Holiday Stress Series: Prioritize Self-Care
Happy holidays!! It’s almost Christmas and the last day of Hanukkah. ‘Tis the season to be with family and reflect. That alone may be adding stress to the already busy holiday season. This is the fifth post in my six-part series on managing stress during the holidays and I get personal in this one. If you’re just joining me, go back and check out why I’m focusing on stress—read why it’s toxic to your health and several ways to manage it in my previous posts.
Today’s topic is near and dear to my heart because I had to learn this lesson the hard way. The very hard way! I was a typical over-achiever mom trying to be everything to everyone. I wanted to cook interesting, super healthy, practically gourmet food for my family. I wanted to volunteer in my children’s classrooms and be active in the PTA. I wanted to have a nice home and yard and be available to help with homework, shuttling kids here and there, to pay the bills on time and plan family outings that would create memories. And I did ALL OF THAT. I was a rock star. I even had a part-time graphic design business and then successfully switched careers to health coaching with clients and money. I juggled all of that until I didn’t.
A little over four years ago, I was diagnosed out of the blue with back-to-back aggressive cancers when I was otherwise perfectly healthy. I was blindsided. Could not believe it. But, as I know you know, when you are diagnosed with something serious, there is barely time to think. So many doctor appointments and information and decisions to be made. I dropped all the other balls and focused on one: my health.
The thing is, even though I was successfully juggling all of those balls, wearing all of those hats, it was stressful. I didn’t have down time. I was going, going, going from the moment I made the kids a healthy hot breakfast and got them off to school to the minute my head hit the pillow at night. I was taking care of everyone but myself. It wasn’t until I was forced to take care of myself that I realized that my health has got to be my top priority. Yes, my kids and family are a high priority, but I can’t help them much (and this was painfully obvious from my hospital room) if I am sick.
In my talks with other cancer survivors, I hear them share similar stories as mine. Mothers in particular feel the need to put their family’s needs before their own. And I get that. I think we are wired that way. But as they say, you can’t get water from an empty well. You cannot give if you don’t first give to yourself.
So how do you give to yourself?
First, you need to look at the reasons that you aren’t. Is it because you don’t have support at home? Maybe you haven’t asked for time for yourself (this was my reason)? Self-sacrifice and martyrdom is sometimes easier than standing up for your needs and making requests.
Is it because it’s easier to do things yourself than have to deal with others not doing things the right way or up to your standards (this was also mine)? Let me tell you one thing, perfection is overrated. It is not worth it. I strove for perfection and made my family miserable by them and me never being good enough, not ever measuring up. Even if it’s something as simple as how they load the dishwasher. So not important in the grand scheme of things! You may have had this awakening yourself—cancer and any life threatening experience has a way of setting your priorities straight.
Ultimately, whatever is stopping you from putting yourself first, examine that and then put it aside. Stand up for yourself and acknowledge that you are important. Your health is important. People count on you and love you and you need to be healthy to make a difference in their lives.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is anything that feeds your body and soul. It could be exercising (stress reducing and health promoting), it could be creative like a painting or ceramics class, it could be social like having a night out with your best friend. It could be crafty like a project for the home, it could be a weekend or day-trip getaway to a town you’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe it’s an indulgence that you rarely treat yourself to like getting a massage, manicure or spa treatment. It could just be a cup of coffee in a cool café people-watching all by yourself (one of my favorite past-times).
The important thing is to plan it, schedule it, get the help you need to make it happen. And then go and do it. You will come back renewed, filled up and able to give again. And on a physical level, your stress hormones will have returned to normal levels giving your immune system a break, allowing it to fight off any important health concerns you may have in your body.
Let me know in the comments below what you will do for self-care this week! Happy holidays to you and yours.