Pick up the dry cleaning, sign the permission slip, check into the new mentoring program, study for the exam, figure out what to cook for dinner, get application in before the deadline…And the list goes on. How often do you find your mind racing with thoughts of all of the things you ‘must’ accomplish for yourself and others? How much of your energy goes toward doing for others and putting yourself on the back burner? When’s the last time you did something for yourself – besides the obligatory things?
Research shows that women are still doing more at home or work than men and women are more likely to be caregivers for elderly and/or ill parents. Despite always having the highest levels of labor market participation, Black women are still more likely to be paid less and more likely excluded from or discriminated against when seeking careers in professional fields. And these encompass just some of the stressors we face on a daily basis. What’s more is that in the midst of all of this, we are more likely to deny ourselves for the good of others based on how we’ve been socialized.
It probably comes as no surprise then that we have a hard time expressing our feelings and needs or even just taking time to check in with ourselves. Some of us will avoid checking in with ourselves as much as humanly possible because we fear ‘falling apart’. Others prefer to be numb and don’t quite understand the point of feeling emotions because ‘it won’t change anything’.
Whatever the choice, one thing is true: It takes a toll on our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies when we’ve made the decision to disconnect, ignore or avoid our complete selves. Chronic illness and disease is largely connected to our mental health. When we’ve made the decision to live on the logical, rationalizing thinking part of our brain, we miss out on so much.
Don’t believe me? Ok, here’s a small exercise to help you curiously observe what’s happening in your physical body:
- If you were brave enough to complete even just a couple of minutes of the body scan, what came up for you?
- What did you observe happening in your body, with your thoughts and your feelings?
- What did you find yourself telling yourself AND what do the words that were chosen tell you about your relationship with yourself? With others?
- What do you find yourself needing right now?
- Are you willing to submit yourself to your own needs?
Ok, that was a lot. But maybe you realized some things during this exercise that motivated and inspired you to do more to care for yourself. After all, self care is not exclusive to manicures, pedicures and facials – those things are great too, no shade – it’s also committing to doing hard things for yourself in the service of becoming your best self for you, first, and then others. When we are good with ourselves, we can be even better to other people.
Need more ways to check in with and care for yourself? I got YOU:
Practice saying NO and then Just Do It– Easier said than done but necessary for maintaining the space we need for rest. Ways to say no:
- I won’t be able to make it, I have other plans – maybe next time.
- Right now, I’m only able to consider paid opportunities, my pro-Bono spots are filled for the year.
Exercise – I know, you’ve heard it before. This time, think about things that you enjoy – tennis, swimming, walking and talking with a friend, bike riding – and commit a couple of days a week to doing it. The best exercise is the exercise you WILL do.
Schedule intentional downtime – Yeah, I said it. Stop filling up your calendar. Just because you see a white space does not mean it needs to be filled. It’s ok to be unscheduled and bored. Lean into that, allow your imagination to run wild or get some rest.
Practice asking for help and then DO IT! – You do not have to do everything yourself. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you human and likely gives people the opportunity to show up for you the same way you’ve shown up for them. This part will be hard too – drop the expectation that they *must* help you the way you help them in order for it to count. Drop the unrealistic expectations, only YOU can be YOU, let them be them and show up for you the way they know how.
The one thing about these tips is that they require a self check in. You will know when you need to say no, when you need down time and when to ask for help ONLY AFTER you’ve done a self check. If you’re having a hard time with these processes – implementing self-care or checking in with yourself – it may be time to talk to schedule an appointment.
In the meantime, I leave you with this musical inspiration: