When I speak, I make it a point to try and engage my audience. Often I will ask questions that elicit strong emotions to get people up and talking. One of the questions I regularly use is, "What is the most important thing in your life?" As you can imagine, I receive a wide variety of responses; my spouse, my children, my family, God, my work, my friends and the list goes on. Depending on the path the individual is walking and the stage of that journey, the answers vary. Despite the difference in the answers there is a consistency; the answer always revolved around a meaningful relationship.
If you look at the list above, the answer work might not seem like it is about relationships. When the answer "my work" presents, I usually ask the person to tell me more about that. When the person explains their answer, it is about the difference that individual is making for other people through their work where we find that connection.
Relationships are very important. In fact, my personal answers would also revolve around the important relationships in my life. But when I am presenting I ask this question intentionally to help assist me in making a point. Today I will discuss this point with you.
I ask the people if they do not take care of themselves; physically, emotionally, psychology - how available they would be for those important relationships. I usually use a semi-aggressive statement such as if you operate at a continued elevated stress level and end up having a heart attack - how well will you be able to care for your family. People start processing the concept. There is usually a thoughtful silence that follows.
We are taught to give and give of ourselves to others. There is nobility in this practice. It is is good habit that will have fulfilling rewards. An important part that we often fail to recognize is that the giving to others must coupled with a certain amount of giving to ourselves. This is about investing time and effort in the important habit of self-care. Healthy eating, exercise, stress management, mindfulness and authenticity are important parts of life. These are the things that provide wellness for your body mind and spirit. The hard truth is if we do not take care of ourselves, we will not be fully about to give our best effort to others, no matter what our intention.
If you are a person who is constantly ignoring your own needs to take care of the needs of others, please take some time to consider your habits. You must take care of you. If you do not, eventually you will suffer the consequences. These consequences can present as unmanageable stress levels that detract from your quality of life, serious medical issues or a myriad of other destructive occurrences.
As a mom, it took me a very long time to learn it was OK to take my boys to the childcare facility at my local gym and get my workout in. For so long, I thought it was selfish to put my needs over spending time with them. As I got older, I realized exercise was the key to stress management for me. If I skip the gym for too long, I am irritable and exhausted at home. This is not how I want to be present for my family. When I go to the gym I feel happy and energized. My time with my children is greatly enhanced when I take time to care for myself.
If you care about the important people in your life, one of the best ways to prove it is by investing in self-care. When you are taking care of yourself, you are better able to give to others. Get past your guilt and start making yourself a priority. Your life and your relationships will benefit from the effort.