You’ve heard the flight attendant drone on about what safety procedures to take should things take a turn for the worst in flight—most importantly, how to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before taking care of those around you. It’s obvious right? How can you assist others when you are unable to breathe? But what if you applied this advice not only in flight, but here—while grounded—in your daily life?
Yes, it’s an overused metaphor… but it brings up a good point, especially in the realm of self-care. I find this to be particularly true for busy women—women who are so busy taking care of everything and everyone, they perpetually put themselves last on their never-ending ‘to-do’ list. Does this sound like you?
The problem is, you blow by those turbulent warning signs getting to the next thing on list. And it’s hard, because the signs vary, but the outcome is always the same: you end up with something less than your ideal, and you’re not having as much fun. And, in times of deep stress and anxiety, you do feel as if you cannot breathe.
Some of my personal favorites are, I skipped __________ (fill in some fun activity) because I was:
- too tired
- too behind
- too cranky
- too fat
- I didn’t realize today was Monday!
Sometimes, it’s more general “off-ness”:
- I just don’t feel like myself
- I snapped at my team
- I just couldn’t deal with _______ today
- I missed the birthday of someone I love
- I forgot to return a call / make an appointment
You can justify and dismiss any of those in the course of a busy day, vowing to get to it later… But what if you paid attention to them for what they are: a warning you’re getting off course and heading for a rough spot? The oxygen mask will be dropping soon. And when it does, will you accept it? These moments are your chance to take notice and change course, because you are worthy of downtime, recharging, playing, and simply “blowing off time.” I know you can feel this truth in your body as you read this. We’ve all been guilty of pushing our past boundaries—putting demands on our bodies, minds, and spirits beyond normal limits and we’ve survived. But was it worth it?
Here’s the good news: No one can take care of you, but you. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for assistance, delegate, or just declare, ‘not happening’. All those solutions start with you, and they’re a great way to start to hone in on what matters and preserve your energy for such. You’re already REALLY good at getting a lot of things done. Now all you have to shift is your prioritization and add yourself into the mix. It can be that simple. Live your life as though you matter. A lot. Breathe in your spiritual and emotional oxygen as though it mattered, a lot. Because it does. The more often you do this, the better you do with everything— contributing at work, having fun, rediscovering your passions, hobbies, and gifts, and truly engaging with family & friends. Life is clearly better. Self-care is not selfish. It’s the necessary “oxygen” of a balanced life.
As a teacher and executive coach, I teach a variety of impactful techniques to help women reset their priorities in order to activate better self-care in their lives to turn their desires into results. But not one of those amazing tools and techniques is worth anything until you decide: “I’m a priority. I’m putting me the top of the list, so I can have the full life I want, not just the life I can squeeze in between everything else.”
Diving deeper into yourself can feel awkward at first, but it allows you to discover what really recharges you. Unsure of where to start? Try these two manageable steps:
- Start easy, by making a list of things you KNOW support you being at your best. These are things you love and that replenish you and may include seeing friends, viewing or making art, reading, working out, sleeping… Then work it into your schedule like do you everything else that is essential.
- Decide what you need to be your best and make a plan to honor these needs. Schedule your “me time” just like you schedule everything else that matters. In the beginning, this can be one personal self-care promise a week. Allow this new pattern to be incorporated into your world bit by bit, so that it becomes a habit that is sustainable. Remember, the key to lasting change is like turning a dial, not flipping a switch.
One of life’s bigger challenges is identifying and then making the space for what recharges you. This practice is so important and integral to your well-being. Identify and dedicate yourself to what you need to rejuvenate and be empowered. Add new elements of self-care once you’ve successfully (and without guilt) made each one a part of your weekly routine. Trust me, it’ll happen… because the glow you’ll feel within will radiate out into the world. This glow and energy will energize you as you take care of all the demands of your daily life. You will thrive, and therefore those who need and love you will thrive too. Why? Because you put the oxygen mask on yourself first…