I recently took a stress management class. It was offered through one of the colleges I teach at. According to the stress quiz, I have too much stress. If I’m taking a stress management class, it does seem obvious that I have stress. Mine was higher than I expected. What stood out to me was a brief digression into visualization techniques. Apparently, “visualization” is all the rage in professional sports. Most witches probably use some form of visualization, and even most pagan rituals incorporate some. I’ve used it in my practice, and for a brief time, was using it regularly during some amazing guided meditations. I realized that I have never used visualization outside of my practice. I’ve never done whole visualize your success thing. I’m going to try it.
As today is the daylight savings day – this seems appropriate.
I hear people talk about “personal time” or “self care,” but I don’t see a lot of support for these activities. Personal time or self care are often labeled as lazy or indulgent or a waste of time. As a culture, Americans do not support rest. Consider the 40+ hour work week (and if you’re are lucky, 2 weeks of vacation) compared to most of Europe. While certainly other factors influence the lack of time off, Americans’ attitudes about leisure and rest do not help challenge these working conditions.
As an avid reader, unapologetically, of fiction, I’ve heard my entire life that fiction is a “waste of time” or experienced the hostile/snide “must be nice to have time to waste” attitudes. These are mixed with a hearty side of derision for the practice. The presumption is that only nonfiction has “value.” As I’ve never been clear on how one may rank or rate “value” of books, I’m not sure why nonfiction is perceived as more valuable. I suppose, to some, nonfiction has a veneer of being more “educational” then fiction.
This is much like people who criticize a field of study, say English or philosophy, with comments like “you’ll never get rich with that” or “are you going to open a philosophy shop.” If a field of inquiry doesn’t have a clear path to financial “success,” the field is a waste of time, I guess. Comments like these privilege financial gain as the only indicator of success and value. If I’m not getting paid by the hour to read some breathtaking fantasy novel, the act of reading it gains me nothing….
These arbitrary choices, and they become choices once we can recognize the forces influencing our views, are in part (and I argue in large part) to blame for a lack of self care.
If I schedule the time to read a few chapters of a fantastic space opera, how is that not a positive thing? The relaxation will enable me to return to my other tasks refreshed. The story itself will stretch my thinking, challenge my world view, stimulate my creativity, make me excited about life – I don’t know what the profit margins are on those things, but I know the quality of life benefits are enormous.
When people are busy or overwhelmed, they make more mistakes. Most people are terrible multitaskers. I’m not going to do your homework for you, but don’t just believe me, look up the research on this for yourself. Time for one’s self helps ameliorate the effects of our frantic lifestyles.
This year, one of my goals is to make and take time for myself. I’m scheduling my 1/2 hour of yoga time everyday. I’m taking that hour before bed for reading, or watching a TV show I want to see. I’m saying “no.” – “No, I can’t take another class.” “No, I can’t go to that event (party, club, activity)” – and “No, I don’t owe you an explanation.” I may give you, but I damned well don’t have to, and I don’t care if you think my explanation is “good enough.” Self care is about my needs being met.
This doesn’t mean I get to blow off obligations. I’ve accepted work; thus, I have a professional responsibility to fulfill my obligations. If I commit to going to a party, club, date, whatever then I’ll follow through. Of course in all cases emergencies happen. In those cases, I’ll send my sincerest regrets.
I’m learning to take better care of myself. I’m no longer going putting myself in positions where I’m working a 15+ hour day. I’m no longer only getting 5 hours of sleep.
Part of the circumstances that led me to poly was feeling unvalued and honestly being treated a valueless by a number of people in my life. In most cases, I have removed those people from my life, or significantly cut back on my involvement with them. Part if changing how I feel about myself, necessitates changing how I treat myself and how I allow others to treat me. So if I value myself, I cannot treat myself poorly. I cannot run myself into the ground to make time for everything. I have to prioritize. Sometimes this means I can’t do something I want to do, but it also means I’ll be able to enjoy the things I can do.
This week, I do have one day of work that is a particularly bad day. I start my day at 4:30am and get home around 9pm. I ended up with the schedule in post because I need a minimum number of classes to financially survive – and that’s survive, not have extra. And in part, I let someone else push me about my availability. I could take an earlier class right? When I should have said no, I didn’t.
My self care is a work in progress.
I am getting better at it. I am growing more comfortable saying “no.” I am prioritizing my wants (I want to lots of things, but can’t do all of them). I am following my schedule to keep on track with my responsibilities. I am using the calendar on my phone (and it’s reminder feature) regularly. Every little bit helps.
The most important change I’m making is how I think about myself and my time. I matter. My health and well-being matter. My time matters (and had value beyond my pay rate). I may have to settle for less time dancing on Friday, but that means more quality time (because I’m not exhausted) on Saturday. Whether it’s a date with my boyfriend or my husband, I’d rather be awake and attentive than worn out and feeling awful.
I’m learning to make sacrifices, but those sacrifices pay off in a happier, healthier me.