Thursday, June 20, 2013

Twenty Minutes

I've heard it for years - "you have to take care of yourself," "you can't give what you don't have," "put your oxygen mask on before you help someone else," and any number of other variations on the importance of self-care as a method of caring for others.  I've often written about my quest for less stress, but I've had a hard time getting the habit to take hold and I doubt I'm alone.  I think for many of us, the idea of taking care of our own needs conflicts with our desires to be taking care of others; that there's some inherent virtue in going last, eating the burnt toast, and taking the shower after the hot water's gone.

There's not.  If anything, that behavior borders on Martyr-Land, which is a dull and guilt-ridden place to visit.  Therefore, I've been trying to work "me time" into life on a more regular basis.  It's difficult at first, but all the books and magazine articles are right - why save all the good stuff for company that may or may not come?  I think Americans tend to go all out and not be good at all at balance - we work like dogs all year with very little downtime, then spend our rare holidays overdoing it.  Too much rich food, too much sun, too much play, too much of everything.

So how can I moderate pampering myself?  Well, this is still a work in progress, but here are ten I've tried:

  • Take 15 minutes in the sunny hammock when I get home from work.  Sprawl there with a book that isn't work/research related.
  • Actually use those flavored sugars I bought during our last spree at the spice shop in Asheville.  (I'm typing this with a cup of coffee fixed with a teaspoon of espresso sugar by my side - I think it's the coffeeist coffee I've ever had, and I'll probably have plenty of energy in my summer classes today!
  • Make a strong cup of tea and drink it from the good china teacups that never get used.
  • Meet a girlfriend for gossip and pedicures.  I picked a bright, clear pink, but next time, I'm going further and getting a little design on the big toe.
  • Tell the Scoldy Voice in your head (the one telling you that this relaxation stuff is a frivolous waste of time) to go take a long walk off a short pier - I deserve to be treated well, and that includes by me.
  • Get girly with a bubble bath, a homemade moisturizing mask (yep, that's where the end of the mayo went, FryDaddy), and my hair wrapped up in a towel to let the olive oil/egg yolk deep conditioning treatment sink in.  (Rinse well with this one!)
  • Turned off my phone, at least for a little while.
  • Say "thank you" to the people who keep my life running more or less smoothly - I have a husband who works hard for the family and does most of the supper cooking.  (Other household chores are split, but are often my responsibility, since he's away at school most of the time).  He cooks well and he appreciates it when I notice.
  • Tell the Divine "thanks" - we're guaranteed nothing in life and, speaking for myself, I'm stunned by the calculus I need to count my blessings, even on my snarky days.
  • Say "yes" to something spontaneous and slightly crazy - more on that in my next post.

The part of  this that has really shocked me is how long the effects of treating myself like company last.  Everything they're telling you about this is TRUE!  Carve out ten, fifteen, twenty minutes for yourself every day.  Have a list of things to do - even something as simple as "don't eat lunch at your desk" can count.

We're willing to try any number of crazy things in our quest to get more exercise, become slimmer, and dump our junk food habits - how about trying this for 30 days with the goal of getting happier, becoming more peaceful, and dumping some of that stress we carry around constantly?  Set a timer if you are afraid you'll relax "too long" or make a sticky note with a reminder to "tell three people thanks today."

Just try it.  You might like it.

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