Ladies, before you can help others help yourself first, says Pritha Banerjee
If you are like most of the women, you spend your day doing things for everyone else. Apart from your work, you are either taking care of your spouse or children, or aging parents. You are always forgetting the gym membership that you did not have the time to use or the healthy diet you could never follow. You are always the designated go-to person for everything. The one they always ask to take on the extra work or manage the project. And it’s so hard to say no, isn’t it?
Sometimes say, ‘No’
Most women have a difficult time saying no. Maybe because they think someone’s feelings may be at stake or they will not be liked by others. “In India, women are not encouraged to say no. This can lead to them taking a number of additional responsibilities which eats into their self-care time,” observes Anna Chandy, a Transactional Analysis Practitioner and Chairperson, The Live Love Laugh Foundation. And that leaves them most of the time feeling exhausted, tired, achy, brain fogged, anxious, and stressed. However, difficulty in saying no is not some immutable gene or biological defect in women. Rather, it is a socially learned coping mechanism that can, with a little time and attention, be unlearned.
Overwork can make women become resentful and this impacts their health as well as the well-being of the family. “Feeling guilty about taking time out for self-care is a common thought among young women in particular. However, it is crucial to understand that regular self-care will only help an individual perform each of their roles better, and will positively impact their lives,” adds Anna.
Put yourself on the ‘To-Do’ list
You are always promising yourself to make some time for exercise or more sleep, try out some new recipe or learn how to meditate. It is difficult to take that time out for yourself and for working mothers it is even more difficult as you are always switching roles from work to home. “I usually take a small stroll listening to music or chit-chat with my son and we hear each other out. Also a nice bath/steam and reading with soft music in the background or alternatively spending some time hearing my pet out, cuddling and loving him works fine as part of de-stressing activities,” admits advocate Anju Katoch, a senior lawyer, Techno Legal Head, M Tech Llm.
Some suggest taking a day off from your daily chores and doing whatever you feel like doing that day. Wake up and then go right back to bed. Watch a ‘Desperate Housewives’ marathon or spend an embarrassing amount of time on social media. “Usually I like to cook something interesting for dinner and keep innovating with healthy food options be it beetroot burgers, or pesto wheat pasta, or quinoa with vegetables, or barley, or chia pudding or hummus pita or udon miso,” says Megha Balani, Director – Strategy and Development, Global Music Institute. She is a working mother with an 18-month-old daughter.
It’s you first
If you have ever been on an air-plane, you might have noticed that the most important instruction in safety speech is that if the oxygen mask falls from the overhead compartment, you are to put it over your face first before you can help anyone else. The purpose of that instruction is because you can’t help your children or others if you haven’t filled up your lungs with life-giving oxygen first. Same is the case in daily life.
You are not just a mom, even though it is the most incredibly important job. It is not all that defines you. Before you were a mother, you were a woman with goals, hopes, and dreams. While those roles may have fallen away with time, they are no less a part of who you are now. It helped you to mould into the person you are now.
Anna feels, “It is important to take the effort to set aside some free time for yourself, and indulge in a few self-care activities. You can also use this time to rediscover yourself. It can have an incredibly positive impact on both your physical and mental health.”
It’s only an excuse that you don’t have a quiet spot in-house to meditate. You can try ‘mindful meditation’, a simple practice of moment-to-moment awareness to calm the body and quiet the mind. For instance, the simple awareness of noticing the crunch and vibrant colour of the carrots and peppers when you are cutting vegetables for dinner, or the rhythm of your footfall while you are out on a walk.
“Once you take some time off for yourself, you are then able to actually maximise your potential in the various roles you play and also become role models for your children. Ensuring that one participates in self-care activities allows their children to learn about the importance of acknowledging and taking care of their own needs,” insists Anna.
Take a solo trip
It might be guilt-inducing for a mother to travel alone while leaving her children back at home. But time and again it is also important to take time for ourselves, just like you can’t fill a glass from an empty cup. It extends to travelling too. It’s okay to have guilt because it means you care. But also learn from it. “Solo trips help in finding ‘me’ time. I don’t think we realise how much of pent-up thoughts and emotions we accumulate on a day-to-day basis. ‘Me’ time allows us to de-clutter our mind and create some headspace,” explains Raagaleena Sripada, Senior Marketing Manager, Big Basket.
“While people believe that solo trips help detach from their daily routine and give themselves individual personal time, it actually helps you find time for yourself in your regular schedule. Ensuring that you set aside time for yourself in your day-to-day routines with de-stressing and self-care activities can help you function best in each of your roles,” says Anna.
It is to rejuvenate yourself because there comes this breakdown point in everyone’s life. These trips help to freshen up, gear up prior to that threshold level being reached in our minds and body. “It has always been important to take time off for me, sometimes it’s with friends or clubbed with work outstations. My mom’s house is the best rejuvenation centre and is the best place to recapture my energy,” confess Anju.
“I have declared to all my family members this ‘my moment’ once every six months and I give my best for the rest of the days to earn these moments. And they see me freshened and peaceful after the solo trips and feel it’s worth it,” she adds.
Try it, it works!
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