open day for me to do what I want, preferably alone. While I sometimes choose to complete some pending work, I don’t take any clients on or do work that requires meetings with people – online or offline.
Sometimes I write all day long, read novels, spend part of the day at a beach restaurant, go to the salon and get pampered, shop for myself, spend the morning writing at Java as I have my favourite gourmet coffee, surf the internet mindlessly, meet a friend.…the list is endless.
3. Take a longer break once in a while
Just as with the weekly day off, make a conscious effort to take a longer break that is free of obligations and work each month, quarter or year. It could be a full weekend off or you can extend it to a full week if you want to.
What will you do in this time?
You could travel, book yourself in a hotel to do your yearly planning, take time to catch up on your hobbies and the things that you’ve neglected but that mean a lot to you…the choice is yours.
I know a group of women who take a long weekend holiday each year to bond. They travel away from family and spend the time just relaxing and catching up. They are a very tight group and have helped each other through some major shakeups in their lives.
4. Take the day off on your birthday
This has been one of the best things that I’ve done for myself over the last 3 years. I never plan what to do on my birthday in advance; it’s more of a spontaneous thing.
Last year, I spent the day at a beach hotel. This year, one of my clients travelled to Mombasa and we had an amazing morning session (we’d been working virtually and had never met physically), after which I spent the afternoon relaxing at the beach with my family.
While this year’s birthday included my family and a client, it was all in my control and I consciously chose to spend time with them.
5. Recreate your hobbies
Start doing things that you love, even if it’s just for an hour each week.
Many women give up their hobbies as they grow up. We become so busy that we end up with nothing to do in our free time except take care of other people. This gets worse with marriage and motherhood because the needs of our families now supersede our own needs.
I love knitting, cooking, reading, writing, and spending time at the beach. These hobbies are now a regular part of my life because I’ve chosen to make them so.
- I knit when my mind gets clogged up and have gotten some amazing insights during the process.
- Writing has become a regular part of my life now and for example, this article was written in the morning in my pj’s – before breakfast – because there was an idea that needed to be put in writing immediately.
- Thanks to Amazon Kindle, my virtual library of over 5,000 novels – sheer delight!
Your hobbies are your lifeline. They’ll keep you sane and give you motivation and fulfillment.
6. Reward yourself on a regular basis
What do you do when you achieve a goal or sub-goal? Do you take time to celebrate? Do you give yourself a physical reward?
One thing I teach my clients is to build rewards into their goals for the year. For example, if you have a goal to grow your business income from Kshs. 100,000/- a month to Kshs. 300,000/- a month by the end of the year (which is doable in business), you then create milestones of say, every additional 50,000/- you earn. And then you build in rewards for these increments:
- At Kshs. 150,000/-, you will… (e.g. treat yourself to lunch at XYZ restaurant).
- When you hit 200,000/- you will… (e.g. buy a new handbag with matching shoes).
- When you hit 250,000/- you will… (e.g. go to the spa for the full works).
- When you hit the bulls eye of 300,000/-, you will…
Make sure your rewards are meaningful to you and that they don’t cost a lot of money. You don’t want to take away all the extra money you’ve earned.
You can also tie your rewards with other self-care activities. For example, I used to hate (and fear) marketing and no amount of threats or rewards worked. I finally created a reward of buying a novel on Kindle each week when I complete the marketing calls planned for that week.
This worked so well that I upped the reward to 2 novels a week when I complete the marketing calls and conduct at least 2 sample coaching sessions that week.
Anticipating having new novels to read on Sunday afternoon is enough motivation to get me making the calls and inviting people for sample sessions.
7. Don’t give up
When you start taking care of yourself, it will mean that you have to take the time from someone or something else. This will cause some upheaval in your life and in the lives of people who were used to you behaving in a certain way.
Change never comes easy to those being affected negatively by the change and some people will try to get you to quit. Others will attack you outright with hurting words and/or actions, especially when their efforts to make you quit fail. There will be a period of chaos before things settle down.
If people are used to you being a doormat and taking up their slack, then they will not give up their power easily and their words or actions may cause you pain. This is the price you pay for not having taken care of yourself in the past.
Don’t give up. Start small with little things and work up to the big ones.
And please don’t get so excited that you try to make big changes all at once. The stress you’ll put yourself and your loved ones through is not necessary. Start with small rewards or with taking your daily me-time and then work upwards to the bigger things.
Are you ready for this?
In this article, I’ve explored ways in which you can practice self care.
When you make yourself a priority, you will be happier and more fulfilled. You will perform better at work and with time (after the initial shakeup) your household will be a happier one too.
The examples I’ve given above are simply guiding points. All you need to remember is to take care of yourself without going overboard or abandoning your obligations.
You don’t have to wait until you’re in your 70s like my mum before you make a decision to start putting yourself first in your life. You need to become a little bit selfish and implement self-care activities in your life today.
Do you have other self-care tips? What has worked for you in the past and what didn’t work? Please share your experience with us in the Comments.
You may have noticed that self-care requires creating time. In the next post, I’ll explore what you can do to create time for yourself.
(Image credit: SweetCrisis at Free Digital Photos)