Today I have the pleasure of sharing another guest post from my longtime friend, Delise Dickard, Self Care and the Unexpected Mentor. Delise first shared her personal story, The Beer That Saved My Belly, here at gfe back in May.
With today’s post, she’s responding to a call for entries for the July Self-Care Retreat and my own post on nourishing one’s self through family, friends, and pets. I could relate to Delise’s post in a big way and found my own inspiration and lessons in it; I hope you will, too. Here’s a little more about Delise below, and then her thoughts on self care.
Delise B. Dickard, PhD, is a psychotherapist in private practice. In addition to her doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology, she has earned a Masters Degree from Harvard University in dramatic arts and is an award-winning playwright. She is also a mental health columnist for our local paper. Her latest passion is writing about the perils and delights of learning to live gluten free.
My calendar was clear for a hot July weekend and after being extremely busy for about 40 something years, I decided to spend one Saturday nurturing myself. I had only two things on my agenda for this particular Saturday – to clean my bedroom and my office.
Those were tasks that would help me, I thought. But, of course, you can’t clean your office without checking emails first. That would be rude to your friends and irresponsible to your colleagues.
Luckily I got an email from Shirley at gluten free easily (gfe) that mentioned the Self Care Retreat and I read Shirley’s blog post about self nourishment. The question of self care took me back for a moment. I really wanted to think about it — do I know how to care for myself?
It was a simple question. Sitting in the midst of my unorganized papers, photos, and piles of technology designed to make my life easier if I could just figure out how to make them work, this question almost brought tears to my eyes.
“Do I know how to nourish myself?” I’ve studied it enough. I preach it almost every day—I’m a psychotherapist and a writer for heaven’s sake!
If the phone rang and someone asked me to do an eight-week seminar on self care I’d be up for the task—bulging with great ideas and a PowerPoint presentation to boot. But sitting alone in my office, I realize I’m thirsty, my feet are cold, my stomach aches from having skipped breakfast, and the sun is in my eyes. As I reach to shut the blinds it occurs to me I just might be carrying this great big secret—I’m not very good at self care.
Thinking about it makes me ashamed like I’ve flunked an open book quiz. But I know I wouldn’t have attended to any of these small personal needs without the blog post having given me reason for pause. I go to get a pair of fuzzy warm socks and a cup of tea to quench my thirst. This is a question that really needs pondering.
Before the water boils, I realize that I probably take better care of my houseplants than myself. I think about all the people I care for first—my kids, my husband, my clients, my co-workers, my friends, even my dog gets more attention most days.
I take care of myself with the big things. I’ve given myself a good education, a safe car, a comfy bed.
Mostly, I postpone the everyday opportunities for self care—a leisurely walk, a great novel, a hot breakfast, use of the fluffiest “guest” towel. These things sit like fine china waiting for a special occasion when I will finally have time for self care.
As I continue to reflect I’m forced to face more of my neglectful habits.
I will often miss breakfast to deliver a forgotten permission slip. I’ll stay up past midnight touching up a writing assignment. I’ll even skip washing my hair if my sister needs an early morning pep talk.
So the more I think about it I realize I need major assistance. I call in my 14-year-old daughter who is a master at caring for herself. She gives me a “self care” list right off the top of her head:
1) Always eat and sleep regularly
2) Take a good book and a comfy blanket to bed at night. She hands me one of hers — an extra.
3) Buy a CamelBak water bottle and bring it with you everywhere you go. It keeps you hydrated.
(by now I’m taking notes and ask her to spell out CamelBak)
4) Clear the clutter wherever you are, even if you stuff things in a drawer, light a candle, and listen to soft music. It’s a great way to relax.
“But what if you have other things to do?” I hadn’t realized she was such an expert.
“Same thing. I make my room nice just to sit in the middle of the floor and fold clothes.” she answers.
“Oh….” I nod sheepishly.
5) Don’t sleep during the day more than 15-30 minutes (not a problem) and don’t have caffeine after lunchtime.
“Did I give birth to this child?” I think, trying to think of a question that might trip her up: “So how about exercise, isn’t it hard to get motivated?”
6) When you exercise be well prepared: have water, the right shoes, maybe music, a towel.
I think of all the people in my yoga class that are properly equipped. They have yoga mats with a little carrying case, and even matching water bottles. Typically I drag in late, breaking the Zen moment by fumbling around to borrow a yoga mat.
Why am I always late? Most likely, I was on the phone or email giving away my very last moment to someone in need.
Finally, I say randomly to my daughter: “And what if your feet get cold?” I hear her older sister cackle loudly from the other room. She sticks her head in just to say: “Are you kidding me Mom? I thought you were a Harvard graduate!”
But my 14-year-old is proud that I so desperately need her good advice and she is showing me her sock drawer. She has fuzzy ones on the left for winter and lightweight colorful ones on the right for summer.
Dr. Delise Dickard and her wise daughter
Slowly I realize that problems with self care come in all shapes and forms. I have a friend who is great at this simple stuff, yet she struggles to give herself permission to pursue her own passion, or invest in her dreams. We trade valuable information.
For all of us this topic is thought provoking: Is there some way in which we are constantly putting other needs before our own? I needed the reminder—tummies need good food and water, and exercise releases anxiety and offers feel-good endorphins.
“I deserve all that!” I think to myself.
Now when I organize my office and my bedroom I have decided to do it differently. It will include some necessities like music, candles, a CamelBak water bottle, and a big basket for a fuzzy blanket and socks!
Dr. Delise Dickard, LPC
Director, Riverside Counseling, pllc
Originally published July 27, 2011; updated September 6, 2018.