Has anyone else noticed that generally, we are really good at giving other people advice, help, and words of wisdom, but when it comes to doing those same things for ourselves we are so much worse at it? If one of my friends was stressed or struggling through a rough week, I might suggest to them they get out of the house, do something to take their mind off it, maybe do some yoga to relax, or even take a walk outside. But when I am stressed, many times I do the opposite. Sit on my couch and stress eat and just ruminate about whatever I am stressed about. Why don’t we take our own advice more of the time??
I am not a parent but I know many that fall into similar patterns with their children. As a parent you want what is the best for your kid (duh!) so you make sure there is always healthy food on the table, make sure they are getting involved in a bunch of extracurriculars, staying active so they can stay healthy, and getting enough sleep. But you don’t do the same for yourself. While your kids are at school maybe you grab fast food because it is the easiest thing to do or instead of going to the gym in your free time, you decide to sit on the couch and watch TV instead. Or maybe you preach to your kids that they need to be in bed early and get a good night sleep, while you are only getting 4 hours of sleep a night.
I think much of this stems from our nurturing tendencies as women. Or protective tendencies if you are a man. 🙂 You want what is best for everyone else and to make sure everyone else is taken care of and safe. This is ingrained in our brains and obviously is not a bad thing. It is what makes us great friends, husbands, wives, and parents who are able to raise tiny humans from birth and give them great lives.
I have been thinking about these kinds of things a lot lately as I have been trying to focus on my mental health and not only my physical health these past few months. As a PhD student, it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the stress and anxiety of school work, research, writing journal articles, and job hunting and put everything else in my life to the side. A couple months ago I decided I needed to do more things for myself, outside of work that make me happy. I was in a rut mentally and something needed to change. I joined a sand volleyball league, started meditating every night, doing yoga pretty regularly, and even joined a grad student group that meets weekly just to discuss the stress/anxiety of grad school life. I also started this blog. 🙂 I can say I definitely am happier and have a WAY better mindset now that I have been doing more things for myself. These things may not work for you, but if you’re in a rut, or neglecting your physical and/or mental health try just making some small time if your life to do one thing that you are solely doing for YOU. It is easy to get sucked into the thought process of feeling guilty that you are doing things for you and that time is being taken away from your other responsibilities, but YOU are important and that cannot be forgotten.
While you may not always be able to put yourself first in life 100% of the time, you cannot lose sight of yourself either. If you aren’t healthy (physically or mentally) you won’t be able to be there for your friends and family. While work, family, and other obligations may seem to take over your life and take all your time, never forget to take time for yourself. This could just be five minutes a day that you sit in silence and meditate. Or a 15-minute workout like this one that you do before your kids wake up in the morning to get your heart rate up. If you’re struggling through a tough time, try giving yourself the advice you would give one of your friends going through a similar time. And then actually follow that advice! Putting yourself first may seem difficult sometimes, but even doing the tiniest thing, like saying ‘no’ to an extra task someone wants you to take on that you know you do not have time or energy for will make a difference.