How I learned the Importance of Self Care

One of the many pieces of advice I failed to listen to for most of my life was that if we are to live happy & successful lives at home & at work, we have to look after ourselves & improve ourselves not just mentally or spiritually but physically as well. But then I was a product of the baby boomer generation, a woman (not to mention a single mum) & had chronically low self-esteem. Put the three together, & you have a recipe for massive self-neglect.

Learning That Self Care is Part of Attaining Success

A Work Ethic That Leaves Little Room for Self Care

With industrialization came longer & longer working hours. By the end of the last century, it had become a badge of honour to work the longest hours, to have the least personal life, to obsess to the point of collapse with your work. 

I was brought up on all those sayings “Hard work never killed anyone”, “There’s no substitute for hard work”, “Hard work beats talent”. So, not surprisingly, when I got my own business, I believed the way to success was to live & breathe it, 7 days a week, 352 a year, every waking hour.  

The Physical Tole of Overworking Myself

I was sleep deprived for years.

Sleep deprivation is now proven to impact on every area of health, increasing stress & creating cravings for all the wrong foods, as well as decreasing the effectiveness of the immune system.  The brain actually releases healing chemicals when we sleep that helps us improve our capabilities. Yet I existed on around 4-5 hours’ sleep for nearly twenty years, one of a generation of sleep-short zombies.

Stress too was almost something to boast of, representing that overwork. We now know the effects on the body can be catastrophic. In my 30’s I was having major health issues & by my late 50’s I was collapsing, the typical, overweight, chain smoking executive heading for a major coronary.  

Putting My Needs Last As A Mother

Single parenthood contributed to self-neglect & lack of sleep. Not that I regret a minute of that.  Many women are still programmed from girlhood to put our own needs last, primed & ready to put husbands & children before us. 

Women even fed themselves last till comparatively recently.

The moment we have children, the maternal instinct kicks in & tells us that they come first, that they matter the most. Parents talk about being willing to give up their life for their children, but many do so daily in a slow & less obvious way, depriving & damaging themselves.  

Self-neglect is not a good message to pass on down the generations but often, as with myself, there is no time between children & business, nor the money to do a much for ourselves.

The Affects of Low Self-Esteem

People with low self-esteem find it difficult to care for themselves properly. They see it as not mattering.  

In my case, I was very happy to take the stance that it would be selfish to take any of my own needs into the equation, thus enabling me to remain in my comfort zone of being non-deserving.  Small surprise I was ill a lot.  

The word disease comes from the Old French word “desaise”, meaning lack of ease, inconvenience, discomfort, distress, trouble & sickness, & before modern medicine, this thinking was at the heart of medical analysis. The East has been treating the two together for centuries.   As Western medicine is now coming to accept that the split of body & mind in medical terms is an over simplification, & there is actually no scientific proof of it, so it becomes easy to see how undealt with self-esteem issues can impact the physical.  

The Downward Spiral of Negativity

It is now more accepted that when our energy is low or negative, we attract more negative energy, resulting in more negative outcomes in a downward spiral. 

Without a clearing of energy, we remain in jobs we hate or relationships that make us unhappy, because we are cut off from our true purpose & energy, & our concentration is poor, our thinking foggy & we fail to take action. We all too easily become convinced that happiness is something that comes from outside rather than through our own alignment & we fail to address the real problems. 

This was all too true in my case. Even after the children left home, I remained in a negative fog for a long time, doing a job I hated, in a swirl of negative energy.  

Change, Understanding & Clarity

At long last, attitudes are changing.  

Proper self-care as a way of life is nothing new. The ancient Greeks believed overwork was a vice & every individual had a duty to self-care, to make them more democratic & honest individuals.  The boomers are learning from the millennials, who are known to be better at self-care than previous generations. 

For me, it took my mental & physical health being damaged to bring me to a point where I have up my then business, slept for weeks & totally re-assessed my life in every area. I now write, my true passion, & I work with other women, encouraging them in business but making sure none of them neglect themselves in the way that I did.

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Jan is an English entrepreneur, writer & business coach. Over a long career, she founded several businesses in diverse areas from music, catering & manufacturing. Her brand & furniture designs are still being sold worldwide through the new owner.

Jan has always been involved in promoting entrepreneurship. She was chosen as one of Britain’s first 50 Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors in Europe & has a long speaking career to schools, colleges & business groups on Entrepreneurship. She also talks on sales or on the particular issues that hold back women in business. She writes for several publications & is also writing a book.

She loves helping other business people fulfil their potential & now has more time to devote to both speaking & coaching worldwide. She is able to offer her own experience in building & running businesses, but also now helps others find the peace & work life balance that she herself finally achieved - which she says makes her a far more useful, & more importantly, happy human being.

You can learn more about Jan on her website & you can connect with her on Twitter & LinkedIn.