Michelle Dempsey: Women and Self-Care: A Critical Call to Action

Yesterday I left the house without my bathing suit. Which may not have been a big deal, had I not been going to spend a holiday weekend beach day with my entire family.

Why did this happen, you wonder?

No, not because I am too shy to show off my post-baby body in my bikini. And certainly not because I didn’t want to indulge in any beach day fun with my little girl.

I forgot my bathing suit on my family beach day because I got so caught up in taking care of everyone else in my house — getting them ready, packing their snacks, and making sure sunscreen was spread evenly — to remember that I, too, would be enjoying this day. I was so caught up in keeping everyone else happy and well taken care of, as per usual, that I forgot about myself.

And this a major problem.

I preach female empowerment. I work with other women to help them get ahead in business. I uplift others through my tales of personal development. Yet, on a much-needed day off, I forgot about me. Am I a hypocrite? A fraud? No — I’m just a mom. A busy, overworked, overtired entrepreneur — a mamapreneur if you will — with little time to get through a day’s tasks let alone worry about herself. And it’s taking a toll — I see it happening to women all around me. The women in my professional circle, the women I meet through my business, the women who reach out to me for coaching or some inspiration.

I am declaring our lack of self-care — our natural inclination to overlook ourselves to make sure everyone else around us is taken care — a national epidemic of epic female importance

Have you ever heard the term, ‘you can’t take care of everyone else until you’ve taken care of yourself‘? You know, that classic example that flight attendants give before each flight that insists you put your oxygen mask on first in case of emergency before tending to your children?

Why can’t we apply this to our real lives? Why it so damn hard to follow this critical call to self-care? Probably because as mothers, we face shame and more mom-guilt than we knew existed if we don’t fall in line and do what is expected of us. If we, heaven forbid, give in to our own needs from time to time.

Well, screw you, mom-guilt, and all of the other people who tell me that taking a day for myself, giving in to my own needs before anyone else gets my attention, or refusing to listen to the ‘Wheels On the Bus’ for 800th time today makes me a bad mom. I’m going to do my thing for me — for the better of my family, my business, and to make me more capable as the busy woman that I am.

How? I’ve devised a plan. I’ve actually begun scheduling me-time on my calendar like I would my daughter’s doctor appointments, my work deadlines, or my client meetings. I’ve flagged these dates with myself as high-priority – and I’ll be damned if anything stands in my way.

1. I’m going to the gym again.
Again, no, not because I’m ashamed of my post-baby bod. Because it gives my brain clarity. It’s the one place where I can’t take calls or answer emails or dole out more goldfish. It’s where endorphins override stress, and my ass tightens up in the process. I have this date with myself scheduled on my calendar now — three times a week. As you can see, I’m starting slow. Anything more would be an ultimate luxury worth celebrating.

2. I’m doing my nails.
Call me prissy. Call me spoiled. Call me whatever the hell you want. Everyone has their self-care indulgence of choice and this is mine. I’ll be honest, for the last couple of months, if I can find an extra hour in my day to fit in a manicure, I usually laugh off the idea and focus on my emails instead. No more. No more showing up to meetings with chipped polish, no more hiding my hands during public appearances — no more feeling like a hot mess just because I’ve overlooked my needs for another week.

Bonus — this is another great place to avoid using my phone, tune out the world, and listen to the soothing sounds of elevator music while staring off into space aimlessly. Pure freakin’ bliss.

3. I’m making girl time a priority.
I’d schedule this in every night if I could. Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. I love my child. I love my family and all the work that I do. But sometimes I want to run away screaming. I want to run away screaming with no house keys, cell phone, or identification. If you don’t agree, you’re not being honest with yourself.

Nothing screams ‘self-care’ to me louder and more clear than getting together with my girlfriends and laughing our asses off. I have this scheduled on my calendar also – once a week. Whether it’s drinks with a friend after hosting my evening radio show, attending a breakfast with girlfriends, or celebrating a birthday — there are no excuses keeping me away from my girl time. It’s like chicken soup (or vodka) for the soul.

The good news for me is, with all of the female networking groups I’ve joined in my area, I can cover girl time AND a little business banter in one shot. Nothing makes me feel more fulfilled – which is likely why I’ve joined the masses of South Florida women for the Women Empower Expo this October — where I’ll be speaking to women who are also likely in desperate need of scheduling some time for self-care on their over-packed calendars.

4. I’m saying no.
I don’t have to schedule this one on my calendar – all I have to do is glance at it to remind myself that I just don’t have the time to say yes to everything and everyone like I’ve once been known to do. Saying “no” has become the single most powerful form of self-care I’ve ever discovered. Whether it’s saying no to an invitation that makes no sense for my schedule, cancelling plans that keep me away from my daughter during her bedtime, or piling on more work than I can handle in a day – I’m saying no. And I am NOT saying sorry for it.

My point ladies, is that I’m finally taking the time to take care of myself. And you should too. You are the most important thing you’ve got – without you, there is no taking care of the rest of the world around you. Love yourself, respect yourself, and give yourself the time you need to breathe and reboot.

Without you, you’ve got nothing.

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Self Help on Huffington Post

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