“Rest and self-care are so important.
When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.
You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
~ Eleanor Brownn
“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.”
~ L.R. Knost
Dismissing the Stigma of Laziness
that Surrounds Self Care
How often in our lives do we get wrapped up in work and what is expected of us, and forget to take time for ourselves? Our society promotes working hard, and continues to perpetuate the stigma against conceptual “laziness.” Pampering the self is often confused with laziness by people who look at other people and judge, or by people who have been so severely indoctrinated by society’s stigmas that they have come to believe their own needs don’t matter. Oddly enough, there is one stigma for what is considered affluent leisure, and another stigma for laziness without affluence. If a person tells another person about their day at the spa, they can almost sense the other person’s eyes rolling behind their carefully straight face, and they know the other person is possibly either thinking, “Well, she’s got a cushy life with money to blow!” or, “Look at her, trying to impress!” Some people may tell another person about their day at the spa deliberately to rub-in the fact that they have the leisure time and the money to enjoy the spa, Others may share their experience as a way to promote self-care, and will tell the other person it’s not that expensive, and is well worth the money. This is very possibly true, but it is not always received the way the person relaying it intended.
While going to the spa implies a sort of prestige, those who care nothing about prestige – or can’t afford to show it in that way – scorn people who go to the spa. This is an age-old prejudice – after all, it was only those who were wealthy, or those who pretended to be, who retired to Bath, England, in the right season during the nineteenth century. Those who could not afford to even pretend to wealth stayed at home, and scorned those who went, for their affluence. Yet, if those same people found a way to get the money, or came into an inheritance, they would be seen heading to Bath in the next season, so that they, too, could appear wealthy enough to support the appearance of “absolute laziness.” It’s a funny little conundrum.
Laziness is both scorned and striven for. The person who is considered to be too lazy to get a job is condemned by society, while society overtly celebrates (but secretly loathes) the person who is wealthy enough not to have to work. Today’s society includes more people who have to work, but who also have enough funds to pamper themselves, than in the nineteenth century. These people are likely to be scorned from both ends of the spectrum – by those who don’t have enough money to afford the same lifestyle, and by those who are financially above them, who look down at them and think they are putting on pretensions above their position in society. If someone thinks that class divisions do not exist today, they are sadly mistaken. While those divisions, in many cases, are not as overt as they have been in the past, in some cases, they still exist under the surface. The stigmas show us class divisions still exist, and we must work around those stigmas for our own self-care; we must get past the concepts of what society judges and how, and think of what we actually need.
It is the societal expectation that people should work themselves to death – going above and beyond, putting in overtime, working at home after work – without pay – in order to make deadlines – that keep us from taking care of ourselves the way we should. We know those reports are due tomorrow, and there are backed-up reports for next week. Meanwhile, the kids need to be fed, and the house needs to be cleaned. Even if you don’t have children, you still have a myriad of obligations outside of work. Where is the time for yourself? You have to make the time for yourself, and something else must be sacrificed in order to do this. Often, we are just unwilling to sacrifice anything for our own leisure, and while part of it is that we feel that we can’t take time out for ourselves without failing in some major point or losing our jobs, another part of this is because we often see leisure with the same stigma on it that society has painted all over it – as something that implies laziness and makes us seem worthless.
This is utter garbage – it is not true that taking time for yourself makes you less capable, lazy, or worthless. It is important to know that before you read my suggestions for self-care. In order to function at your highest capacity, you must take some time for yourself. No one does their best work when they’re burnt-out and exhausted; no one can pour from an empty vessel. Rest is not a privilege, it is a necessity for proper function. So, you can stop beating yourself up for needing to take time for yourself. I hope you will consider the following suggestions with an open mind, rather than looking at them as a waste of time.
