A few weeks ago a client came to our wellness center complaining that she did not have enough time in her day since she was so busy at the office and taking care of her family. I asked if she regularly slept well and she quickly replied that sleep was difficult owing to the many worries on her mind when she put her head to the pillow. I asked for examples and received the usual litany of worries plus some information about an ailing sister and a painful disagreement with another sibling. After what felt like ten minutes she finally paused for a breath, at which time I asked, “What have you done for your self lately?”
She began talking of the recent vacation with her husband, fun but tiring. I gently interrupted and asked again, this time more slowly hoping that she would grasp the simplicity of it, “What have you done for your self lately?” The question confused her because she thought she had just answered it. I asked a third time, really emphasizing the “your self” part of it, and she paused in a way that showed she had not thought about her self in years. She almost wept when she understood what I was asking.
The simple truth is that many of us get so caught up in our jobs, families, churches, and friends that we forget about our selves – and do be sure to recognize the difference between the one-word and two-word versions. We are so consumed by doing things for others that we forget about the joys of doing something just for the sheer pleasure of it.
This client mentioned a desire to knit, as her mother had taught her, but shrugged at the fact that she had found the time or other people who shared her passion. She gave up on knitting and buried that pleasure under the shovelfuls of family activities. While there are definite advantages to finding pleasing activities with one’s families, she had other interests that they didn’t share, and she even felt guilty for thinking about doing something for herself. She was not discriminating between the one and two-word versions! This situation arises often with working mothers who give selfless devotion to motherhood only to sacrifice the passions which define them as a person.
If you have found that you are slowly losing your self in activities focused on others’ interests, stop and realize that you too are an individual with the same right to have as much fun as anyone else. Take some time to focus on your self: make a list of healthy, fun activities that you once enjoyed before getting married, becoming a parent, or getting a “real” job. If you can’t remember those activities, or you feel they are no longer an option, explore new interests. You might enjoy kayaking, rock climbing, or fishing. If you are more introverted, you might prefer mediation, sculpting, painting, knitting, or playing a musical instrument.
Once you’ve identified some interests, figure the costs. Remove from your list any activities that stretch you too far financially or that require too much time, and then make a pact with yourself to take the time for your self. Be honor-bound to stick to your new schedule, and you will find that this sacred time for your self gives you greater energy, flushes out any unresolved, negative thoughts, and gives you that needed break to help you feel happy and healthy.
So go ahead, be a bit self-ish. It can be quite healthy mentally and physically!