Put Your Oxygen Mask on First: Why Self-Care is Not a Luxury And How to Integrate it Into Your Life
Updated: May 7
Self-care is an overused term that has taken on the meaning of luxury, pampering, or self-indulgence. But it's not, It's quite the opposite — it is a requirement for being our best selves.
I encourage you to shift your thinking of "self-care" from the indulgence in a single treat, such as a mani-pedi or massage, to more of a lifestyle approach. There are small things we can infuse into our daily lives to take care of ourselves, behaviors we can learn that will benefit us a lifetime — things you can't get from a few hours at the spa.
Putting your oxygen mask on first is a metaphor for prioritizing ourselves over others, which is not always an easy task when we play so many different roles: parent, spouse, caretaker, employee, etc. The rewards can be life-changing, however, when we make ourselves numero uno.
Here are a few self-care behaviors that have helped me over the years:
ASK FOR HELP
Examples: Get takeout instead of cooking. Ask a friend to pick you up from the airport or sit next to you while you do something you dread. Get your partner to take the kids and leave the house for an hour, take the kids to practice, anything! They're your "partner" for a reason.
Caveat: Be prepared, you might encounter some initial resistance. Not everyone can help at the time you need it. Don't let that stop you. The more you ask for help, the easier it gets, and the more help you'll get!
Watch: Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness, Michele L. Sullivan, TedWomen 2016
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Examples: Does it really matter if your son has clothes all over his floor in the bedroom that nobody sees? Is anyone else going to notice the font style in the presentation you're creating at work? Will the world end if you're 5 minutes late?
Caveat: Perfectionism is a tricky little beast that needs to be tamed. If we have no expectations then we're never disappointed in ourselves (or others).
Read: The Secret to Happiness and Compassion: Low Expectations, by Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D., MPP, Psychology Today
Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected. ~ Robb Rutledge, author and neuroscientist
Examples: "Nope, I can't help you pick up your room." or "Thanks for the invitation! Can't make it this time, raincheck please?" or "I'm not feeling social today. I need some alone time. You guys go, give everyone my love!"
Caveat: Saying no is one of the hardest things for us because it stirs up strong emotions. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a flat-out "No". Try the "Yes, and..." approach instead. "Yes, I can help you clean your room and it will need to wait until 5 PM when I'm finished with work." or "Yes, I can get you that report and it will take a week to complete. You'll have it by next Friday."
Read: This Is Why It's So Hard To Say No: and why to do it anyway, By Jennifer King Lindley, Real Simple, December 2016
Examples: If you're rushing you're doing too much. Our bodies naturally give us signals of overload: your heart starts racing, your mind is scattered, etc. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and give it what it needs.
Caveat: We often don't slow down enough to be in touch with our bodies and those signals. Give yourself a 5 minute time out to breathe, place your hand on your heart, and connect to what is going on with you.
Read: The Importance Of Slowing Down, by Kayla R. Minguez, Medium, October 2015
Okay okay. Of course, you should still get your mani/pedi and massage! But I assure you, embracing a lifestyle that integrates self-care behaviors on the daily will rock your world!
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