On Self-Care and Being Humble

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I used to be one of those people who says things like, “Oh, I only get about five hours of sleep a night. That’s all I need.”

Or, “I just don’t have the luxury of going to the gym. I’m way too busy.”

Now I’m one of those people who hops on my bike for a morning ride, or takes a strenuous hike before heading into the office. And I no longer burn the midnight oil. What changed?

Over the last few years, I’ve come to the realization that optimum performance in life and work isn’t really possible if we don’t tend to our physical health, and that includes getting enough sleep and exercise. It’s been hard for me to accept the fact that our bodies were created with certain needs, and that we can’t function our best if those needs aren’t met.

Our spiritual, mental and emotional health are important too, and we can’t be at our best if we don’t pause and tend to them. This is why I enjoy outdoor exercise—I can nurture my whole self, physically, mentally, spiritually, all at once.

I wonder if these needs serve, in part, to keep us humble, to remind us that we’re human and limited. By thinking I could circumvent the natural requirements of my body and mind, I was being kind of arrogant, believing I’m somehow special, different, exempt from the physical limitations of this existence.

Certain religious traditions have a long history of denying the body’s needs as a way of life and a path to God. I’m not arguing with that, because I rarely hear anyone claiming not to need sleep or exercise because they’re trying to become more spiritually enlightened. It’s because they’re so busy, have so much work to do, have goals and dreams that simply can’t be fit into the normal day, families to take care of. They’re sacrificing for a higher purpose.

bike ride 2014I get that—it’s what I used to say. And I think it’s okay for limited periods of time to allow yourself to go without some of the necessities.

But do we really think we’re above the natural limitations of our bodies? Are we kidding ourselves, thinking we’re functioning optimally, when we could be doing so much better if we were healthier?

And why does our culture seem to put so much pressure on us to accomplish so much in our days, our weeks, our years?

I’ve been pondering all of this as I’ve tried to take better care of myself—sort of an experiment in cultivating humility by sleeping more and exercising daily (as paradoxical as that sounds). It forces me to admit I can’t “do it all” – I am human, and limited, and I have to make choices. All of this is somehow helping me feel more peaceful and whole—even while lamenting that I don’t have enough hours in the day.

What about you? How are you taking care of yourself these days? Have you ever thought about the relationship between a humble attitude and recognizing the need to take care of yourself?

 

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