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Self-Care and the Art of Denial

I spent the months of December, January and part of February offline and out of my office recovering from extensive surgery. Truth be told, it was life-saving, life-changing surgery. And that made it non-negotiable. For women like me, non-negotiable is often the only way self-care gets done.

We power-charging women don’t like to think about being on injured reserve. We’ve got too much to do and too many people depending on us. But the reality is, it happens. And it happens while we’re busy doing other things. It’s called life.

And for those of us over the age of 40, it’s a reality that grows more likely with each passing tick of the clock. The risk is there for even the healthiest and well-balanced of women, but I know many more women like me who are juggling an inordinate number of plates in the air at any given moment, and that reality’s a bitch.

That reality means when we least expect it and can least afford it, an illness or injury crops up that requires our attention. Requires our self-care. And all those plates we’d precariously balanced in the air come tumbling down.

I don’t have the best track record for self-care, or for stopping to smell the proverbial flowers. Like many women, given a choice I’d run the engine until the service light came on.

This time around, however, I got smarter. I decided to heed the advice of those docs in white coats who were telling me I’d need a good eight to nine weeks to recover. The first few weeks in the hospital I had no choice but to listen, but once I was home an amazing thing happened – I kept listening. Not so much to the medical professionals, but to something I’d never given much credence to in the past: My body. It let me know when I needed to rest (and I needed to rest a lot). It told me when I needed some exercise, when I needed to eat, when I needed to connect with others. It told me when I needed to simply do nothing (and I did nothing a lot).

And as the days and weeks went by, the connection between my mind and my body grew more simpatico. They became BFFs. And my energy in mind and body began to grow exponentially. At first I was only working an hour a day. Walking to the mailbox and back. Reading one page of a book. Gradually, like a flower unfolding and expanding, my reservoir of strength began to blossom and I began to feel like my old self. Only better.

What would have happened if I hadn’t listened to the experts? If I’d decided to push myself beyond my capabilities at a time when I was most vulnerable? Craziness? Foolishness? Absolutely. Yet that’s what many midlife business women do because of a belief system that says: “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” or it won’t be done to our satisfaction. We have a very hard time relinquishing our responsibilities to others, but it’s important to remember that we have a responsibility to ourselves as well.

And as much as it might hurt to admit it, while I was out on R & R the world kept turning without me. Things kept getting done. Time kept marching forward, and when I was ready, it welcomed me back as if I’d never been away.

Are you guilty of short-changing your self-care? How does it show up in your life? What’s one thing you can do today to take better care of yourself? Your answers will help so many other women like you, so please share!