Know Your Limits: Realizing "Enough" is Central to Self-Care

                Before my son was born, like most parents, I had more time to (and for) myself. My husband worked long hours in certain seasons, and at those times, after I got home from work I would have a substantial chunk of an evening to do with what I wished. Sometimes I’d make after-work plans, but more often, I would hoard that time to myself and use it for everything from reading to trying new recipes to working in the garden to watching Dance Moms ad nauseam. Even when my husband wasn’t working late, I often arrived home first, and had a few moments to pour a glass of wine and enjoy it while I prepared dinner.

                I truly enjoy the company of others, and I miss it when I am without it for too long. I feel energized when I’m around other people. However, as an emotionally sensitive person, I need time to disengage and recharge my system. (That sentence sounds rather self-aware, and I can’t take full credit for it. It was more of a light-bulb moment for me while reading a list of characteristics common in those who are highly sensitive that was shared in a social media group I participate in.)  Putting words to what I was feeling and experiencing was somehow cathartic; like I could let go of worrying about whether I should feel overstimulated or exhausted after a busy social schedule or a long few days with my little one, and instead recognize it as my body’s way of telling me, “Okay. Enough now. Let’s pull back and circle the wagons.” Before, when I had a comparative abundance of time available to accomplish things for myself or just “be,” I don’t think I realized that I actually needed that time. I knew I enjoyed it, most of the time. But like so many things, in the absence of it, I felt the loss. Initially, in that absence, I would try to overcome my mounting feelings of anxiety, stuff away my agitation, and put a stopper in feeling drained so that I could rise above the situation. Reality demands that we must at times, after all. But the more I carried on, the more I realized that it wasn’t helpful as a general practice, because the anxiety/agitation/drained feeling wouldn’t go away. In my “Feeling Good and Drained? Revel in It,” blog post a few months ago, I mentioned a feeling that was opposite to the accomplished, fulfilled, well-spent, exhausted, contentment that was the focal point of the piece – a spent feeling borne more of restlessness and frustration and agitation. That is the feeling that arises when I don’t heed my body’s signals about “enough.”

                We all reach the point of “enough,” and we certainly don’t all reach it at the same time or after the same series of events or following the same stimuli. But that doesn’t mean one “enough” is more valid or less valid than another. I’ve come to realize that the important part is recognizing my own “enough” and when my body is trying to tell me that I’ve reached that point. It’s not something I’ve previously spent much time thinking about, but after wandering through the changes I’ve experienced and the allocations I’ve come to make for that recharge time, I’ve realized that it’s a basic tenant of self-care.

                And just a note on self-care. There seems to be some criticism about “millennials” and their purportedly egocentric lifestyles and infatuation with everyone doing what’s best for them. As an older millennial (by both age and tech savvy-ness), I barely qualify to speak for the group, but I’m going to go ahead and say that we “millennials” shouldn’t feel ashamed for recognizing our own needs and the needs of others. Nor should any generation! It’s vital to the care of ourselves AND the care of others. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary for our mental and physical health, and quality of life. So let me be cliché for my generation and say, “You do you.” Because it’s important to know when it’s “enough.”