Self-care is NOT Selfish

Before you dive into these words, take a look at this image.

Look at the water, replenishing this beautiful, living, growing, life-giving plant.

Is the plant selfish for being watered?

I think not!

Selfish is a word that is loaded with a ton of shame, at least for me.  And that, in turn, can add stress to an already difficult time we are all facing during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Do any of these resonate for you?

  • You need to take care of everyone else first.
  • Get all your work done, and then, maybe you can play.
  • You’re not allowed to rest until you collapse in exhaustion or sickness.
  • Taking care of yourself first brings shame.
  • Saying no is selfish.
  • When you do try to do something for you, your family seeks you out like a fierce game of hide and seek!
  • When you manage to sneak away, even to the bathroom for a luxurious solitary pee, or even bath, you feel reenergized, yet slightly guilty.

Here’s the truth:

(aka what I’ve learned in all of my training, research, and the school of life!)

You’re no good to anyone if you’re exhausted, sick, fried, resentful. 

Repeat after me: I am not my best self when I play the martyr.

Your loved ones deserve your mentally and physically healthy, refreshed self, and if you don’t put your own oxygen mask on first, you’re heading down a slippery slope without a helmet! And then, who’s going to be the superhero in your family?

Trust me. I was trained to care for others first. From a very early age I felt it was my job to be sure others were happy and not in conflict.

It’s not served me well. Autoimmune illness, check. Crash and burn, check. Shame spirals that overcome me at times, check. 

At 55, I am learning that caring for me is not selfish, it’s essential. I hope you learn this sooner, and have some extra bonus years of joy!

What will you do today for YOU? 

It can be as simple as finding a quiet place to drink your coffee and savor the birdsong, waking gently before diving into your to-do list! 

It can be a short mindful breathing practice, or maybe even a loving kindness meditation!

It can be treating your body with some gentle stretching and movement.

It can be slathering on some beautiful fragrant (safer skin care of course!0 lotion

It can be baking something that makes the house smell like your favorite holiday. 

It’s really up to you!

Let me know your thoughts on this concept of self-care/selfish?  And let me know what you will commit to today, even if it’s something that takes under 5 minutes! 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Start an Appreciation Journal

The concept of collecting and savoring messages from students and parents over the years is not new to me. I keep handwritten notes and cards in a box that I occasionally stumble upon when I am looking for something else. 

Instead of this random walk of discovery, I am going to take the advice of Forest Fein, meditation instructor, and create an Appreciation Journal. I will use a simple Google doc to record the year, the statement that a student said, and the date. I will also take a picture of any cards, photos, handwritten notes and upload them there. 

Why savor appreciation? 

It affirms us and the impact we make on the world.

It helps us through tough times when we feel unappreciated. 

It helps us express gratitude for the work we do.

Why not try it? 

Want More Joy? Use Your Strengths!

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What if I told you that using one of your Signature Character Strengths would add joy to your day? I know, maybe you don’t think you have time for such frivolities, but seriously, when was the last time you and your students had a joyful hour? Why might joy be an objective, you ask? There is research that suggests that mood and affect impact learning, and you can read about how to implement joy in your classroom here.

One of my top strengths, in fact, my very top strength, according to the Via Character Strengths Survey, is creativity. When I think of new ways to do something in the classroom, I am energized and excited, instead of bogged down and overwhelmed.  Last Wednesday, I set out to teach my 5th graders about the VIA 24 character strengths. Instead of standing and talking for 10 minutes, I showed a quick video about the Science of Character, and then randomly assigned students to groups. Their assignment was to teach their 6 strengths to the class, giving a real life example. Creative, not really, but a start. A hand shot up, “Ms.  Young, can we do skits?” Of course, my controlling teacher self imagined all of the chaos that would ensue, yet my creative, playful self was thrilled. “Of course!” I replied, and for the rest of the class period, my 5th graders were abuzz, creating their most clever skits to perform next class.  I realized, in the moment, that I was caught up in the excitement, and shared at the end of class how much I enjoyed their creativity and enthusiasm. I shared how their creativity ignited joy in me, and they left the room smiling and saying: “Wait, our class is over?”  I was thrilled that this upbeat mood stayed with me for the rest of the day, and benefitted all who crossed my path.

Of course, this is only one small example of how using strengths is energizing and inspiring. I challenge you to think back over your past couple weeks, and remember a time in the classroom where you were excited, energized, and your students were as well. As you review the story, think about what strengths may have been in action. Please take a moment to share your experience in the comments below!