The most important day for you to take time for yourself is the day you have no time for yourself.
On days where your task list is filled with phone calls, emails, and deadlines that need to be tended to, looming meetings that need to be prepped for and countless other items that need your attention… those are the days when you most need to step away and take some time just for yourself.
The irony, I realize, is these are the exact days you likely feel it makes the most sense to skip what we consider this extra “frill.” Our self-care, somehow, has become expendable and is often the first item to get knocked off the list when things get crowded. Surveys conducted on stress confirm nearly half the participants reporting say they feel they don’t have enough time to do what they want to do (Gallup 2017). I will let you in on a secret:
If you stop taking time for yourself, no one else will.
On occasion, you may have a supportive spouse or friend (or even the rare employer) who will encourage you to take time for yourself. But even those encouragements can’t stand in the place for your own daily dogged determination to stand firm in the knowledge of your own value.
After all, that’s what it boils down to: self-value. You are worth the time!
If you value something, you invest time in its care and maintenance, right? Think about some of the things in your life that this holds true for: your home, your vehicles, and, especially, your relationships.
Your relationship with yourself can’t fall by the wayside, either.
Self-care measures like daily exercise, meditation, journaling, or talking with a good friend all count as drops in the self-care bucket. These practices are how you nurture your self-relationship.
Research has proven that taking time out to go for a walk, exercise, take a short nap or engage in a hobby you enjoy helps us return refreshed and work even more efficiently. Over the long haul, we are happier and more well-adjusted.
Every morning, I enjoy a pre-work hike. On one particular morning, before my anticipated hike, I was ending a conference call while sitting in my car in the parking lot of a forest preserve. At the exact moment the call was ending, the forest preserve’s clean-up crew rolled in with their work trucks, back hoe and wood chipper.
It looked like my morning hike was timed perfectly for when they would be cutting down and running tree branches through their noisy chipper.
It appeared my plans were ruined and I might as well skip it and just go straight in to the office. I figured there was no way I would see any deer with all the noise and activity on the trail.
Also, how would I be able to enjoy my trail time with all of the noise of the work crew?
Soon, though, thoughts of how sluggish and resentful I would feel during my long day if I did not get out and enjoy the fresh air now flooded my mind.
I also thought about the slim chances of me actually making time for this later in the day. I had learned how easily I broke promises the morning me made to the evening me.
Lastly, I thought of how a seemingly small decision like this to skip a hike, grows.
From experience, I knew that both good and bad habits start out like this: with one decision, one day, that then becomes okay to make again and again on subsequent days.
I did NOT want to start that cascade.
So, I headed out. It was a beautiful hike, quiet, sunny, no clean-up crew or woodchipper in sight. They must have headed in a different direction through the preserve.
I saw three deer that day. I came upon them all at once. A work truck or chainsaw did not startle them - I did. They stopped and turned to look at me and we studied each other for a bit before running into the brush, their white tails flicking in the air.
It did end up being “one of those days” and I was glad I had taken the time I needed early on. In spite of all of the tasks that needed attention throughout the day, I had a deep sense of peace, knowing that I had given myself the first attention of the day.
An unrelenting commitment to your self-care in times when it may seem easier to take it off the list of “things to do,” makes the statement that
your needs are a priority and that you, as a person, have value, not just for what you do or what you accomplish, but you as a person.
This is the wellspring and, when we try to run our lives without returning first to the wellspring, we find our routines unsustainable. Always return to the wellspring and, when you are tempted to bail on your commitments to yourself, remember: this is the day that matters the most, this is the defining moment. What will I choose?