As we fly around our world at a thousand miles an hour, with two thousand balls in the air, wishing we had three thousand hours in a month at our disposal, it is easy to allow our priorities to shift out of alignment.
We enable ourselves to put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, rather than focusing on our own needs first. My mother always told me that in order to take care of someone else, you must take care of yourself.
I have shared this philosophy with other caregivers, but sometimes they resist the idea that their own personal needs have any value. They seem to have tunnel vision and can only see what they need to do for the person they care for. So I have gotten into the habit of asking them the following three questions.
How many times have you sat in an airplane before takeoff, listening to the attendant review the emergency procedures? Do you know why they say that if the oxygen masks drop down, parents should first secure their own mask before their children’s? Do you understand that if a parent is not able to breathe, they cannot help their child?
Hey, breathing is important, right? And so is making sure we are in good physical and mental health, whether we are a parent or a caregiver. Because if we are not in good health, how can we possibly help someone who is not?
Eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising…hey, these are not new concepts. Turn on the radio, put on the television or read online news reports and you will be bombarded with all kinds of information on how to stay physically healthy.
And whether you want to describe it as “downtime” or “me time” or taking a “mental health day” from your work or personal duties…it all means the same thing. That keeping our mental health in good shape is as important as our physical health.
I have developed a few daily habits over the years to keep my mental health in good order. One of which is part of my morning routine. Early in the morning, before the rest of my household is up and about, I make myself a cuppa tea. And because I am an outdoor kinda gal, I take my tea and go sit outside, no matter the weather. Most of my neighborhood has yet to stir, and quiet of the morning is broken only by bird song. It is a peaceful moment, before the chaos of an average day descends upon me.
It is a simple task. It does not take much time outta my day. And it is highly effective.
Now, I am not saying you should go outside every morning at dawn and sit in your backyard in the pouring rain with your beverage of choice. Hey, what works for me may not work for you. All I am saying is set your priorities in a healthy order. Gift yourself the luxury of time to take care of yourself. Because you are a vital part of the picture. And your needs are just as important as the people you care for.