It’s been interesting to note that my most requested talk this year has been about self-care. Whether I’m speaking to groups or with individual patients, we as a society seem to have a greater load of anxiety, depression and stress and I think it’s time to call BS.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe what I am seeing. The impact of our mood and stress load is dis-ease in the body. As I listen to each patient’s story, the pattern of a person’s experience creates a picture that makes their health risks and current symptoms make sense. So why do I call BS? We are taught from childhood to share and take care of others, but we are rarely taught the importance of taking care of ourselves. And much of our dis-ease comes from twisting and shape-shifting ourselves to please everyone else.
The analogy of first applying our own oxygen mask before helping others seems so common that it is almost cliché. But in real life, do I do it? Honestly, sometimes, but not consistently. Do you, like me, realize that you’ve gone most of a day without feeding yourself, or that there have been no hours in your week devoted to play or relaxation?
So what should we do? I say, we need to get selfish.
What steps can we take to be kinder to ourselves? First, we may need to take inventory of how we are spending our days. Is your life centered around what matters most? Does your calendar reflect your priorities? If not, it’s time to adjust: make the commitment to do one thing every day that nourishes your body, mind or spirit is a valiant stand for self-care. When I was first challenged to do this, I realized that I had forgotten what I loved to do. It took much more time than I care to admit to come up with my own list of 25 things I can do for myself, but that list has been a guide as I’ve adjusted my life – and I’m grateful!
Second, we can choose to decrease our load. Cheryl Richardson, author of The Extreme Art of Self-Care, once said, “Those of you who want to change the world, must first change your own lives. Take at least one-third of the stuff off your plate, and then come back and tell me how you’ll change the world.” The ability to say no to the requests and needs of others is imperative to our well-being. You are the only one managing your own life and there will always be another good-deed, opportunity or need that can move ahead of caring for yourself.
When we learn to say no, and pencil ourselves back into our own lives, magic can happen. We build resilience and a stronger immune system. And by reserving energy for our dreams and joy, we become kinder, more stable people, capable of doing more with less effort. I’m in, are you?
“And if I asked you to name all the things you loved, how long would it take for you to name yourself?” – unknown
Dr. Brossfield practices functional medicine for men and women at her practice, XO Health, in Rancho Mirage and can be reached at (760) 573.2761.