The issue of taking proper care of oneself is something that comes up quite often for me these days. Of course my parents always want to ensure that I am eating right and getting enough rest (and now I get an extra dose of this from my in-laws), and everyone has exhorted me to remember to take care of myself since the baby has been born. In my line of work we focus on trying to avoid secondary trauma and burnout, and I specifically try to keep this at the front of my mind when supervising other clinicians.
Do I heed these warnings and take time to put myself first? The honest answer is: I try, but I often don’t do a great job at it. There are only so many hours in a day, and sometimes I don’t give myself enough of those hours. My husband gets up early with the baby so I can recoup a few extra minutes from the deficit I build up during the overnight wakeups, and I relish that time with the baby monitor (both internal and external) completely turned off. I get my hair cut regularly and treat myself to the occasional few hours of solo shopping. I try to feed myself and my family well, but one area that I fall short in when it comes to feeding myself is lunch.
My days tend to be busy and unpredictable. I am not always in my office to start the day or at lunchtime. I usually attempt to build in 15-30 minutes to eat something, but if one meeting goes a little late, then someone needs “just a minute” to run something by me, and I forgot my homemade frozen burrito at home so the only option is to run across the street for a bagel before the next meeting starts…it doesn’t happen.
When I was pregnant and then back at work pumping to meet the needs of the baby, I somehow found it easier to ensure that I had healthy snacks on hand, and I never skipped lunch. I could justify the time out of my day more easily when someone else’s well-being was on the line.
This week I have come back around to realizing that my skipping lunch still affects the well-being of those that I love. When I haven’t eaten (or eaten well) all day, I don’t have much left in the tank for the few hours I have with the baby before his bedtime. When my stomach is growling, I am not the most pleasant person to be around, and any inane conversation about anything is nothing more than a barrier between me and food and will not be tolerated. Ask my husband how he knows this, and he will tell you a story about trying to find a certain Thai restaurant in downtown Providence at a few minutes past hungry early in our relationship.
I have been on a roll for workdays recently, keeping a supply of healthy snacks in my desk and remembering my leftovers every day. Today though, it all fell apart. Ran out of snacks, forgot lunch, too few minutes to go get anything. I resigned myself to a hungry afternoon and resolved to grab something on the way home to stave off the bitchy.
Then I cut through the kitchen area on my way back to my office from the copier, and stopped short. A whole tray of sandwiches was laid out on the table along with a selection of apples in a bowl, most likely left over from some meeting that had just ended. When food is put on that table, it is free for the taking. I grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich and a Pink Lady apple, polished them off in the 7 minutes I had, and managed to smile and be attentive through the interview I had to conduct, my commute home, and dinner with my son and then my husband. Fabulous.
So, Fabulous Thing #40: Free lunch.