About a year ago, I completed a six-month new graduate nursing residency. It was arduous. I was spending hours in classes each week in addition to working 12 hour shifts on the floor. The workload alone would have been difficult, but in addition to this I was adjusting to a completely new career after having been out of school and the workforce for a year and having a baby at home (of the 50 of us in the program, only 3 people including myself had children).
During this residency, we had several meditation workshops and "debriefing" pow-wows and cushy feelings talks to help us get through this program. The words I heard like a mantra was "self care." It was the answer to every problem, every hangup. "You need to take better care of yourself." Those words made me want to scream. When did they think I was going to take care of myself, between classes, work, taking care of my home and family? "Go to the spa, get your nails done, spend a day at the beach." I wanted to raise my hand and say, "You're kidding, right?" And I don't think I'm the only one. Whether you're at home around the clock, subject to the demands of little people, working a demanding job, or filling some combination of the two, we all get burned out, and sometimes the prescribed methods of relaxation are not realistic.
The point of this is not to complain about what I am or am not able to do. Even though the constant refrain of "self care" was annoying to me during a time frame when it seemed like yet another task on my towering mountain of obligations, I do think that it is important. I think frequently we praise the woman that sacrifices everything to serve others, forgetting that if we allow ourselves to burnout we are of no use to anybody. I don't believe that every day, but I'm trying to. It's still a struggle for me to move self-care from the to-do list to the place where relaxation lives (a place I am not well acquainted with).
Recently, I had a rare day all to myself. I only had one day off in between work days, and Scott had decided to take Cal to see his family in northern California. As a result, I had one Saturday with and empty house and the freedom to do whatever I wanted. And it was interesting deciding how to spend it. I made a list of all the things that I wanted to do:
:: reading (I need a day for this alone)
:: watching a movie
:: going to bed early
:: doing my nails
I did most of them, surprisingly enough (the baking and writing didn't make the cut), although I wanted to read for about six more hours to be truly satisfied. It was amazing. I don't know when I will have a day like that again, but I hope it happens within the next year, and I wish I could gift a day like this to everyone.
However, I felt a little discouraged a few days later when I was back in the swing of life, Cal was throwing tantrums, and I had two 12 hour shifts heading in front of me without the laundry or the grocery shopping done. I was feeling burnout but self-care wasn't an option. I was frustrated -- I'd had my day of "self care" and already I was feeling drained again. Then I had a little lightbulb moment -- I don't have to spend an entire day doing these activities to be rejuvenated. If I can consciously choose even just one to do for a few minutes every day, maybe my tank could stay full enough to keep me going. So often I fall into the vortex of mindless internet surfing or eating mass quantities of goldfish crackers/chocolate/handfuls of brown sugar (emergencies only, I promise!) when really, maybe I just need to untangle a Bach fugue at the piano or read something other than Huffington Post Parenting articles. And while I certainly wouldn't say no to a massage at a beachside resort, I think if I can find a way to incorporate these things daily in small ways, the whole concept of "self care" won't be such a joke to me anymore.
What do you do for "self care"? How do you find the time to incorporate it?