Self-care is Relationship Care.
I had been working on the concept of self-care with a client and she came in the following week, very proud of herself. “Look, I got a pedicure. See? I am doing my self-care.” Well, yes, that was good for her to take some time for herself, but that wasn’t quite what I meant by self-care. Let me explain it like this, pedicures are to self-care, what Saturday matinees are to parenting. Let me be clear, I love Saturday matinees. They are such a joyful and fun way to have a good time with your kids and feel connected. They are a blast. But they are not exactly parenting.
No, parenting is the hard work in between matinees, the day-in, day-out, the sometimes boring and challenging routines. And, that is what self-care is too.
I was listening to a series by Lebron James about how he trains. He mentioned his physical routine, but this particular series focused on how he trains his mind and cares for himself so he can be his best on the basketball court. For example, he prioritizes 8 hours of sleep and a 1-hour nap and then builds his day around that. He meditates so that he can be fully present in the moment, letting past mistakes and future pressures disappear when he is focused on the shot. That is self-care. He takes this self-care very seriously and takes full responsibility for it. He gets help but doesn’t put that responsibility on anyone else.
And, just like Lebron’s self-care is crucially important to the success of his team, your self-care is vital to your relationship. Not being your best, puts additional strain and burden on your relationship. You have less to put into the relationship, you look to your relationship to give you the things you are not giving yourself, you get resentful, then you have even less to give and so on in a downward spiral. It is my belief, and I have explained it in other, videos that the majority of affairs are related to inadequate self-care.
So how should you take care of yourself? Let’s go back to my parenting analogy. Good parents do what is best for their children, even when it is not easy, even at times when their children hate them for it. Good self-care is like being a good parent to yourself.
It’s saying, “eat your vegetables before you have dessert.”
“That’s enough screen time. Go play outside.”
“Do your homework.”
It’s doing the hard stuff. It’s also doing the gentle stuff. If you are a good parent, or friend or a pet parent, you are kind when your child (or friend, etc.…) is having a hard time. When your child gets cut from the basketball team, you are not telling them what a loser they are and how they should have never tried out in the first place. You are sharing their pain, helping them put it into perspective and helping them regroup for next time. When your puppy shoes up a shoe, you reprimand them, but you are also there to play with them later, you make sure they have other chew toys and you also start putting your shoes away. You help set your kids, your friends, your puppy up for success. And, when you do that for yourself, that is self-care.
Parenting (and self-care) is hard work. Sometimes it looks easy for other people. Some kids are just easier than others, maybe they have easy going natures, maybe they are perfectly healthy or make friends easily. Some kids, maybe yours, are harder. They want to challenge everything you say, they are obstinate, they are sullen, or they have special needs. They just need more. Sometimes you nail it and sometimes you lose your patience, but you still give it your best, parenting as best you can, day in day out, for years on end.
And that’s the way to effectively care for yourself. Some people have it easier. They can eat whatever they want and still look healthy, they can function on 5 hours sleep. They might have more external resources built in, like a supportive family or financial security. Maybe you are one of those people or maybe you are someone who needs more, maybe you are in a difficult personal or financial situation, maybe you struggle with a mood disorder or have a chronic illness. You still need to parent yourself, to the best of your ability, just like you would parent a difficult child.
As a rule of thumb, the 4 key areas of self-care are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
If you don’t know how to start or how to improve, start where you are and look at the basics. Start with the physical. Everyone needs adequate sleep, good nutrition, and physical movement. Start there. See where you are doing ok and see where you have to parent yourself a little more firmly or a little gentler. Then, just do a little better.
Start slowly, this is a marathon, not a sprint. And be gentle with yourself when you F up, because you will.
Next week, I will talk, more specifically about emotional self-care because it’s important, challenging, rewarding, and deserves its own spotlight.
I know that many of you are looking to me for relationships and communication skills. I will get back to that but don’t underestimate self-care. This is an important relationship building block. Lebron has to be at his best to build a championship team. Your relationship, your team can only be as healthy as you are.