Self- care is not selfish: my journey and 7 reasons to put yourself first before helping others
I know you are super busy, let’s face it we all are. I know you don’t have time to really relax or have a ‘me day’ – there is always so much to get done, and sometimes you feel like all the burden is on you, especially those of us who are mums, or carers, or even students studying with so many responsibilities around us. We have all heard the phase self-care, yet you find it so hard to make time for it and it keeps making its way further and further down our priority list.
Importance of self-care- my journey
Being a mum of three, I have realised the older I get, the more I realise how important scheduling some time for self-care is so important! These do not even have to be scheduled times or expensive things to do, just sometimes a mug of warm cocoa, or a nice coffee, lazing on the sofa with a snuggle blanket and a good book. Or a warm bath with relaxing essential oils and Epsom salts, or just going to bed earlier on. For mothers with young children, just leaving the kids for an hour to even get shopping done alone, can be a real treat! We all know our boundaries, but it’s about really accepting them and sometimes just letting go when we can and also asking for help if we need it.
I used to feel, if I went out with friends one evening, that somehow I was neglecting my kids (even though their dad was at home). Or I would feel if I spent too much time out, I would have to rush back to a pile of laundry, or things to clean, or homework help to do.
On the rare occasions, I would go out with friends and then come home and actually feel guilty that I have so much to do and that somehow I was neglecting my ‘duties’ as a mother and a wife. It can be hard to see, in the short-term, that you aren’t being selfish, but practising self-care actually allows us to be more self-less beings. Once our cup is full, we can pour for others, we can’t pour from an empty cup, nor can we pour when we want our cup to be filled by others.
My past robotic, busy scheduled-life
It took me a long time to realise that self-care isn’t selfish. I used to spend all my time and energy on my work, my husband and my kids, that I hardly had any ‘me’ time and it would leave me depleted and over time I lost my spark and became almost robotic in my schedules with things to do.
As I get older, I realise that self-care also building meaningful relationships are so important, with the children, my spouse and family and also time for myself. Time for discovering myself and time for self-reflection. We can all really lose ourselves over-time with the mundane rituals of life, and not really live life, in its greatest sense, or appreciate the many blessings we have in life. Respecting myself and my body, so that I can give to others around me happily, and not robotically, and there is a huge difference in these.
I also realised, in order for people around me to respect me, I needed to respect myself, and I mean truly respect myself and my self-worth. If I am tired, try and delegate responsibility for things, and if they don’t get done, then don’t fret, chill sometimes.
I used to be known as the one to always go to family gatherings late, as by the time I cleaned up, got the house cleaned, kids ready, laundry done, I would get there late then feel unhappy I arrived late, so wouldn’t get as much time to relax. Or times I would feel like not going, as felt that I really needed to get the list of my things done, so I would give it a miss and these misses would become more frequent. Or there were times, I would go to places on time and leave things at home to do later, but would come back tired, and then feel overwhelmed that I still had things to clean before the next day, and feel really grumpy.
I learned how to relax more, and be less hard on myself, and let things go a little.
I know this is hard when children are very little and things seem constant but I learnt to slowly let go of some of the expectations I had on myself and guess what? I felt more content.
Also, I learnt to organise my life, although I used to cram a lot into my days (and still do but it seems easier now), I would run around after the kids from one club to the next and one tuition to another. I worked hard with my children and my eldest achieved one of the top 2% results in primary in the whole of the UK mashAllah and so did my middle child, who also achieved a secondary school place at one of the top feeder grammar schools to Oxford and Cambridge in the UK (although she didn’t want to go there and so we let her also choose). I was a very determined mother and wanted the best for my children. I would always take them on trips at the weekend and was disciplined enough to bring them up quite well (so far anyway, alhamdulilah). They also have a solid background of their deen too, alhamdulilah.
My relationship began to suffer
Anyway, I got to a point, where my marriage started to suffer, as I was constantly focusing on the kids and the house and some work I used to do and it took me to a point where I had to just step back. Trials happen in life, and are given by the Almighty to allow you to step back and reflect on life, yourself, your goals and your relationships. They also allow you to draw closer to Him as sometimes you are in such a situation that Allah swt (God Almighty) is the only One you can really turn to.
I started focusing more on self-care and my relationship with my Lord and these are some of the principals I have learnt through my journey. I wouldn’t say it’s a destination, but it’s an on-going journey of self-realisation and discovery and of effort. I tune into myself a lot more now, as to how I feel and react to things and look deeper as to why I feel that way and how I can change the situations by my behaviour. If I feel, I am running low on self-care, I take time out and prioritise myself.
For example, today on my minimalist in progression journey, I decided to work on a part of my bedroom I have been meaning to declutter for a while, so I saw a chest of drawers I wanted on sale and went to buy, then I really felt like just chilling out and having a traditional British cream tea, in the shopping centre I was at, so had 20 minutes to myself in a café, which allowed me to return home refreshed and ready to carry on tackling the decluttering. Prior to this journey, I probably would have rushed home with the drawers and carried on but also felt peckish and then made myself tea and a snack, which takes time and effort and then not been as productive with my decluttering. There is only so much decluttering you can get done in a day before you don’t just give up! So for me, I tackle a little at a time.
