In 2006 I got a dramatic lesson in the importance of self-care. My children were grown with one living nearby and one away at college. I worked long hours at a demanding job, as I had done for my entire career. I was in graduate school too and yet somehow managed to find time for family, friends and social life, along with the routines of chores and household care.
Then my father died suddenly. Soon after, a relationship ended. Next, my stepmother was in a severe car accident. Following all that I promptly developed debilitating back and leg pain. Now, it had been creeping up on me for a while, but I kept putting off dealing with it. Finally it got so bad I had to do something. It turned out to be pretty bad, both the pain and an initial misdiagnosis that lead me to think I might keep getting worse over time.
I had to interrupt my studies for a while, get a second opinion and find professionals who could help me learn what to do to recover. This took time and money and forced me to slow down. If I’d taken time to get help when I first realized my back wasn’t getting better, I probably would never had endured that level of pain and the limitations it forced on me. Happily, learning new ways to take are of myself was more than worth it. I am healthy, active and mostly pain-free.
This experience transformed my attitude toward taking care of myself. I developed a new rule then that I still use. It’s Ten Percent for Me. Whatever energy, time and money I pour out for work, chores, family, and friends, I reserve ten percent for me. In case you’re wondering, I really don’t precisely portion out my time and money so that I spend exactly 10% on myself. Sometimes its more than that, and other times less. But that rule reminds myself that self-care is a priority, as important as work, home, partner, friends, family and community. It keeps me well, it helps prevent burnout, it’s fun and it lets me keep doing all those other things I want to/have to do.
What do you do to make self-care a priority?