I was talking with a girlfriend a few months back about her and my tendency to give so much to others that we forget to take care of ourselves. It is a self-neglect that many (though certainly not all) women are plagued with. While we’re busy taking care of everyone else, some of us ask very little in return (some people, like our pre-adult children, would be inappropriate to ask), and it can lead to a lot of burn-out, frustration, and bitterness. Especially if we’ve not learned to a) express our needs in a mature healthy way, and b) take care of our needs ourselves instead of wait for what may never come from the people we love.
A) Express your needs
Ask someone to do something for you. If this is new territory for you, it may also be new territory for the people you’re asking, so start small. When you ask, keep the request free of sarcasm, condescension, or demands. If the answer is no, that’s ok. The first step is just having courage to ask. Process how you feel after your request is met or not met, and remind yourself that it says nothing about your worth. Then try again later.
B) Take care of your needs
Not everyone in our life is able or suitable to take care of the things we need the most. I am responsible for my own hydration, my blood sugar levels, my own bodily comfort regardless of the temperature, and my own working off of pent-up emotions and bodily lethargy. Nobody else is. Decide what you need on a daily basis, and figure out how you can meet your need instead of waiting for somebody else to offer.
Here are a few examples of self-care:
- taking care of your body by exercising
- going to the doctor for a checkup, especially if it’s been a while
- eating food rich in nutrients
- bringing your own snacks when you leave the house
- carrying a water bottle to sip on when you’re thirsty
- bringing a light sweater in case it’s cold in the car or restaurant (or in case the sun goes down while you’re out)
- journaling or talking about your feelings with a friend
- trying out a new hobby, or returning to an old one
- indulging every once in a while in a favorite dessert or beverage
- ordering takeout so you don’t have to cook and/or wash the dishes
- taking a leisurely walk around the block on your lunch break
- painting your toenails (or fingernails)
- getting a haircut
- taking a bubble bath
- reading or listening to an audio book
- my personal indulgence is tweezing my eyebrows
You may not have the time or resources to pull all of them off, but start with one (from this list or one of your own). Maybe adding one item of self-care to your life will give you a bit of a boost in energy, health, and happiness. And maybe slowly it will become more natural to take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of the many people you love.