IMG_1977Self-care is essential for any care-giver. Vacation is wonderful but it’s usually only a once in a while thing. We all need time to float, by ourselves, on a daily basis. Whether it’s simply time to take a nice long, hot shower, which for the new mother is nothing short of heaven, take a walk or finding respite care for aging parents so that you can take a day to go to a spa or just sleep-in. These are not selfish indulgences. Self-care is essential like food or oxygen.

What it boils down to is giving ourselves permission to be alone to do what is meaningful for us alone, permission to drink from the well by ourselves. Permission to take care of ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us.

Essential time devoted to self-care ultimately allows us to re-connect to ourselves again instead of pulled apart by a million demanding other voices. Those others may not know it at first, when you set the needed boundaries to self-care, but ultimately those we care for, who love us, benefit as well.

Think about what it is you need for your self-care. Whether it’s time to express yourself in a creative way, to just sit free of obligations, read a new book, anything. My call to self-care action was to write regularly again. Writing is that important to me. I needed to write to connect with me again, to be happy. I looked to writing experts like Anne Lamott and Stephen King to guide me. I think the advice they give applies to much more than writing.

1. Find a time, the same time every day for as long as is reasonable.

Self-care deteriorates when I have not protected my designated time from distractions. Lately I’ve invited distractions in. Everyone needs a piece of me always. That’s not the problem at all. I want to be leaned on, needed, asked for. That is my job, not just as a psychologist, but as a mom and wife, too. I’m good with being available, doing for others. But it can’t be all there is.

My time of day to write is morning. I don’t know why. It’s not as if I think morning is a more virtuous time. In fact, I hate people who make you think that there is only one way to do things. They are spirit killers. My time is early morning. Someone else’s may be after the kids go to bed at night. Find your time.

2. Have a space that is protected from as many distractions as you can manage. 

When I researched the best way to start meditating a well-respected expert said you had to find a space that had no other purpose assigned to it. What? How is that ever possible unless you lived in a Tibetan monastery? That eliminates the bedroom, living room, dining room, office, kitchen, bathroom. Basically the entire house!

Thank you Jon Kabat-Zinn. He says that to meditate all you need is a quiet place with as little distraction as possible. And if there is distraction, like a dog barking or a neighbor mowing their lawn, that’s OK. You gently incorporate it into your mediation.The same goes for writing. There is no right or wrong way. There is just what works for you.

While I have a very nice space, my home office, I ungratefully told myself it wasn’t enough. I’ve tried writing all over the house at cafés and parks. I blame all those romantic movies of writers in gorgeous locales like a Paris loft or a Tuscan villa. I had visions of writing on my little patio, surrounded by flowers, a hot cup of coffee at my elbow, the fresh morning air brushing my cheek as I typed away waxing wise.

No good at all. Just getting to my patio is full of obstacles. Literally. Plus I have to wait for my husband to make the coffee. I love him but he makes coffee like he conducts his biochemistry experiments, with patient exactitude. When I get up I want my coffee NOW! Yes, I could make it myself and I’ve done that but his is so much better! I had to let the dog out. Then I had to dress appropriately to be outside. Actually go downstairs. See? And what if it rained? When it was winter? Not good at all.

Back to the original idea, my home office is steps from my bedroom and I can close the door.

The space was fine but needed a little tweaking. At the Stuff-For-Your-Home-And-Beyond Store, shopping for a waste basket, I drooled over a little personal-size Keurig machine. Oooo! They came in different colors! Yellow, red, white, blue! Yesterday I went back and got myself a little blue machine and set it up in my home office right by my desk. No more waiting for my beloved husband for my needed coffee fix!

3. Do it!

Do not wait to get permission from someone else.

This morning at 5:45AM, I woke up, got out of bed (ten minutes later), did my teeth brushing, face splashing thing and walked over to my home office. There I made myself my first cup of coffee (Ah! The smell of dark roast!) opened up my little Air and here I am writing. It’s not brilliant but that’s fine. Baby steps. I’m writing and that makes me happy.

Give yourself permission to find and use a little personal time and space to do whatever is meaningful to you. Close the door. Those on the other side might protest at first, but if you are persistent they will wait for you. Believe it.

Question Mark

Do you have a step to self-care that works for you? Please share your story in the comments. We would love to learn from you.