I chose me. And the world didn’t come crumbling down (yet).
As a medic you’re taught that the most important person on a scene is yourself. As the rescuer you do not do anyone any good if you eliminate yourself from being able to help. With this in mind, all decisions are made at the following priority:
#1 — Myself
#2 — My medic partner
#3 — The patient(s) we’ve been called to assist
This order makes sense in the classroom and in theory, but in real life it is often a hard choice to make. In the actual moment, it seems easier to protect your partner and patient first, even when it causes risk to your wellbeing.
With this background, it is no surprise that I have trouble taking care of me. A fixer by nature, and one who gravitates towards solving other people’s problems while stuffing my own emotion somewhere deep inside, has led to some pretty poor (or non existent) self care habits.
Caring for others above yourself always is not actually sustainable
Over the past few years I have faced the harsh reality that caring for everyone else and #allthethings instead of my own needs is difficult, draining, and not sustainable.
This seems like an obvious fact, but as I’ve come to terms with it lately I’ve battled with thoughts such as:
- Feeling selfish for taking time to myself
- “Not having time” because I am “so busy”
- Feeling like “so busy” is easier than taking a few moments to look internally, and notice how I was feeling
Alright. I have a problem. Now what?
If you’re self-identifying with any of these statements you may be in the same boat I am — struggling with self care, and not really sure what to do about it. Here is what I am trying:
Pick one thing
To help me ease into taking care of myself, I picked one thing. There were so many handfuls of things that I could do to care more for ME — but I started with one.
I went outside, every day, for a month.
It doesn’t sound like much — but being outside is my happy place. I would love to spend hours wandering in the woods, but even spending 5 minutes standing in my driveway dramatically helped. With outside as a part of my everyday routine, I started to feel more centered, happy, and less stressed.
Perhaps this happy place is somewhere else for you — but find it, and spend time in it.
Take care of your body
Taking care of your body means something different for everyone. Perhaps it means stealing away a guilt-free 10 minute nap to help you through the day, or eating certain foods that make you feel awesome. For me — it is exercise.
Exercise — of any form — is my biggest anxiety and depression defense. Lucky to only have mild problems with each, daily exercise keeps my brain and my body happy.
In my day, I enjoy getting my workout over with before my workday starts. This means early mornings, but it also means a happy mind, and less stress or excuses popping up later in my day to derail my workout plans.
In the end — we only get this one body. Taking the time to care for it boosts every self care rocket.
I scoff as I type this section, as I am still honing my “saying no” skills.
As an introvert, a busy person, a natural avoidance of conflict, and a homebody, it is really easy for me to over schedule my week.
I also often use “being busy” as a defense mechanism — to not deal with feelings, or anything else. Learning to say no has been so powerful in regaining control over Me.
My main problem with saying no in the past was that I felt like I needed a reason — or, I felt like I had had to feel guilty. Truth time:
- You can say no to anything at any time.
- You do not have to have a reason
- You do not have to feel guilty
The first time I said “no thanks” and didn’t provide a reason I was terrified. I didn’t have a reason prepared — I just knew I couldn’t take one more thing on at that moment. There were about 3 seconds of sheer terror and then the person said “Alright no big deal!” and it was over. Whoa.
So — start saying no, to all the little things that gum up your week, that don’t make you happier, but that you say yes to, only out of guilt.
Okay — I’ll stop pretending to know what I’m talking about now
The truth is, caring for me is something I still have to work hard on every single day, but the benefits have been amazing.
I’d love to hear more tips — how do you care for you?
I have the extreme pleasure to share the ups and downs of this journey with some wonderful folks over at Support Driven — an online community for Customer Support Professionals. Right now we are focusing on writing for us, and have put together a fun writing challenge. Feel free to join us — we’d love to have you!