Most of us have extremely busy lives, propelled in dozens of directions each day by the competing demands of our personal and professional priorities. Although we may be able to stay afloat, there will always come a time when a crisis, such as the loss of a job or a global pandemic, disrupts the fragile balancing act. To cope with our new responsibilities, we often respond by surrendering the small pleasures we normally grant ourselves.
This self-sacrificing strategy, however, is not sustainable. When we give but don’t receive, we deplete our energy, which limits our ability to effectively handling crises and often produces resentment and frustration. It is the difference between operating on all cylinders and trying to squeeze out your last ounce of energy.
When you are refreshed, on the other hand, you are much more likely to stay positive, find creative solutions, and feel compassion towards those you serve. As paradoxical as it sounds, the more stressed you are and the less time you can spare, the more critical it is to step back and take a breather.
The key to self-nurture is to add yourself to your own list of priorities. Engage in activities that offer physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment. Whenever you feel stressed, stop and ask, “What would make me feel better right now?” Think about what’s worked for you in the past. What recharges your batteries? It may be something simple, such as a few deep breaths or a short walk around the block. It may be attending a yoga class, going to the gym, soaking in a hot tub, or curling up with a good book. Regardless of the methods you use, your actions should serve no other purpose but to bring joy and comfort to you.
Guilt is the most common barrier to self-nurture. When we are in the midst of a stressful situation, the idea of taking time out to relax can seem insane or selfish. Our minds instantly rattle off a million other things we “should” be doing. The word “should” is very potent and extremely guilt-inducing. Remind yourself that it’s not selfish to do that which allows you to continue giving to others. It’s not crazy to treat yourself with the same kindness that you extend to others.
Even when there is no immediate crisis, we may still feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. For example, we may feel that we are depriving others of our attention. In other words, we “should” be spending time with our kids, rather than taking a relaxing walk. Keep in mind that self-nurture doesn’t have to be a solo activity. If it suits you, you can invite others to join you. Not only can self-care activities nurture you, they can also nurture your loved ones, and you are a much better role model when you are good to yourself.
Another roadblock is the belief that we simply “don’t have time” to take a break. If you feel that there is no “wiggle room” in your schedule, it may be a matter of taking a closer look at how you are spending your time. As an experiment, try keeping a list of all the things you do in a day. Review the list and look for things that could be eliminated or delegated. You may also notice certain activities, such as watching television or surfing the web, that are not as nurturing as other things you could be doing.
Keep in mind that self-care does not have to be time-consuming. There are always ways to inject brief, restorative moments into your day. Even something very simple, like taking a brisk walk at lunch or unwinding with a cup of tea in the evening, can help you regroup.
No matter how busy you are, it is essential to take care of yourself. Acts of self-nurture renew the spirit and provide a much needed oasis for the soul. They also make you happier and more productive. Not only will this benefit you, but also everyone else in your life.
“If you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.”
~ The Dalai Lama