There are many wonderful ways to relax and relieve stress that help you function at your best level if you take the time for yourself. The spa was mentioned before, and a thorough pampering is definitely one of the best ways to tend to one’s self-care; however, the spa costs money, and if you are pinching your pennies, caring for a family, or saving for the time ahead, the spa may not be the ideal way to relax on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are many other ways to relax that cost nothing more than what you are already paying, for room and board in your own home. It is important for each of us to take at least one hour out of our busy day for ourselves.
The first method of self-care I am going to suggest is a hot bath in the evening – something that, if you have a bathtub with a drain that works, is something you can definitely do. Taking a hot bath can be a way to untangle all your stresses for a while. The hot water helps your muscles to relax from their tense positions after sitting at your desk all day, or from running all over the place, trying to get your children to all of their appointments, or from rushing to complete other tasks. You can add essential oils or scented bubbles to your bath, which will help this process along, with their soothing and pleasing aromas. The most relaxing aroma is lavender. To read about research of lavender on the nervous system and effects for relaxation, follow this link.
While some people may not care for alcohol, and a bubble bath can work perfectly well without it, having a glass of wine can accelerate the relaxation process while soaking up the suds. In addition to all of this, a fairly recent study showed that sitting in hot water can actually make you shed pounds, as your body’s temperature-regulation function burns calories while in the heat. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it is true. Read more about that here.
While an evening bath is a way to swiftly relax you, during the day, just taking an hour to lie down on your couch, or another place away from stressful noises and interruptions, can be very relaxing, as well. Some people lie on their couches and listen to soft music, close their eyes, and just try to rest for a while. Others go to a park, lie down under a tree, and listen to the distant noises of other people, as well as enjoying the closer sounds of the birds in the trees. Even if you are sitting at a desk all day, and feel that you don’t physically exert yourself very much, you are using your brain and focusing your eyes sharply on that screen for hours-on-end, and you can still benefit from a lie-down with your eyes closed, giving your body a rest from sitting. It is important to be gentle with yourself, and to care for yourself. Giving yourself a rest like this does that.
Sitting for too long at a computer can have several negative impacts on the body, including back pain, spinal settling, neck tension, hemorrhoids, eye strain, mental exhaustion, depression, and more. Some additional effects of sitting too long can be read about here. Taking an hour-long break is a good idea – it takes you out of that position you have been in for several hours at a stretch, and it rests your body so that you can come back to your labors feeling more refreshed. Find a spot and make it your own; create a routine that develops into habit. This sort of self-care is very important for your overall health, as well as for your emotional and mental wellbeing. Set a timer or an alarm, if you are worried about taking more than the hour you have allotted for yourself. While this may not eliminate some of the health issues that come with extended sitting, such as weight gain, heart issues, or cholesterol, it does help with several others, such as back pain, spinal settling, muscle tension, hemorrhoids, eye strain, mental exhaustion, and depression, simply by altering your position and changing the points where gravity is working on your body, as well as giving yourself a rest.
On that note, we come to my third suggestion for relaxation and self-care: napping. It has been found that people who take naps are healthier, better rested, and more productive. You can read more about that here. Taking a nap can refresh both your mind and your body, and is well worth considering as an option for your daily hour of self-care. If you find that you have trouble unwinding, or that napping on a couch gives you back, shoulder, or neck cramps or stiffness, try lying down on your bed with a snuggly throw-blanket instead. If you are someone who has dealt with insomnia, you know that we are told to reserve our beds for only two functions: sex and sleeping, and we are advised to do nothing else in that space so that our brains associate our bed with sleeping. You can read more about this here. You may find that you fall asleep in your naps easier, there, than anywhere else, because of the association of your bed with sleep. Again, if you are concerned with sleeping too long, set an alarm.
Some people experience sinus issues if they sleep during the day – it happens to me, too. I have a couple of suspicions about causes, as you can see from my suggestions to remedy this negative effect of napping. If you have this issue, try sleeping with propped-up soft pillows under your head so that you are not lying so flat and the fluids in your sinuses won’t build up and cause you to wake with a headache. You can also try using a saline nasal spray just before lying down, because it may be due to the warmer and drier air during the day that you are breathing in with your sinuses relaxed and open in slumber. As the point is to wake feeling rested, avoiding headaches – for those who get them – is paramount in all of this. Napping helps you take the time to rest so that you can be more productive when you go back to work.
