Self Indulgence: It Isn?t Just About Chocolate

It's no secret that we women, by virtue of our genetic make-up I suppose, seem to feel it is necessary to be superwomen-simultaneously balancing the demands of managing a home, caring for children and aging parents, and usually working in a demanding profession. This syndrome, which was first labeled in the 1980s, continues 20-some years later despite zillions of articles and talk shows discussing it.

And, it's not just women on those shows or featured in those articles either. You and I see these stressed-out women to whom I refer all around us. In many cases, we only need to look as far as the mirror. You know these women too-they get up early and go to bed late, have a daytimer with more ink on it than white spaces, grab meals on the run if they eat at all, play chauffeur in their "spare time" between errands for the family, and find it almost impossible to say "no" to any request. And, the busier they are, the more they seem to pile on their plates.

Unfortunately for most of these women, the realization that their stressful life is taking its toll hits at some point-often triggered by a health problem related to the stress of an out-of-balance life and personal neglect. They may be busy, but not fulfilled.

It shouldn't have to get to that point! It is the intent of this article to encourage you to put balance into your life, and to most importantly, INCLUDE YOURSELF AT THE TOP OF THE LIST OF PEOPLE NEEDING YOUR CARE. After all, if you crash and burn, who will do the rest of your list?

To that end, I have taken the liberty of surveying a group of women who realize the importance of balance so I can provide real-life tips to make a difference in your life. Specifically, the women I surveyed should be role models for the simple fact that they are ahead of many of us in the recognition of the fact that taking care of oneself is critical. They also recognize that they can each be of greater benefit to everyone around them if they take the time to care for themselves-to indulge themselves.

Here are some of their "indulgences" for you to consider incorporating into your own life. Some can be implemented immediately while others may take a little planning, mixing the bigger indulgences in with the mini ones.

*Getaways-Many women said that simply getting away makes the difference-short trips and longer ones. Two weeks in an oceanfront accommodation was recommended by one; others site "day trips" as indulgences. One woman turns off the world on a Saturday morning so she can go ride her horse in the State Park with her husband-no cell phones. For her, an evening boat ride or ride on the motorcycle completes a perfect day of "decompression." For me an afternoon on the golf course provides a mental getaway.

A trip-related indulgence from another woman said that scuba diving was key to her R&R. She said, "Diving is such a huge change from my usual routine, it cleanses my mind and body from the daily stresses. ?the colors, the sounds, the awareness of your own body?you lose all association with what goes on at the surface and it is a total Nirvana experience."

*Shopping-Many women surveyed said the shopping was their indulgence-from shoes to antiques. One woman said that her indulgence was spending "2-3 hours exploring every single item in the antique mall, looking for a special treasure." Buying something as a treat, such as concert tickets or a special outfit, was also recommended.

*Live Music-Dancing, especially to live music, is good for the soul "since it's hard to worry about something when you're absorbed in music." Listening to live music is also a cathartic experience for many.

*Home Alone-Many women said that being home alone is an indulgence. "It's mostly about sitting still with real down time." "Reading a really great chick book with a big bowl of popcorn I don't have to share with anyone else, sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around my legs" is one lady's idea of a pampering. Another person said that spending Saturday evening at home with "everyone asleep, me in my craft room working on an easy project with classical music on the radio" was her indulgence. And another suggested that a "nap on the screened porch with a nice light breeze blowing, especially if gardenias are blooming" is her indulgence.

One woman said, "I reward myself for getting through something tough by making the evening all about me. I shut the phone off, order dinner and rent a movie."

*Fitness-Whether it's a hard work-out at the gym, a session on the in-home treadmill or yoga, taking time to unite body and spirit is recommended by many respondents. Nature walks with a significant other, friend, or kids made the list as well. And, meditation was also cited as therapeutic and rejuvenating. I encourage clients to sit still for at least five minutes daily to experience "being" and not "doing."

*Food-One woman said that "just lingering in the coffee aisle enjoying the smell" is her therapy. Others cited chocolate or a treat at Starbucks as theirs. And others said "dinner dates" with a significant other were welcome stress relievers.

*Nice Gestures-Just taking time to do something nice for someone who doesn't expect it makes people feel good. One woman said, "I send flowers or a card because I like the way it makes me feel." A volunteer at a hospital echoed this, saying that helping a stranger gives her pleasure because it is not expected yet so appreciated, "even if it's just getting a family member a glass of water."

*Chores-Having chores done for you, such as the house cleaning or getting the car detailed, makes a difference. One woman even suggested doing a major chore that has been nagging you, such as super-organizing a closet; she says that the feeling of accomplishment is a great boost.

*Pampering-This list would not be complete without some of the more obvious indulgences-spa treatments, massages, buying yourself flowers each week, reflexology, acupuncture, manicures?or just a relaxed conversation over a drink or meal with someone you haven't seen in a while.

While this list is by no means a complete one, you get the idea?get away from your normal routine and do something for yourself each day; then plan bigger indulgences periodically. At the same time you try to incorporate the concept of indulgence into your routine, think about ways to pare your "to do" list permanently. And, above all, don't feel guilty for caring for yourself?no matter what! Ask yourself, "Is it about self indulgence or self preservation?" Your well being is your most valuable asset!

Mary Ann Masur, president of Synergy Consultants, LLC, is a professional coach, who brings 20 years of diverse business experience to organizations and individuals in the areas of leadership, team building and communication. She was one of Maryland's Top 100 Women in 2000. She can be reached at or [email protected] or at 410-377-7323.

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