“Is it ok to go to Barnes & Noble and look around sometimes?” Brenda, a long-time counseling client, asked rather plaintively. “Or maybe take a long soak in a hot tub? When I do something just for me, it feels wrong. There’s always so many other things I need to be doing.”
“Oh,” I responded, “you must have been raised like me – idleness makes you feel guilty and you’re not quite sure you’re worth some pampering.”
She and I are not the only ones who feel this way, I know; many people struggle to take time for themselves. In fact, in today’s culture, staying extremely busy is praised. If you work overtime, chauffeur your kids around from dawn to dusk and go, go, go 24/7, you’re considered a winner. Our world tells us: “Busy, stressed-out people are the ones who succeed. Go and be like them.”
Of course, this message isn’t new; my parents replayed it as well. The words may have been unspoken, but the principle was clear: “Work hard! Don’t play!” It seemed like my parents worked all the time; I can’t remember their ever taking time for themselves. I recall when they drove all the way from Oklahoma to Colorado to see us, and I was really looking forward to showing them around and just relaxing with mom and dad.
But you know what they did? They brought bushels of apples with them and the next morning they got up bright and early to begin peeling and preparing those apples! They spent their vacation making applesauce and canning apples for me. I couldn’t believe it! But I think it was one way they showed love; and it seems my parents’ work was their play. I used to believe they worked so hard because they lived through the Great Depression, but now I’m beginning to wonder if that core value didn’t come over on the Mayflower! It’s like “The American Way.”
I hasten to add it’s not bad to work hard, and citizens of the US are justifiably proud of our country and its work ethic. However, rigidly adhering to a “work all the time” philosophy makes it hard to rest and relax. And the Bible instructs us to take one day and keep it holy, a Sabbath day of rest. That’s only 24 hours out of 56; yet often we fight to find one hour to break away, to relax, to do something just for us.
Here’s what I told Brenda: “It’s not only ok to take time for yourself; it’s crucial! That doesn’t mean you’re lazy, vegging out on the sofa, eating bon-bon’s or playing computer games all day. No, it’s finding a healthy balance of work and play. That’s Self-Care – simply taking care of yourself. You’ll feel rested and relaxed, ready to do what needs to be done. Go to Barnes & Noble; in fact, start jotting down things you enjoy.”
I’ve made such a list; on it is something I call “pedi-pals.” My friends and I go together to have our feet pumiced and polished; we enjoy a pedicure while we visit. Then we might go to lunch while we’re out! An afternoon with the girls is definitely one way for me to recharge.
Here’s something else to remember: The busier you are, the more you need to schedule a break for yourself. So here’s an assignment: Take a pen and paper or go to the computer and start making a list of activities you enjoy. Think of things to do when the weather is nice, other activities you’ll enjoy when you have to stay indoors, interests and hobbies, people and places you’d like to visit.
Keep the list handy and pull it out when life seems a little crazy, when you have too much on your plate. Pick something you like and voila! You’re on your way to what psychologists call a “healthy self;” you know how to self-soothe.
Join Brenda and me as we prepare for life’s busyness. You’ll be better equipped to face challenges and stresses after you’ve planned for some down-time. You might even schedule time to soak in a hot tub!