Guest post by Suzy Glaskie, one of the UK’s first Functional Medicine Certified Health Coaches. She works with individuals, groups, and organisations to empower people to reclaim their health and vitality.
I sometimes get asked what has been the biggest eye-opener for me since I switched career from PR boss to health coach. I think the thing that has absolutely hit me between the eyes is this: there is something terribly wrong in the way that women treat themselves. Not all women. But enough for this to be a marked trend that I think needs talking about.
Now, I’m not saying that many men do not struggle with looking after their own health, but there is something particular to women which seems to make it incredibly hard for them to prioritise or even consider their own wellbeing. While the men in their life put a reinforced barrier around their sacrosanct me-time (whether that be a cycle ride or drink out with their mates), far too many women find it nigh on impossible to grant themselves even half an hour off, let along an evening.
How far is too far?
I talk to an alarming number of women who are driving themselves beyond all normal human capacities to make themselves on-hand to everyone else 24/7. Who think nothing of polishing their teenagers’ shoes every night at midnight while the rest of the family is fast asleep. Serving everyone else a full meal while eating junk standing up by the fridge because it would be a luxury to sit down. Who are already profoundly overburdened but jump to help others, often making themselves into a battered doormat in the process.
Let’s face it: we women are Olympians at caring for others (after all, it’s what we’re hard-wired to do). But when it comes to looking after ourselves…. well, we’re shirkers, aren’t we? We’re drawn to doggedly put everyone else’s wellbeing before our own, no matter what the cost to our own health. (“As long as everyone else is alright, it doesn’t matter about me.” – sound familiar?) So here’s a gentle reminder to women that self-care is not an indulgence; it’s our right as human beings. After all, if our own health fails, how on earth can we look after everyone else?
Going against the grain
I know that this may go against the grain, but our sanity, self-preservation, and self-esteem demand that we fight the impulse to put our own wellbeing to the very bottom of our list. Let’s say it loud and clear: the very best thing you can do for yourself (and others!) is to give yourself permission to prioritise your own self-care.
So, when you’re tired, give yourself permission to put your feet up or go to bed early. If you’re tummy’s growling and telling you that you’re hungry, don’t just ignore it and plow on. Sit down and eat. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or sad or unappreciated, make the time to do something nice for yourself. This could be a hot bath, dancing, going for a solitary walk in nature or taking a pottery class…whatever makes you feel at peace, grounded and fulfilled.
As women, we know how to sacrifice ourselves for our families and go to the ends of the earth to make sure they’re well. But what often hides simmering away under that martyrdom are pervasive feelings of being underappreciated and taken for granted; of feeling desperately overwhelmed and, yes, resentful. That is not a recipe for fulfillment or a model that we should be passing on to the next generation.
How about turning some of that maternal love on ourselves? So, rather than constantly barking “no time to stop, you need to crack on, so much to do” at yourself, how about saying this: “you’ve been working so hard, sweetie. Sit down, relax, I’ll make you a cup of tea.”’
The first step is to decide that you are worth it. Yes, you are. If the thought of being kind to yourself seems terrifying and alien, just begin with one little thing. Even if it’s just the simple act of taking a walk by yourself every day. If you don’t even know what looking after yourself might look or feel like, try just closing your eyes and taking a few deep, restorative breaths and recognising how you feel. You might want to consider partnering up with other women – you can boost each other and hold each other accountable for making space in your life for you.
Whatever you opt for, please do take one step today to honour your own worth and wellbeing – even if it’s the tiniest baby step. After all: if not now, then when?
You can follow Suzy’s blog at www.peppermintwellness.co.uk where you can download her free “9 habits of healthy shoppers” guide.