Most of us are not very good at self-care. We often put other’s needs before ours. Especially if we are single parents, we’ve got a full load at work and a full load at home. Where is the time for ourselves? How do we make time for self-care?
One of my life-skills has been learning how to run my schedule using Google Calendar. I put all the appointments on my calendar. I remember a “hello date” several years ago, where I asked, “If you’ll give me your email address I’ll send you a calendar invite for our coffee this Saturday.” She found it odd, quirky, and somewhat endearing. I found it essential to put our dates on the map of my time so that I could make energy and time available.
I put things on my calendar so I can show up ready to go. I can glance at my week, see the high points and make decisions about how I’m going to schedule or use my open time. When I know what’s coming on Thursday evening, I can plan an early night on Wednesday to give me plenty of energy for the event. If I run my day at full-tilt and am slightly surprised that I have an evening event, I’m going to be tired, I’m going to be less-than-100%, I’m going to be disappointed in my planning and management.
I was speaking to a friend recently about their self-care planning. Here’s what I heard then say, “I’ve just got too much going on. Too many people need me right now.” Here’s the underlying message, “My self-care is not as important as my care of others.” And where this gets problematic is when things get overwhelming. When our schedules get overbooked with obligations to our kids, our friends, our partners, we will feel anxiety and exhaustion as we head into the weekday, the day where we have NO BREAKS.
“What if,” I proposed to my friend, “You take a moment at the beginning of each day, and add in a ME CYCLE? What if the first calendar event was YOU, every single day?” I could see the consternation on my friend’s face. I could hear the “not possible” response forming on their lips. “Just consider it,” I said. “I know, even this feels overwhelming, and like adding one more event to your calendar.” They nodded. “And I’m not speaking to you as a coach, but as a friend who cares about you.” I could see the pain in their expression.
While I wish I could add some boundaries and scheduling priorities to my friend’s calendar, I know that I am powerless to enact any redirection in their life. Even with coaching clients, often the calendar is a first practice to getting their lives and plans on a map. If you begin using a calendar, at least you can see what’s ahead. For some, just seeing what’s coming is a bit overwhelming. That’s a sure sign that you’re facing some disempowering feelings around your ability to manage your own life.
No one is going to manage your self-care or your overloaded schedule. You are the only person who can make this shift. If you continue to manage events and activities by the seat of your pants you are likely to depreciate or put off any time for yourself. If you’re constantly adding events to take care of someone else’s emotional or mental health, are you also finding the compassion to give yourself the same consideration? My guess is the answer is a resounding, “No.”
When I’m talking to friends and clients, I am frequently aware of other’s tendency to take care of everyone else first. Most of us, leave ourselves the twilight minutes of the day. If the day runs out of time for us, well, that’s okay.
Eventually, the “check engine” light of our soul is going to come on. We’re going to face burnout, crashing emotions, and hopelessness associated with our chaotic lack of “time for ourselves.” You can begin to taper back the chaos right now. You can put a ME CYCLE in your day, every day, to ask,
And then, the magic trick is to start putting a few of those wondermints back in your life.
We need wondermints all along the path. And they are not hard to find if you look for them. Getting that 15-minute massage at Whole Foods Market while we’re shopping. Buying a bath bomb and putting a bath night on the calendar. Each wondermint you add to your life begins to give light and energy to your self-care routine. You can start small. And, as you begin to scatter more wondermints across your weekly schedule, you’ll also have moments to look forward to. It doesn’t take a lot to add one thing in for you. It’s a mind shift. It’s a commitment to your health and wellbeing.
“Is this event/activity moving towards my goal of wellbeing and self-care or away from it?
If you can ask yourself this question more often, you can begin to reject some of the events and requests that are thrown in your direction, from both family and job. You can pause for a minute and ask yourself about what YOU NEED and what YOU WANT.
If you don’t put some of your self-care time and self-care activities as a priority, you will continue to give more than you receive. And what we know from science, is that when someone finds themselves in overwhelm and anxiety, they do not perform very well. And, more importantly, their own health becomes part of the cost they are paying. You can’t fool your body by loading up on carbs and caffeine. You can’t fool your heart by “imagining” a self-care routine and then never moving towards your own needs and desires.
It’s hard to ask for what we need if we don’t have the time to ask and answer the question for ourselves. Even when we do know what we need, often it is overwhelming to ask for what we need. Why is it so hard to say, “I need Wednesday night off, can you take the kids?” Why is making time for ourselves so low on our emotional and spiritual radar?
We’ve been trained since we were children to attend to the needs of others. If we grew up in a dysfunctional family (as most of us did) we learned to put everyone else’s needs, particularly the parents, before our own. And if we had alcohol or mental issues in our family, we also learned the subtle art of self-sacrifice.
What we all need is to learn that self-sacrifice is also self-sabotage. When we only think of others’ needs and wants we are unlikely to get our own needs and wants met. It’s simple. If you don’t know what you need you can’t ask for it. If you don’t ask for what you need you’re unlikely to get it. So you go around feeling overwhelmed, unhappy and stressed out. It’s not the way to live. It’s the path that leads to illness and loss of enthusiasm.
Start small. Ask for a night off. Ask for a break from laundry duty for a week. Ask for a weekend trip, alone. Ask for what your body needs, what your spirit needs, and what your emotional health needs.
It is 100% up to you to identify what you need. And then it is 100% up to you to make the request to your work or family. And, you may not get the results you want right away. But, what you are telling yourself, the signal you are giving to your body and soul, is this, “I am worthy of being taken care of. I still love everyone else, but I need to put a few ME CYCLES in the mix.
When you feel your life shifting towards self-care an amazing thing happens. Your body and mind light up with joy. “There is hope!” Your soul knows when it’s being cared for. As you are able to apply the TOWARDS or AWAY FROM filter on your life requests and activities, you are giving yourself the awareness and opportunity to turn towards yourself in a loving and caring way.
As the saying goes, “If mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
It’s true. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are not going to have 100% of your joy and love to share with others. You cannot add anything to your partner’s cup if yours is still empty.
Pause for a second and put yourself and your needs ahead of EVERYONE ELSE’S. It’s hard. Self-care and self-awareness are the only way forward to a healthier happier life. Let’s get on with it.
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