Self-Care Takes Time
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
For most of my adult life, I was an 80-hour per week management consultant, wife and mother of two school-age children. And for most of that time, the notion of “self-care” was incomprehensible to me. I lived my life exclusively in service of others. By contrast, many leadership scholars talk about the concept of self-care and its importance in being an effective leader.
What did I know about self-care? Whether at home or at work, I have devoted myself to my clients and my family. Time for me? What a notion! Outrageous! Time for friends outside of work…minimal. For years, the ultimate luxury was Saturday night dinner at home with our children. Some Saturdays, we invited family or friends to join us. Time for me…? "Me time" existed only on trains and airplanes. Quiet time, after everyone had gone to bed, existed only between 11:30pm and 1:00am. I would read at night, however, it was usually 15 minutes or less, and then sleep.
In my post-80-hour-work-week life, I have a new outlook and several realizations. The biggest of these realizations is “self-care”, in its many forms, is essential and takes time. More striking than this realization for me is that I never before considered this concept in my day-to-day life. Never. I continue to be amazed that to prepare a delicious meal, get my home organized, get my body into shape or to finish reading books, takes time. Quiet time. I’m still getting used to the idea, and I really like the results when I invest time in myself.
Somewhere in my belief system, I had been socialized to think that activities focused on my own relaxation and enjoyment were “selfish” and should always be subsumed to work and taking care of my family. However, self-care, i.e., taking care of ourselves, is essential to our ability to be there for everyone else. Ideally now, I start and end each day with self-care. Self-care is now at the top of my “to do” list. I don’t begin helping others until I’ve done something for me. Self-care can be as simple as eating breakfast, taking a walk, showering, or making my bed. These small acts of kindness to myself might have sounded silly before the pandemic, yet now, these simple actions have become profound gifts I give to myself each and every day. As the flight attendant announces at the start of our flight, “Before helping others, put your mask on first”.