You are a busy professional woman with a list of things waiting to be done.
You miss meals and live on coffee and unhealthy snacks.
A good night’s rest is rare and there is no time to exercise.
Every day is the same — filled with too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion are the norm.
You feel alone in a one-woman battle that cannot be won.
You are ambitious, you enjoy your job, and you are good at it.
You love your family and making sure they are well-cared-for and happy is a priority.
You have always known . . .
- It is the woman’s job to take care of others and make sure everything runs smoothly.
- It’s ok to take care of yourself when there is time. (But, is there ever time?)
- Home and family are your first priority and if you choose to have a career, you must find a way to get it all done.
- It is selfish to put yourself first.
But, what if that is all wrong?
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”— Unknown
It is OK to want both a family and a career. And, yes, you must find a way to make it all work.
But, you must come first.
If you don’t take care of yourself physically and emotionally, you and everyone and everything you love will suffer the consequences. When your mind and body are drained, you have nothing left to give.
You have been told a story about what women do and don’t do. How you should act. Who you should be. Embedded in that story are some myths that need to be dispelled.
It is time to create a new story that will direct your life.
The story begins with you as your #1 priority.
Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It is a necessity. You may have heard (but disregarded) the advice, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.”
Dr. Glen Xiong, UC Berkeley medical school at UC Davis explains,
“Emotional and mental health is important because it’s a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving. It plays an important part in the health of your relationships and allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.”
You have been living with the old story for a long time, so changing the story in your head and developing new life-patterns can be challenging. But, you have never been afraid of a challenge, so I know you can do it.
The life-changing benefits will be worth the effort.
1. Be Miserly with Your Minutes
Budgeting your time is as important as budgeting your money. Set your priorities and be sure self-care is at the top of the list.
Create a schedule, allowing adequate time for each of your priorities. Be sure to include buffer time at the end of each activity. (Buffer time allows for unexpected delays and transition to the next activity.)
Basic rules for a schedule to be helpful in taking care of yourself:
- Schedule “self-care” time every day.
- Set and hold boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use them.
- Learn to say no — You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept as your responsibility.
2. Take a Stand
You learned as a young girl that it is important to be kind and accommodating — to make things run smoothly, to keep the peace.
Over the years those behaviors can make you hesitant to speak up and speak out — to say what you really think.
Standing up for yourself and speaking your truth will always benefit you. Hesitation to act, express your opinions, or make your wishes known, will always diminish you.
It may seem easier to avoid conflict than to take a stand. But, letting people get away with steamrolling you chips away at your self-confidence. It also increases stress and anxiety.
Developing the ability to stand up for yourself builds confidence and put you in control of your life.
The more you stand up and speak out for yourself, the stronger you become. It is time to be seen and heard.
3. Take a Weekly 12-Hour Vacation
Set aside one day out of seven to rest — a core Christian belief. An excellent practice regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Your mind and body need to rest.
Disconnect from all technology for 12 hours every Sunday. No phones, no computer, no TV, nothing that must be plugged in. It can be 6 to 6 or Noon to Midnight, but a full 12 hours.
Be sure everything is turned off — and out of sight.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” — Anne Lamott
Spend the time with your family (who must also be unplugged if they are with you), take a leisurely walk, take a long drive in the country, sit by the ocean, read, write, paint, ride a bike, write notes to loved ones (by hand), meditate, or simply do nothing.
This may be challenging at first, but when you adjust, those 12 hours will be the sweetest hours of the week.
4. Protect Your Most Precious Gift
You received it at birth, with no strings attached.
It is miraculous, powerful, forgiving, and carries a lifetime guarantee.
Without this gift, you have no life — with it, you can create the life you want.
Follow the simple ABCs of good health to take good care of your mind and body (your most precious gift) and they will take care of you.
A. Rest — Get enough quality, uninterrupted sleep each night (7 to 9 hours).
5. Practice Solitude
Find time to be completely alone — at least 30 minutes each day. Spend the time in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Wear comfortable clothes and have nothing with you but your thoughts.
The goal is to completely withdraw from the world and the influence of anyone or anything. It is time to be alone with your thoughts, to rediscover yourself, and focus on your deepest values.
In this quiet space, there are no expectations, no noise, no busyness, no one to interrupt your thoughts. It is just you listening to your heart speak. Let your mind wander until your heart tells you where to stop.
“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner peace.”— Nikke Rowe
6. Start Dating
Plan at least one date each week with your significant other, your child or children, a friend or friends — or yourself.
Make plans and do something fun.
If friends and/or family members are limited — join a bridge club or a book club through the public library. Go to the movies — eat popcorn and get lost in the film.
Try a new ethnic food restaurant. Go to a museum or an art show. Have regular skype or facetime calls with a good friend or friends who live many miles away. The point is to do something fun and relaxing.
7. Find a Confidant
Most women find it soothing to share their deepest thoughts and emotions. Keeping everything inside can lead to depression and loneliness. If you don’t have an outlet, you will eventually pay the price.
Finding someone to talk to isn’t always easy, especially if you are older, single, or live alone; but, it is important.
Four suggestions . . .
- A person you can talk to face-to-face is always the first choice — a good friend, a colleague, a child, a parent, an aunt, a cousin, or a grandmother. The only requirement is that it is someone you trust to keep your confidences.
- If no one lives nearby, Skype or Facetime with someone on a regular basis.
- Another choice is to find a good counselor and have weekly or bi-weekly sessions. This is an option I have used from time to time, and it helps.
- Finally — keep a journal — capture your thoughts and feelings on paper. Journaling can be cathartic. I have kept a journal for years. It is a great release.
When you journal, you can do stream-of-consciousness writing or more structured writing. The following exercises would be a good place to start:
1. What is one thing you want to start doing — and why? Then, start doing it and keep a record of the results and/or lessons learned.
2. What is one thing you want to stop doing — and why? Then, stop doing it and keep a record of the results and/or lessons learned.
3. Each day, record at least one thing you are grateful for — anything that makes your life better.
You already have too much to do and taking care of yourself may feel like one more thing to think about — so it could be easy to dismiss, but don’t.
You no longer have to feel overwhelmed and discouraged — dreading the start of each day — feeling lost, stressed out and exhausted all the time.
Today is the day to put yourself in the picture and make self-care a priority.
You don’t have to do everything at once. Start with one of the suggestions and make it part of a sacred self-care routine. Do it faithfully.
Then, add another . . . and another . . .
I know you can do it.
Feel your life change and enjoy the new you.
It won’t be long until you look forward to each day with energy and enthusiasm. The overwhelm will begin to dissipate as it is quietly replaced by a sense of peace.
Life will be good!