I also get tense shoulders very easily, so now I book a massage quite regularly, and this may seem indulgent to some, but it affects my posture and I easily get tense knots in my back, so this actually helps me unwind and helps my mental well-being. A massage helps your body self-heal and also releases endorphins which make you feel good. Plus, there are so many good deals, you can always find something on offer online if you look hard enough. Or I tell my other half, I really need a massage 🙂
As Muslimahs, we constantly feel we have to help and serve others around us, as that’s what our faith teaches us (actually it’s a universal principle of all faiths, the concept of selfless service to others) but sometimes we take it too far at the neglect of our own selves. How can we honestly help others, if we feel depleted and tired ourselves?
How does putting yourself first actually help others?
1 – Self-care makes you more giving
When you feel happy and content within yourself, your entire being and soul feels grateful for its blessings and full of contentment, you actually demand less of others. You are now ready to pour from your cup to others who need it. By looking after yourself allows you to serve and support others.
Imagine, your spouse has had a hard day at work and returns tired and stressful and you have had time to come home early, relax and cook a nice meal. You had some time to de-stress and be calm and content. When your spouse comes home hungry and requests a meal (knowing you have been home) and just wants to collapse on the sofa, you will feel more like caring and supporting him, as your cup is full. On the other hand, if he came home grumpy and irritated, and you were also stressed and irritable, had a busy day then hadn’t had time to relax, you would both probably end up having an argument.
2- Your happy energy vibes are contagious
Generally, when a person is happy, cheerful and smiling, it automatically rubs off on you. How can you frown at someone who is smiling at you? If you take time to recharge your batteries, the positive vibes you have charged will help others adjust their moods.
Thoughts are energy vibrations, so feeling and thinking positively can also help those around you.
Haven’t we all heard the saying, keep good company? Because the people we hang around with, have a profound effect on us. Everyone has heard of the phrase, ‘You can judge a person by the company he keeps’, so if you hang around with people who are constantly gossiping about others, or moaning, this will inevitably rub off on you.
So, what will happen if you hang around with positive people, who are focused on improving their lives, their relationships and are goal orientated (for this world and the next)? This will automatically rub off on you, as the Prophet saw said,
“The example of a good, pious companion and an evil one is that of a person carrying musk and the other carrying a pair of bellows. The one who is carrying musk will either give you some perfume as a present, or you will buy some from him, or you will get a good smell from him, but the one who is blowing a pair of bellows will either burn your clothes or you will get a bad smell from him”
3- Your positivity will inspire others
By focusing on your self-care, you will start to feel more inspired and motivated in general. You will be inspired to start focusing on goals in your life and also you will feel inspired to help others.
When people see you doing things in your life, this doesn’t have to be work-related goals, it could be projects you want to do, family goals, foals with children, housework, charitable goals, or even business goals. When you start accomplishing things, this will automatically inspire others. In this way, you have started a ripple effect.
I have actually ordered myself flowers, with a note. Sometimes you can’t always wait for flowers from that special someone, and flowers really cheer me up when I see them on the table. So once I actually ordered some from Bunches, for only £14.99 which came with free UK delivery and were very, very reasonable compared to many other flower delivery companies.
4- You will feel much more energetic
By focusing on self-care, you start to care more about your body and what you feed it. Self-care is not just having ‘me’ time but looking after your body, inwardly and outwardly, not just your brain.
Eating proper wholesome, nutritious foods, getting sufficient sleep and rest and some form of exercise helps your body to feel good and energetic.
You will actually start to feel good within yourself and also look better. People that look after themselves inwardly and outwardly have a certain positive radiant energy and always seem to have glowing skin.
5- You will be more empathetic and understanding
When our cup isn’t full, we tend to get irritable and snappy at the slightest issue. When we feel ourselves getting overly angry, we need to take a step back and reflect on the deeper reason. It is usually because we feel overwhelmed and stressed.
How often have we got overly upset with a spouse for doing something slightly wrong, or the children, when it wasn’t really a big issue at all. When life throws us lemons, we should make a lemonade and not let things worry us so much. This is easier said than done and is an on-going journey, but once we start to self-reflect, this becomes easier to work on.
6-You won’t end up having burnout or a breakdown
For many of us busy women, we end up having a burnout, breakdown or health issues before we realise the importance of self-care. Burnout is real, you either end up getting sick and it affecting your physical and/or mental health or you end out becoming angry and lashing out at those around you who end up reaction to your anger with anger, so you end up feeling more isolated and less supported, which makes you feel less stronger to cope with issues you are facing.
Before you get to this point in your life, it is important to take care of yourself.
7- You will inspire others
You won’t even notice, but you will start to inspire others. When you feel happy and content within yourself, you will automatically, without even realising it, start to help others. They will feel how do you get so much down and still look good and feel happy. You will start to inspire others around you.
Self-care is so important in our lives as busy Muslimahs, I hope you are all able to reflect deeply and start to practise self-care in your lives, which will actually help others around you.
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