Cambrian: Opinion

Self-care isn’t a treat; it’s about priorities, not time

So often in conversation, I am first greeted with, “Gee, I need to call you and schedule a massage.” That is followed quickly with, “But I never have the time to treat myself like that.”

A. It’s not a treat, it’s self-care.

B. We have time when we make our well-being a priority. Believe me, I’m as guilty as the next party of neglecting this.

“Making sure that you are still in charge of your time and how you choose to spend it is a key mindset, because it’s very easy to fall into victimization.” Author Laura Vanderkam, said in talking about time management at, in discussing a word that is a very big cliché these days: “mindfulness.”

We often do things because we always have, because we have to pay bills or it’s just an action that we do regularly without almost even thinking about it (like making breakfast, combing our hair). Fine, own those beliefs, but remain aware of why you are doing them. Is it to keep our teeth from falling out? Is it to make enough cash to buy yourself a massage?

Vanderkam was trying to make it clear that mindfulness is not so much about closing oneself in a small room high up in the mountains and being silent for a week but rather doing everything you do with purpose. Or as she defined it, “a combination of intention — setting intention for your attention — with an attitude of curiosity or nonjudgment.”

Engage your senses. Smell the eggs cooking. Feel the warm dishwater on your hands. Listen to your breath as you walk up the hill.

“Mindfulness about how we spend our time is so important, because how we spend our hours is how we spend our lives. I could think of myself as a writer, but if I don’t spend any time writing, I’m not much of a writer.”

I may have said it before, and I’m sure it’s a summary of other things I’ve read, but we tend to think our life is about the kids making it to college or dealing with aging parents or other big undertakings. But, really, our life is the minutia of daily living.

Vanderkam advises us to “think of things as a rhythm rather than a balance. Rather than thinking that we have to keep everything going at one time or we have to prioritize quiet (we should), think of our days as a rhythm that’s moving us in the direction of what we want. … I read the Rule of Benedictine, an almost 2000-year-old Christian text for monastics, on what to do if you want to live a good life. It wasn’t just sit and pray all the time, and it wasn’t work all the time. It was look at your days and move through the activities of work and service and prayer and community and cleaning and all the obligations.”

“Don’t say you don’t have time for something. Say, ‘It’s not a priority.’ I don’t have time really means it’s not a priority. That’s fine. We can own that truth. At some point, work is going to be a higher priority than spending time with your children or a spouse. We all have to pay the bills, and that’s okay, but we should at least acknowledge that.”

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at