Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Love Thyself

“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”
 -William Shakespeare

July 2011 Vacation, holiday, getaway, break, trip, retreat, escape…the many names we have for the time allotted to treat ourselves. With the arrival of summer, I hear more and more about travel plans, breaks, and vacationing. But really, how many of us truly take the time to indulge in vacations? And when I say indulge, I mean really take the time to feel refreshed, renewed, and relaxed. How often are we actually treating ourselves well?
Compared to countries around the world, the US is the only developed nation that does not offer paid vacation as a mandatory benefit. France, Finland, and Brazil provide for 30 days of paid vacation time. Yes, one month of REQUIRED vacation.
Back in May, CNN did a story about American’s lack of vacationing, entitled, “Why is America the ‘no-vacation nation’?” The name comes from a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group who found that only 57% of American workers use up all of the days they are granted for vacation.
We live in a society that urges us to work and work and work. Taking time off to replenish ourselves can be a costly move. Not only do we have to take a cut in pay, but we also have to be able to afford what we do with our time off. If traveling is part of the plan, the expenses just begin to pile up. But the truth of the matter is that self-care is essential for our survival and success.
Many fail to pay attention to the importance of self-care. Often, people confuse self-care with being selfish, when in fact, self-care can lead to selflessness. If we take the time and treat ourselves well, then we feel good about going to work, coming home, spending time with our loved ones, going to dinner with friends, and so forth. By taking the time to nurture ourselves, we nurture everything and everyone else around us as well.
So what do you do if you are unable to afford taking time off? A trip does not have to be the answer. Taking time for you can happen on a daily basis if you allow for it. Even giving yourself five minutes of “me-time” can make a difference. If you have a rough workday ahead of you, make sure to plan for something in your day that makes you feel good. Something like taking 10 minutes to do breathing exercises or having a dessert with a cup of coffee can be refreshing. By setting time aside to treat yourself, you will be more motivated throughout your day.
And if you do have time off, but can’t afford to travel, you can plan for a “staycation.” A staycation involves a vacation in your own hometown. How many times have you found yourself thinking you should try the new restaurant in the city, or checkout the opening of an art exhibit?  We often forget to take advantage of what is right in front of us. Create a list of activities that you and your family/partner/friends could do, and make it happen!
Self-care is also about doing the simple things that you enjoy. How many of us can say we actively engage in our hobbies on a regular basis? When you take the time to do things you love, there will be a change in attitude and motivation. And by setting aside a little time everyday, you can pick up on your hobbies again. 
The benefits of taking the time to give yourself a break are endless. Vacations support emotional health, encourage creative growth, help your personal relationships, and give you more perspective on life. People who return from vacations tend to have better sleeping habits, feel less stressed, and function better at work. Studies have found that these beneficial effects of vacationing lead to a longer life.
The most important relationship is the one that you have with yourself. Nurture it, feed it, and allow for it to grow. Take a moment to think: Are you giving yourself the opportunity to love yourself the way you deserve? Are you taking the time to find peace and serenity that helps you to retain motivation and joy in everyday?
The next time you are daydreaming at work, force yourself to imagine what your time off will look like. Remind yourself that you work hard and deserve to be treated well. Remember that self-neglect can create a ripple of danger in other areas of your life. Plan, and most importantly, DO the activities that you enjoy. Book a massage, take that evening dinner cruise for two, go see the new play in town, etc. Provide some self-love so that you can be a happier, better you.