Practice what you preach—I’ve grown up being instilled this in all that I do. But I’ll admit, I’m not perfect and one of my weaknesses has always been finding time to take care of myself. I talk about it all the time at BCCA to the patients we work with, as well as their support teams. When going through breast cancer, you must put yourself first and have self-care.
But this message is not just for breast cancer patients.
As much as I know the importance and value of self-care in one’s life, it’s a tough one for me to follow. I’m a giver/helper/leader by nature—I’d prefer to give a gift to someone any day over receiving one; I’d rather be sure that someone else’s needs are cared for before I get to my own desires, and I love doing random acts of kindness anonymously…that’s just who I am. But sometimes, it comes at a cost.
Since becoming a mom in November, one of the greatest gifts my daughter has taught me has been to set my priorities. People who know me well, know that I’m always the first one to say ‘yes’ —this could be sitting on a board for a local organization; lending a hand at my church, leading a group of volunteers to go serve children on the weekends through Junior League or something as simple as offering to host a dinner party at our house. It’s in my blood to say yes when it comes to helping others.
But since our little lady arrived, I’ve had to prioritize what I can say yes to so that I can be a good wife, mother and leader at work…I’ve had to learn that thing called BALANCE…(say it with me mamas: BALANCE!) And in order for me to find balance and be good at serving others, I MUST take care of myself too.
So what are the top three reasons to put yourself first that I’ve recently learned?
1. You are better at helping others when you have taken time for yourself.
2. You are more efficient at doing the tasks at hand.
3. You exude more peace and balance to those around you.
A personal turning point for me was weeks into being a new mom. I hadn’t taken any formal maternity leave and was back working literally hours after giving birth in the hospital—type-A, go-getter Erica! After a few weeks of working from home with our daughter, I had only added more to my plate: sleepless nights, constant feedings, refused to let myself skip a beat at work, prided myself in keeping our house/family in order, continued to volunteer in every group I had participated in with a 2-week old in tow…I didn’t say no. Well, you guessed it, I had a breaking point; I had to swallow my pride that I wasn’t the Superwoman I thought I could be.
So what did I do to get things back on track?
I started (politely) saying no to being involved with everything, which isn’t easy for any of us Type-A gals out there…and started saying yes to taking just 30 minutes of every day for myself. I used to do this pre-baby, but had stopped doing it once she was born as I thought I needed to use that morning time to prep bottles, clean the house and get a head start on work for the day. I gave myself a challenge for one week: I would prioritize the first 30 minutes of my day as ‘me-time’: a cup of coffee, my daily devotional and a walk with our dog. Literally within days of doing this, people around me commented about how much happier I seemed; that motherhood was fitting me well and were asking me what I had started doing as of late as I seemed like a new person. WHOA!
I challenge you to do the same: take a look at your plate. Do you have ‘me-time’ built into it? Even if it’s 15-20 minutes, what are you doing every day to make yourself a better person? Maybe it’s a bath every night, maybe it’s working out, or it’s playing piano, or doing your favorite craft/hobby…something that is for you. Do it for one week and see how you feel. I’m certain that putting yourself first will become a higher priority and you will become a better person to those around you.