I have friends who are great at putting themselves first.  In a good way.  Some friends simply know when to say ‘no’.  Others have the means to make twice yearly trips to their favorite spa.  Still others begin their day with reflection and meditation – before turning on NPR, before checking the emails, before putting on the kettle.

I do not fall into any of those categories.  I’m terrible at saying ‘no’, my last massage was at least a year ago, and the first thing I do when the alarm sounds is open my MacBook to check for important emails that arrived in the night.

For shame.  And me being a yoga teacher and all that.  You’d think I’d know better.

The closest I come to self-care are visits to my acupuncturist Dea Burmeister.  But they only happen once every six weeks or so.

The last time I saw Dea, I was in her office not as a client, but as a practitioner.  She wanted some bodywork on her lunch break.  While we were preparing she mentioned that she’d gotten out of bed early that morning.  I asked why.

“If I don’t get up early enough to fit in my meditation and my walk, I’m no good to anyone else.”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it.  Nurturing self-care isn’t just about making ourselves feel good.  It’s about helping us to love ourselves so that we may love others.  And apparently this self-care business isn’t something that just happens.  You actually have to work at it.

What is Self Care?

Self-care is taking time for us.  Taking time that’s different than ‘down time’ in front of the television or computer.  It’s offering ourselves time to reflect and to center.  Self-care gives us permission to return to our still point – permission to find balance in a chaotic life.

For Dea, self-care includes meditative walks in the morning.  But we all have our own way of giving ourselves the care we deserve.

I’ve had two blessing in the past ten days.  First I was asked to dog and cat sit for a family who receive one television channel.  One. And it’s a bad one.  So I’ve not seen Keith Olberman or Rachel Maddow (my favorite source for news) since last week.  There’s been no Jon Stewart to make me laugh in the face of tragedy. In fact, I’ve not seen any news at all.  I’ve caught the Yahoo! headlines, but that’s it.

Reducing the amount of time we spend absorbing bad news is good self-care.  It doesn’t lessen our awareness of what’s happening around us, but it breaks our addiction to it. I feel different without the constant bombardment of what is – lets admit it – bad news.  I haven’t been this ‘chilled out’ since ‘chill out’ was the cool thing to say.

The other blessing happened a week ago.  I was enjoying a margarita with friends in their garden.  The subject came around to music, and ten minutes later I was holding a sixty-year-old Martin guitar while the owner said to me, “Why don’t you borrow it?

My parents had a country band when I was growing up.  I began on a baritone ukulele but eventually graduated to a 12-string Guild.  I sold my guitar five years ago, telling myself I had no time for music.

Silly me. It turns out, for me, nurturing my musical side is very good self-care.

What do you do for self-care?  Do you meditate?  Do you row a kayak?  Do you need a hot tub and a massage or will curling up in front of a fire with a good book bring the balance back?

My goal over the next few weeks is to make time for my self-care – to block out a few hours in my schedule each week.  It won’t be easy.  The most difficult challenge for me will be saying ‘no’.

I just have to remind myself, it’s one step at a time, but forward.