For those who don’t want to lie down or nap, especially those who do not spend their days sitting at a desk, there are other options for relaxation that can both relax you and boost your mood. One of these options is my fourth suggestion for self care: finding a place outdoors to just sit and enjoy the sounds, sights, and smells of nature. Whether this is in your own garden, in a park, or sitting on a bench on or near the grounds of your place of employment, there is almost always a nice, quiet spot – somewhere within walking distance – that you can go to and sit and enjoy the weather, the sound of birds, and the changing seasons of nature. One of the most important aspects of this particular method is to pick out a spot and make it yours. Go back to the same place every time you go. You will find that each day, as you approach the spot, you will feel a sort of uplifting, and happy – or, at the very least, a relieved – feeling when you recognize it; for this is your spot to relax, and your mood already begins to lift, just in seeing it again. That feeling helps you to recognize how precious and important the time you take for yourself truly is.
Many of us cannot sit for an hour without doing something, you may find that you can only spend around ten minutes actively looking, listening, and thinking about nature before you start to get restless. This is why it is a good idea to bring a journal, cellphone, tablet, or laptop with you. When you have absorbed as much of nature, consciously, as you can, but have become restless, you can take out your writing device of choice, and start writing. If you don’t have a physical journal or don’t like writing by hand, the cellphone, tablet, or laptop can work. For cell-phones or tablets, notes apps can be used to write thoughts in, and laptops usually have some kind of word processing program on them. You can also create a WordPress account, and sign in from any of those devices to write.
Every day, you will find that there are new things to write about. Indulge in that. You are not writing for anyone else to read, you are writing for yourself, to let off steam. You can share it if you like, but that’s not the point. This activity actually helps the relaxation process, but it is important that you do it in a place you have already established that you are happy in, or at least content. This is why it is so important to pick out a spot and make it yours. Writing in a place that’s yours makes the writing feel more comfortable.
You may not know, at first, what you want to write about. You’ll open your app, your journal, or your WordPress, and find that you feel you have nothing to say. Start by describing your surroundings. Before long, you will find that your deeper thoughts start coming to the surface and there is always something there that you would like to explore more fully. The process of writing, itself, will bring the thoughts up so that you can write about them. It is this process that will help refresh you so that when you rise from your seat out in nature to go back to work, your step will be lighter. You will feel better, and go back to work happier. A bonus of the writing you do, is that you can work through many different kinds of problems while writing about them, and get a closer look at issues you’ve been too busy to really consider, fully. Often, solutions present themselves during the writing, so you can really feel like you have also spent that hour productively.
There are many other ways to relax, for the hour you take for yourself every day. The important thing is to take the hour. If you can manage it, you can always take two hours instead of one – the afternoon nap, sitting in nature, or lie down and listen to soft music, and then the bath in the evening. Most busy people cannot just take a bath in the middle of the day. If a person works at a business, they may not get an hour-long break at any time during their shift and will have to take it after they get off of work. Most people do get some sort of break during their shift, though, so finding a spot nearby to sit outside (except in inclement weather, of course) during that break can help. Most people cannot nap at work, either, but napping after work can do wonders, as well.
It is important to take time for yourself, and to give your body and your mind a rest. It is not laziness. It is not something that should fall under society’s stigma against leisure. It is a necessity. We only get one body in this life. If we run it into the ground because we refuse to meet its needs and give it regular rest in addition to a decent night’s sleep, what do we have? Our jobs pay us, but they do not take care of us. We have to do it. In the end, it is we who have to live with all of the health issues that constant, unbroken work creates in us if we don’t make the time to take care of ourselves.
© Lorraine Hall 2018
Photos courtesy of Pixabay