I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s important to take care of yourself. You are well aware of it. You’ve heard it a million times. So what is it that stops us? Why is everything else more important than reserving time to take care of ourselves?
For me, there are many reasons. Being a student, there is always something else I should be doing: researching for an essay, reading a textbook, preparing a presentation…and the list goes on. Being a parent, my kids’ needs are always in the foreground: must feed them (even if it’s not the most exciting dinner), dress them, sleep them, play with them…and the list also goes on. To top it all off, those are only two of the many roles I have in life — there is the partner, the daughter, the worker, and the friend. It’s no wonder that carving out time for myself is hard.
But it is necessary. It is crucial. It is absolutely indispensable. If there is one thing I learned in my 3 years of being a parent, it’s that how well I fulfill the role of parent is directly proportional to how good I feel about myself. My longer career as a student (an impressive 20 years or so if I start counting from grade one) has also revealed the same pattern: my academic success, largely measured by my grades, is directly related to how well I am doing, physically and emotionally.
The first step is often figuring out what this elusive “take care of yourself” means. For me, personally, it often doesn’t have to be big or complicated: it’s a cup of tea here, a lingering in the shower there, a dancing by myself in the living room every once in a while. Those things don’t take a huge chunk of time and can be done spontaneously. But there is also the need for more systematic, planned engagement in something that is meaningful for me. And that’s where I usually feel the time crunch: I “simply don’t have enough time” for planned “me time”. And that, of course, is self-deception. Time is always there; it’s only a matter of priorities.
An example: one particular activity that is very meaningful to me is the practice of meditation. But since having kids, I was finding it impossible to reserve half an hour per day to sit in silence, undisturbed. Every time I tried, I’d end up with a child trying to climb me, or a baby breastfeeding. Not ideal.
Then I stumbled across a fourth year seminar course called Cultivating Mindfulness (NEW432, learn about it here). A light bulb went on for me: if I had to engage in meditation as part of an academic course, I’d surely find time for it! I’m 3 months into the course and it has been largely successful. I meditate most days, and most of the time for 30 mins. It’s been amazing and encouraging to see that that time was there all along, I just had to commit to it.
If you, like me, need an extra incentive to do something just for yourself, how about this: the Family Care office can pay for childcare while you attend an extra curricular activity! So go ahead: find yourself a workshop that you’d like to go to and then get the childcare costs covered. Hart House has an inspiring list of fun things you could be doing while your kids are taken care of by your own preferred caregiver!