“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, WHEN?” -Hillel
I love this quote by Hillel. This is the epitome of self-care. This says to me, I must be responsible for my life because, even though I have people in my life who love and care for me, I am the only person living in my body, living my own precious life. Self-care may sometimes sound like a selfish thing – taking care of myself first – but it is an act of love. As I love and take care of myself, I can better love and care for others. Finally, the question of WHEN – WHEN will it be a good time to start? WHEN is the right time to make changes in your life. This is not a question. WHEN is now! It is never too late to start loving yourself enough to take good care of yourself.
This is what we refer to as our WHEN Way of Life – living the best life we can. Self-care is the foundation to take care of ourselves, then others.
As women, we are taught and encouraged to put others ahead of ourselves. We take care of our spouses, our children, our parents, our homes, our jobs and businesses. The last thing on the list is usually us. We never seem to get to the last item on the list. As they say on every flight, “put your oxygen mask on first, then help others around you”. Is there truly a way to put ourselves first, front and center in our lives? Can we love ourselves enough to move ourselves from last to first? Some of us have done this!
Others are still searching…
We can certainly care for our families and help others, yet we still need to take care of ourselves first. This comes down to the concept of SELF-CARE which is really about loving ourselves. How do we take care of ourselves so we have the energy and well-being to help others, to run our businesses, grow our families and be our best selves?
What is self-care? It is different for every single person on this planet. It is personal. It is what you do for yourself every day. Yes, daily. Things like brushing your teeth, washing your face before bed, sleeping deeply, eating well, creating healthy relationships, resting, exercising, engaging in family and community time, and having fun. It can be as simple as emptying the dishwasher as soon as possible so it’s ready for the next dirty dishes. It also means setting boundaries and doing what is yours to do and not over reaching into someone else’s territory or allowing someone to reach into yours.
Imagine the message your own self-care sends to your children, your spouse, your family and friends. It means there are boundaries – things you will accept and things that just won’t fly. You can be an example for younger women who need permission to step up and live their lives. Today’s times are different and self-care should lead in your thinking and doing.
WHEN you engage in your WHEN Way of Life, you can achieve anything you want.
What gets in the way of taking good care of ourselves? It is usually stress. Stress from work, family, finances, friends and so much more. We all have it!
We all know that stress has become unmanageable for us these days. Stress comes from doing too much, being overwhelmed with deadlines, financial issues, health, politics and all the violence – from what might be happening at home to shootings to all the hate vitriol. It comes from worry, fear, grief, sadness and anger. We can’t completely eliminate stress from our lives, nor do we want to. We need some stress in our lives to move us forward but we need a way to “come down” from it. When we were being chased by sabretooth tigers, we went into “fight or flight” mode and ran like the dickens. When the threat passed, we came back to our normal daily life, able to rest, eat and digest our food and carry on with life. The problem now in modern life is that we are almost always in fight or flight – we don’t seem to be able to stop and rest, bring our stress hormones back to normal.
The nice thing is that it is never too late to make a change to take care of yourself. So, how do we modify our self-care to support us? Here are some suggestions to consider in changing your self-care routine.
1. Look at what and how you are eating. Eating healthy foods in moderation in a relaxed way can give you the energy you need to feel great and do what you have to do. How can you incorporate healthy food into your daily life? Making simple meals ahead and storing in the fridge means you can grab something quick for lunch or when you come home for dinner. Same with lunches and dinners for families on the go. It does take some planning and careful grocery shopping to make simple, whole food meals. There are so many new pieces of cooking equipment out there that can make the cook time quick. Sit at a table, give thanks and take a couple deep breathes. Eat with family and if you are single, light a candle, put on some soft music and enjoy your meal. Consider putting all the phones away during meal times.
2. Get your hormones checked. Many women suffer from hormone imbalances that cause weight gain, weepy feelings, depression, and irritability. Once balanced, you can get to the bottom of what else may be going on that is taking your energy away.
3. Exercise and stretch to stay strong, healthy, flexible and balanced. Our bodies were made to move regularly, not sit or stand for hours on end. A simple 20- minute walk not only gets you moving, it also helps clear your mind. It’s not necessarily about weight loss or trying to fit into a dress for a special occasion. It’s about making a lifelong commitment to your heart, your muscles, your brain and your whole body to stay as healthy and active as you can, right to the end of your days.
4. Most of us have some pain in our lives, physical and emotional. Sometimes that pain is acute and can be healed quickly. Many of us deal with deep, chronic pain. Emotional pain is something we don’t think about much. Emotional pain can come from the past when you were a child. It could be something really terrible that happened or a misunderstanding in a child’s mind. These emotional traumas can cause physical and mental illness. Our bodies have tremendous wisdom and when we feel pain, our bodies are trying to let us know that something is wrong. Take the time to pull back a little, rest and figure out what your body is trying to tell you. Working with a licensed therapist, one you resonate with and feel comfortable with, can really help dig out these old injuries.
5. Speak gently and lovingly to yourself. Use kind words that uplift you. We often have a running dialogue in our minds about not being enough. Think about what you tell yourself now. Would you say these same things to a child or a pet or a loved one? You can change this conversation by telling yourself great and positive things about yourself.
6. Buy clothes that fit, that are the right colors for you and that make you feel beautiful. You don’t need a closet full of clothes, just good quality, timeless pieces that you feel fabulous in. When you look good, you feel good.
7. Commit to having fun in your life. When asked, most people say they don’t do anything for fun. Life is not about all work and no play. It is meant to be enjoyed to the best of our ability.
8. Have some sort of spiritual practice, whether it is organized religion or simply a Thank you spoken every day for all the gifts you receive. Consider meditation, mindful breathing, journaling, reading books and articles that uplift you.
9. Do your best to be in nature as often as possible. Mother Nature has amazing healing properties. Let her help you rest, relax and take you away from the daily grind.
It is never too late to develop good habits that lead to excellent self-care and incredible self-love. We all deserve a good quality of life and now is the time to make it happen. Some of us can do this work on our own and others may need a push or some one-on-one guidance to help motivate us. This is your WHEN way of life – your opportunity to create your life with passion and compassion for yourself. WHEN you do this, you will bring joy and love to yourself and others.
Living a When Way of Life and honoring my own self-care and well-being.
Dr. Elaine Stewart, ND
Chief Health Officer