But self-care is actually a requirement for effective living...a "mandate" if you will. None of us, really, can be our best selves for anyone if we are not adequately caring for ourselves. We have no questions or doubt when the airlines tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first before trying to help others in the event of a loss in cabin pressure. An unconscious passenger is of no use to anyone in an emergency! So it is for all of us in life.
I teach a leadership program in which we demonstrate that the bottom line is directly tied to the effectiveness of the leader, which is also directly tied to the leader's health and wellbeing. So in a work-place setting, the business case can easily be made for the necessity of the leader prioritizing herself. Why is is so different in our home-place settings?
Perhaps an interesting study could be conducted to identify the ROI of mom's self-care. What if we could put a dollar value on the effects of a mother who runs herself into the ground versus one who prioritizes self-care? What would improve? I can identify a few options that are ripe for evaluation. 1. Clearly the healthcare costs for the entire family could be measured. 2. Budgeting could also be an interesting point of measurement- meals (takeout vs. home cooked), retail therapy (as self-soothing technique), cost-consciousness (having the patience and space to be thoughtful about purchases). 3. And lost work days for those who work outside the home too.
But even without a scientifically-validated study, we moms can tell when we've been burning the candle at both ends.. and even in the middle. We stress out more easily. We snap more quickly. And then we can totally burn out.
Here are a few symptoms of chronic stress to keep an eye out for, signals that your body is sending you, urgent messages, warning lights. They usually mean breakdown is on the horizon, because we are not built for the long-term marathons of stress we are oh so often running in.
- Chronic pain (My back hurts. My head hurts. My stomach hurts. My everything hurts.)
- Heart issues (I’m having a heart attack!)
- GI issues (Can you say ulcers? Or constant nausea? Or elimination issues we won’t detail here?)
- Low sex drive (Not tonight dear- or maybe not ever)
- Sleep disorders (I can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, can’t stop sleeping.)
- Depression (It’s all too much. I just can’t. I give up. What’s the point?)
- Anxiety (Everything is going to go wrong. We’re all doomed.)
- Compulsive consumption (Must buy ALL the shoes. Must eat all the ice cream. And the chocolate.)
Three days isn't really enough to counter a lifetime of self-neglect. But it's a positive start, a first baby-step. And hopefully it will provide the space to learn the whys and the hows of re-connecting with what's important.
So... Really this weekend is a personal endeavor for me as well. It's been too long since I've taken this kind of time for myself. I need this as much as do the beautiful friends who are joining me.