Self-Care Can’t be Retroactive

Self-Care Can’t be Retroactive

Recently, a very busy colleague told me that she knew she needed to do better with her self-care so she was scheduling two daily sessions of yoga for the next week to make up for it. That made us both laugh. While you do need to make time for self -care, and perhaps deliberately include it in your daily schedule, a week of self-care activities won’t make up for weeks or months of self abuse or sporadic focus.

Nor can self-care be retroactive. It is like lost sleep—you can get enough rest tonight, but that won’t make up for three months’ worth of late nights trying to finish an important project.

Self-care means different things to different people, and, by definition, self-care needs to be personalized care. One size doesn’t fit all. As an example, if you could have one week focused entirely on yourself, how would you fill it? Attending a spa, lying on a beautiful beach, daily massages, a staycation, a week of broadway plays, a week hiking outdoors, a week with no phone or social media, a week of reading novels, or a week of catching up with family and friends? The possibilities are endless, but how you answer that question may tell you something about what is missing in your life.

Most women are aware of the importance of self-care, but don’t see how they can incorporate self-care into an already full daily schedule? If this sounds like you, what can (must?) you do to put self-care into action? First of all, decide that self-care is a real priority, a commitment as important as your other commitments. You can’t simply embrace the idea, but do nothing. It takes planning, discipline, and determination. Many highly successful people are able to find time to engage in self-care activities because they see them as essential to their productivity and well being. You can do the same.

Next, try to find some activities that can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. For instance, if you have a hard time fitting in walking each day, you might try using an activity monitor. This will encourage you to walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator, or to park further from the entrance to the grocery store. The tracker will also alert you when you have been sitting too long.

There are numerous apps that will help you manage calories, and/or engage in other healthy behavior. Encourage your kids or partner to join in your self-care activities. Or agree to meet a colleague or friend at the gym at set times each week, or sign up for that yoga class and be disciplined about it. When traveling, take your gym clothes with you. Men have done this for years. It’s almost like a badge of honor to be seen in the hotel gym before that big business meeting.

Also, it goes without saying that preventive health care is essential. At the least, this includes an annual physical, a visit to the gynecologist, a dental check-up, a flu shot, and depending on age, an annual mammogram. Too often women make certain that their children, their partner, and their parents get the health care they need, but they neglect themselves. If you fall in this category, it is time to stop making excuses about being too busy. Instead, start including yourself in your own circle of caring. You deserve to be there just like everyone else.

No one can do self-care for you, and it can be difficult to undo years of self neglect. Start today by putting self-care on your calendar. and then make sure you stick with it.

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