Why does it seem that at times when we most need to take care of ourselves, we let self-care go right out the window? Or maybe that's just me. That's what I did in my life pre-cancer. I'd get so wrapped up in life and work and the stress of both that I'd totally forget to take care of myself.
And that's the worst possible time for us to neglect ourselves, isn't it? When we're involved in a stressful situation or working under a deadline.
I'm sure you've all done it too. Rescheduled doctor and dental appointments because you were too busy. Ignored little aches and pains rather than going to the chiropractor or, heaven forbid, getting a massage. Eating something quick on the run rather than sitting down and eating something healthy, or skipping meals altogether. Using coffee to keep you powered up throughout the day rather than making sure you got a good night's sleep the night before. Postponing that vacation, or that dinner with an old friend. Staying inside all day. Sitting for hours at a computer without walking around, stretching, or even going to the bathroom until your bladder is screaming.
Once I recovered from cancer surgery, I knew I had five to six months of chemotherapy ahead of me. I was fortunate enough to be able to take medical leave from my job; and my primary focus became taking care of myself and my newborn daughter. So, aside from managing the side effects of treatment, how did I take care of myself?
I started eating healthier, and taking the time to make healthy choices rather than decisions out of convenience or time restraints.
I began taking vitamins and herbal supplements, paying attention to my digestion, thyroid, immune system, bones, circulatory system and organs.
I kept in regular touch with my primary care physician, reporting any changes or symptoms in my body.
I became more mindful, paying more attention to my mental health. I started setting aside quiet time for meditation and reflection.
I read more books for pleasure.
I tried to practice deep abdominal breathing several times during the day, whenever I thought of it. (Like right now. Go ahead ... try it.)
I scheduled regular massages, for lymphatic drainage as well as to sooth my achy joints and stretch my atrophied muscles.
I went to bed earlier, savored sleep whenever I could get it. Kept devices out of the bedroom.
Rather than a rushed shower in the morning, I took bubble baths after our daughter was down for the night.
I started drinking more water, and largely replaced coffee with green tea.
I enlisted the help of a Pilates instructor and had her give me private lessons to get me in good enough shape to join group classes.
I spent more time with friends, became more social.
I started writing more.
I became more grateful, thanking the universe every day for all that I have been given.
And I'm still doing all of these things, for the most part.
It has occurred to me more than once that I'm doing the things for myself that I should have been doing all along. I did not have to get sick to make self-care a priority, but that's basically what happened.
What is a better investment than one's self? Because if we fail to do that, none of the rest of it really matters, does it?
My hope is that if I'm given a second chance at life, I don't ever again become complacent.
Every day that I have here is a gift, and I want to make the most of it.
What about you?
Image via Mark Montgomery