We’ve all had times when demands on us are heavy, often from multiple directions. Many of us default to accommodating as many demands as possible, and in the process, we forget one very important factor: self-care.
We need to set time aside for taking care of ourselves. This may mean actually writing it into our day planners. If we don’t set time aside for this, our well-being deteriorates rapidly, and all the other commitments we try to uphold get compromised. In short, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone.
There are several key areas involved in self-care, and most of us will overlook at least one of these. The core groups are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Physical needs include chores, like keeping your house clean, and bodily needs, such as exercise and sleeping well. Deterioration on this level affects all other levels.
Emotional needs include socializing, intimacy, venting, and fun activities. If we don’t take time for these things, we become distressed, grumpy, and distracted.
Mental needs include quiet time, planning, and contemplation. This gives us an opportunity to problem-solve and increase our efficiency.
Spiritual needs are related to things that make us feel like our time on earth makes a difference. This can be creativity, meditation, or any number of other activities that give us a sense of accomplishment. Often, this group overlaps with the physical and emotional groups; for example, exercising can bring us a zen state, and playing instruments for fun can also give us a sense of accomplishment. This group is the easiest to neglect, and often the impact isn’t obvious for many years. This is the group that makes us look back on our lives and wonder where all the years went. This is the group that can make us feel deep regret later in life.
If you don’t know anything in your life that fits into this category, that means you need to spend more time in the mental care group; that is, you need to sit and think about what is fulfilling for you. You may need to try out some things you’ve never done before. We almost always have at least a vague idea of what makes us feel like our lives matter.
Some people are lucky enough to be doing work that they love, and it can be very easy to neglect the other levels for this work, but if the other levels are not cared for, this level suffers the most. Our work becomes sloppy, and we can even sabotage our passion for what we do.
So, how does this relate to boundary setting? Well, we often have a large list of external demands for our time, and we will have to say no to some of them in order to meet these needs. It sounds easy enough to say no, but we often experience an internal battle, arguing with ourselves that a particular demand is more important than doing the laundry, or that we can deal with less sleep, or we can skip lunch… We compromise on these things because we are given the sense that the external demand is very dire. In actuality, such dire circumstances are quite rare; more often than not, they are conveyed as being of greater urgency than they are. Sometimes we are given the impression that we are the only ones suited to the task, but if that is actually true, it can wait until we are ready to do it.
For those of us who struggle with saying no, we often feel we have to give reasons why we can’t do something. This isn’t usually true. It’s more often than not sufficient to say we are previously engaged, we have a prior commitment, or we have plans we can’t get out of.
The key is to lock the time in our minds, to know that self-care is a plan we can’t get out of. No one else is going to push us to take time for ourselves, not generally. So we have to be our own advocates, and lay a strong claim to our own time. The end result is that all our endeavours are more fruitful and enjoyable, so there’s no good reason not to — everyone around us benefits from our self-care.