“I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me” ~ Jim Rohn
When a recent bout of the flu kept me in bed for nine days, I decided the most productive use of my “stuffed-up-head-and-scratchy-throat” time would be to read as many books as humanly possible. I thought this was a pretty smart use of my unexpected downtime… Pretty brilliant, right?
Actually, it wasn’t, not by a long shot. In fact, I quickly learned that, like most things, when I’m sick in bed, reading is not sustainable over long periods of time. I was good for two hours at best, after which I became sleepy, dopey and retained absolutely nothing. Worse still, I’d often wake up to a small pool of drool on my chin. Gross.
But here’s the thing: In the past, the thought of my doing nothing, even when sick in bed, was unfathomable. Despite feeling like a Mac Truck had run me over, my gut always insisted that I be being productive at something – ANYTHING.
For example, whenever insomnia used to strike me at 2:00 am, the thought of wasting two precious hours in the middle of the night made no sense to me, so I’d leap out of bed, throw on my gear and head to the all-night gym for a workout. These days just the idea of this seems a little nuts to me… but I digress.
Because of my penchant for doing-doing-doing stuff, anytime I awoke from a reading-induced coma, despite a stuffed-up head, and my constantly coughing up a lung, I’d be greeted by a catholic-sized helping of guilt for sleeping, when deep down I knew I should be doing something more productive.
In my frustration, I turned to that popular time-filling default -Netflix- figuring some mindless brain-candy would distract me from my self-loathing. Ironically, this usually slothful act turned out to be about the smartest thing I could have done.
I began binging the new season of Queer Eye that day, and quickly noticed that each episode repeated a single idea, and one that I needed to hear. That idea was about self-care; and it made me understand that I needed to redefine my definition of it, especially when it came to me.
If you’re a fan of Queer Eye, you’ll know that each episode the Fab Five “makes over” someone’s life that for multiple reasons, is stuck and unable to move forward towards their version of happiness. And sure, the episodes have redundancies; but the unique human stories, interactions and connections make them relatable and watchable.
As I tucked into episode four (told you I was binging), I detected a common thread woven throughout each of the episodes. The Fab Five noted that the weekly heroes were always putting their own needs behind the needs of everyone else in their lives. Put another way: They lacked any semblance of self-care.
The Fab Five repeatedly said that in order for us to do our best for others, we must take care of our own needs FIRST; whatever that looks like for us as individuals.
Maybe it’s taking time out to get a haircut or a manicure; maybe it’s going for a walk for some fresh air, or perhaps it’s taking quiet time to read a good book while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. It might be none of these things, or something else completely. The important thing is that it’s done.
They also emphasized that self care isn’t selfish; and that administering small doses of self-care helps us to feel good about ourselves, and boost our confidence levels. Because when we feel these things about ourselves, we can then do a better job helping others.
As I watched how a little self-care affected the heroes each week, it was like a light went on in my brain. I thought, “I’m sick; I need to take care of myself, not read for ten hours or write blog posts or set up appointments for next week. Instead, I need to practice some self-care.” So that’s what I did.
Rather than buzzing around trying to accomplish things I was in no shape to accomplish, I stayed warm, curled up in bed, surrounded by a hot water bottle, warm blankets and pillows and lazily watching TV. In that moment when I chose to care of my future (re: not sick) self, I discovered what self-care truly means to–and for–me. It’s doing whatever I need to do for me, in order that my future self can serve others to the best of my ability.
Now that I’m all better, I have to think about what my self-care looks like from here. It probably won’t include spa treatments or pedicures or other such acts of pampering, but rather activities that make me feel good about myself and boost my confidence.
Things like: Better daily grooming, more relaxing hot tub time, keeping my home (and car) tidy, making time to read books, commit to regular exercise, and of course, lots of cooking for the people I love. Beyond that, I’ll let the rest unfold organically.
The only stipulation I’m putting in for myself is that each “act” must have some kind of payoff for future me. A payoff like helping a friend, helping a stranger, making my son proud to be MY son, making my girlfriend extra happy to be MY girlfriend, or ensuring a less chaotic life tomorrow by taking care of myself today. This definition works for me.
How about you? How do you define self-care? Before you answer, please give some thought to this:
It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone. The pandemic has stripped us of many of our regular routines and creature comforts. It’s separated us from our loved ones. So yes, it’s understandable if we to want to hide under the covers with a tub of fudge ripple and wait for the whole thing to be over. But from what I’ve seen, there’s a better way to live, and be happy – It’s called self-care.
It’s taking time to do something nice and rewarding and special for US, each and every day. Not only do We (you) deserve it, but doing so helps us to present our best self to ourselves – both in the mirror, and in the world at large.
Practicing self-care shows that we put our emotional and physical and mental heath needs first; and because we do this, it lets the people we love (and those who rely on us) that if they need us, we’ll be there for them. If for no other reason, for me this is the best reason to practice daily self-care.
It’s an expression of absolute love, for everyone involved.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 100,000 times, and his first book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca. and this post is from it.
David lives in Victoria B.C. where he spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia, or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.