I'm a late bloomer. Most of my major accomplishments I achieved much later in life than my peers. Learning selfcare is one of them that I learned on the “Wings of Gratitude.”
I didn’t hear much about selfcare when I was growing up and since embarking on this selfcare journey I’ve discovered that I was not the only one. For far too many women, practicing selfcare has never been a top priority. Unfortunately, gender roles and traditional family dynamics have taught us to put the needs of others over our own and to feel guilty and ashamed when we do not. In other words, society’s norms go against the first law of nature: self preservation.
Contrary to popular belief, selfcare is not a selfish act. It is an investment in long-term well-being and happiness. Here are 5 small change tips I hope will help you put yourself first:
1) MAKE SELFCARE A PRIORITY! It took years for me to let go of the deeply ingrained sense of guilt and shame for prioritizing my needs over others. But now, selfcare is a non-negotiable daily ritual. If you're putting your family, job, church, friends, and anything else first, you’re not practicing selfcare. The key is to choose an activity that enhances your sense of wellbeing and stick to it until it becomes second nature.
2) SET BOUNDARIES AND STICK TO THEM! You can only practice selfcare when you learn to set boundaries. You teach folks how to treat you. By setting boundaries you teach people how to respect you. How many times have you betrayed yourself to avoid betraying someone else? And each time you did it, you felt bad. So why keep doing it? In the beginning, saying no isn't easy but stick to it. Practice kindly saying no. Let people know when they have crossed a boundary, and move on without feeling guilty.
3) DO WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY! We know that the world revolves around relationships, but everyone should find joy in their own company. It's where creativity begins.
Joy is more than a fleeting moment of happiness brought about by a specific event or possessions. It is a profound and lasting feeling that stems from inner peace and fulfillment. Artists, teachers, cooks, surgeons, entertainers, athletes, just toname a few, do what they do for the sheer joy of it. Selfcare doesn't get any better than that.
The top three things that connect me to my inner joy are reading, writing, and crocheting. And you best believe that unless there is a dire emergency, I do all three daily because they make my heart sing. I feel good when I do them. Everybody has something that makes their heart sing, but sadly many of us leave this earth having never made the discovery.
Whether it’s a hobby, a talent, meditation, spending time in nature, laughter, helping others, or something good that resonates with your inner self, make the small change to spend time doing it every day and see how good selfcare makes you feel.
4) NEVER LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH! In ancient times, horses were considered highly valuable assets. When a farmer gifted a friend with a horse, sometimes the recipient would examine the horse's teeth to determine its age, health, and overall value. Of course, this didn't sit well with the farmer. To inspect the horse's teeth to see if it met certain standards was considered impolite and ungrateful, thus leading to the phrase "never look a gift horse in the mouth."
Women are caregivers and nurturers and many of us have a hard time accepting gifts.
"Never look a gift horse in the mouth" is my reminder to receive gifts with grace and gratitude instead of viewing them as charity. How often have you been complimented on something you were wearing and responded, “Oh, this old thing," or “ Oh, this is nothing,” instead of proudly accepting the favorable comment? Or what about when someone offers you help, and you turn it down, fearing that accepting help might be perceived as a weakness?
Whether the gift is material or intangible, let people help you. The gift represents someone's thoughtfulness and goodwill towards you, therefore don't look the gift horse in the mouth. Instead, keep yourself in a position to receive your portion of the the universe's bounty.
5) JOURNAL! I can't say enough about the power of journaling. What began for me as a simple gratitude list over 25 years ago is now a morning ritual. journaling introduced me to myself and connected me to my inner joy. It’s been my bridge over troubled waters. It’s what led me to share my blessons (blessings and lessons) in six books. Journaling helps me appreciate triumph. It helps me quickly identify areas of my life that could use improvement and guides me into making the necessary adjustments before they get out of hand.
A few other health benefits of journaling is that it helps: reduce anxiety and depression; set realistic goals; improve creativity, self-esteem, self-image, mood, relationships, and sleeping habits. Journaling is a small change selfcare practice that only requires a few minutes of your time, a notebook, and a pen and a daily gratitude list is an excellent place to start.
Is practicing selfcare a guarantee that adversities won’t show up? No. Practicing selfcare means you are more likely to handle adversity in ways that are life-enhancing rather than self-defeating. And it means that you no longer have to feel guilty about not measuring up to society’s standards, which weren’t the best in the first place. Here’s the bottom line: healthcare begins with selfcare, and selfcare begins one small change at a time.
Myrtle Russell, The small change Wellness Coach and Creator of the small change Toolkit
Contact me at email@example.com.