In the late fall of 2010, I was blessed to be living on the North Shore of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. One day in particular I was rushing around to arrive on time for a massage therapy appointment that was only a few miles from my house. I decided to take an alternate route to avoid the usual tourist traffic and get to my destination more quickly. Running late and worried that I would miss time from my massage, I was driving a little faster than normal. And then it happened: a police officer hidden on a side street stepped out to pull me over for speeding. Not only was I going to be even later for my massage appointment, I now also had a speeding ticket for over $200.00

When I finally arrived at my appointment, I shut off my truck’s engine in the driveway and paused for a moment. My first thought was that I should not have been speeding, especially in Hawaii. The second thing that went through my mind was “now I am late and I am more stressed out for my massage session.”  As a massage therapist I should know better. I am now bringing more stress into the very massage appointment I had made in order to bring my stress level down.

I always make time for all of my other appointments so I am never late. I get to everything really early: work, airports, movies, dates, or just meeting friends. Of all the appointments that I keep in my life, why was the one for my health and well-being, the least important on the list? Was I not considering self-care as important as all the other appointments that I strive to keep?

Our lives in this country are filled with appointments, meetings, places to be, getting our children to where they need to be on time, walking the dog, the cat, the hamster…..the list can seem never-ending. We spend so much of our time dealing with deadlines, filling our bodies with caffeine, exercising less and in general rushing around till we are exhausted. I suspect that most of those to do’s have more to do with helping others, squeezing out our own needs.  How often do we put our self on the list of things that need to be taken care of?

If we are proactive enough to even think about our own self-care, that too gets condensed into small time frame. We almost have to schedule a meeting with ourselves to get our basic health needs met: Bodywork, Yoga, Doctors appointments, etc. We are out of practice when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Growing up, how many of us were taught the importance of respecting and nurturing ourselves? Do we have any time left in our busy lives to put back what we need into our bodies, mind and spirits? Unfortunately sometimes we equate self-care and self-love with being selfish. Sometimes we can tell ourselves: “How can I think about getting a massage when I have all things I need to do today?”

Perhaps we are just out of practice with advocating for ourselves. Why don’t we try and reversing the question? “How can I NOT get a massage today?” I have so many things to do, it will help me do all of those things better, with more focus, more relaxation, and less stress. As I say to my clients, “With a busy life, you have to put good things back into the machine or the machine will not work properly or even stop working.” It might be helpful if we start getting used to the idea that we are as important (or even more important) than most of the things we do outside of ourselves. We are better off to others and ourselves if we take the time to take care of ourselves. This may take a little practice getting used to, but it is worth it to our health and survival. If we start making the connection to our own bodies and lives as a priority, we then may start to see a positive effect for ourselves and all that we do.

Start with small steps. Make some sort of self-care appointment for yourself at least once every 2 months. Dedicate an hour of your time to give back to your body, mind or spirit. This can be whatever you deem as self nurturing: bodywork, yoga, esthetics, taking a warm bath with bath salts, taking daytrips, etc. Slowly over time, try to bring that self-appointment to once a month. Then try once a week. Maybe even challenge yourself to bring that self-care into your daily routine. You can do it on a small scale. Take a little time while in traffic, or on the bus to begin to focus on your breathing. When you feel the stress of getting nowhere fast, start to pay attention to your breath feels like as it enters and leaves your body.

The great thing is that these are all small, simple steps, but they can be cumulative. The more we practice these steps, the more commonplace they become, and the better we become at doing them. Self-care can become part of our lives and routines. When this starts to happen, we really notice when we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Any lack of self-care becomes a loud voice saying: “Something is missing here today. Why do I feel really off today?”

Is any of this easy? Of course not. Like any other routine, it takes time to integrate it into our lives and schedules. We are not going to be perfect at it. We are going to forget and going to make mistakes trying it. But again, we are worth it. Any attempt at this can be a positive step towards regaining our understanding of how to pay attention to our lives in a positive way.

I encourage us all to make time for our own lives and our own self-care appointments no matter how small the act may be. Using the same care we give for others and all of our daily tasks can be a model for how we care for ourselves. Even one small step towards our self-care can have large, lasting effects. Self-care is not selfishness. It is self-sustaining.

Jeremy Galvin is a nationally certified Massage Therapist with 12+ years’ experience in relaxation massage, deep tissue, Reiki, and certified Power Yoga instructor with training in Yin Yoga and martial arts. Offering clients pathways to increased mobility, better flexibility, and overall health through integration of massage, yin yoga, and body posture consciousness. Jeremy is committed to meeting clients where they are in their journey towards wellness.