Self-care is a very important part of a great life. I’m talking about caring for yourself in a healthy way. I’m not talking self-indulgence, I’m talking the basics: getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, getting some exercise, and having some joy in your life.
I thought it was hard to take good care of myself when I was in medical school and residency, and as a full-time doctor with a husband and stepchildren. Then I had a baby of my own. Seriously, who knew a 5 lb infant could interfere with my dental hygiene habits for so long? Nothing stopped me from brushing and flossing twice a day—not codes in the ICU, not being on call from Friday through Monday, not even spending the weekend on the labor and delivery floor, delivering other people’s babies—but having my son instantly messed with my self-care.
Now that he’s 3, my son no longer requires my attention the way he did in his first year of life. But emotionally, I’m still as in tune with him as I was when he needed feedings every 3 to 4 hours. That’s why my self-care routine remains as spotty as it did back then.
Last week, I decided to make some changes. I knew I needed to get back to a good routine of self-care. For me, other than eating and sleeping, that means exercising and writing as often as possible. So I set my alarm for 4:30 AM last Monday and got up and went to the Y. My preferred exercise routine is running or swimming out in nature, but both seemed a little risky at 5 AM, so I decided to try the gym. I stair-stepped, rowed, and biked until 6 AM, when I headed back home so my husband could leave for work.
Tuesday morning I set the alarm for 4:30 again. I wanted to go to a 5:15 yoga class at the Y but I decide to use the time to write. That hour to myself writing was a wonderful gift.
Are you wondering yet what the hell time I went to bed? I thought so. The short answer is—not early enough. All week I felt jet-lagged, but I kept telling myself I would get used to the new hours. And I kept intending to go to bed earlier. Didn’t happen.
The result? This week I have the worst cold I have had in 10 years.
What I learned: Getting up at 4:30 AM to exercise or write (both things which feed my soul) is only self-care if you adjust your schedule at the other end of the day. Since going to bed at 8:30 PM is apparently impossible for me right now, then self-care means NOT getting up at 4:30 AM any more.
Phew. That feels better.
I think I’ll try something a little less drastic. Like jumping rope in my garage while my son naps. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
What does self-care really mean to you?