With a show of hands, how many of you delay self-care activities in an effort to try to get things done? I’m not talking about big self-care activities like a spa date or a vacation. I’m talking about little everyday actions like drinking a glass of water, taking time to stretch or even going to the toilet. Although I can’t see you I am betting there are a lot of hands in the air and I’m not alone. As I become more mindful in my day to day life, I have become me increasingly aware of the tendency to delay caring for myself in these small but significant ways.
When I shared this observation with my friends and work colleagues they confirmed that they do this as well. Here are some examples of common bargaining tactics that I use with myself: “Just need to get this load of laundry started and then I will go out for a walk. Just straighten up the kitchen and then I will sit down and visit with my guests. Just finish this email and then I will get a drink of water. Just return this call and then I will go to the bathroom. Just this one more thing!!!!”
The problem is it is never just one more thing; it becomes 10 more things and before I know it I am completely dehydrated and literally running to the bathroom in agony! Somehow, I have become an unreasonable tyrant depriving myself of care and comfort in order to push myself to complete tasks.
If you recognize yourself the scenario above, don’t worry there is hope; we can change this pattern. It starts with deciding that we will care for ourselves in the midst of completing our tasks/chores and whatever else our lives hit us with. We don’t need to use caring for ourselves as a reward that needs to be rationed out.
Caregivers are especially prone to comparing our suffering to that of the person we are supporting. When we do this we feel guilt for our natural desire for rest, or to take care of ourselves. So, we ignore our needs and push them down, stop listening to the signs that we need to tend to ourselves and we need to be on the list of priorities.
Using my example, it all begins with being mindful of what my body is telling me; followed by the question - “What do I need now?” Once I know the answer I can choose to give myself what I need. Give it a try and see if you can practice responding to your needs with just a little more kindness the next time you catch yourself saying … “I just need to do one more thing.”
With Kindness, Patricia