Finding the balance between taking care of others and caring for ourselves is an intimidating challenge. We’re enlisted to give back, volunteer, donate, compassionately manage others, care for aging parents and ensure our children have a loving, caring, supportive place to develop (cue guilt trip). Nope, no “me time” happening anytime soon. Pull, pull, push, push, no time to be centered.
No wonder we regress on our own goals and push our dreams aside. We don’t eat correctly, we’re stressed out, and we go to bed exhausted without checking anything off of our own to-do list. Things we know are important such as exercise become luxuries, and we regularly excuse ourselves from enjoyable activities by saying “I don’t have the time.” We’re so busy taking care of others that our own self-care goes out the window.
What we don’t see is the safety mask hanging down in front of us —we’re too caught up our drama to notice. This mask will give us the refreshing moment we need! It will revive our soul, ignite our energy and simply give us energy to take the next step. Unfortunately, when we finally see it, we push it aside, because we believe those in front of us are more deserving of our time and care than ourselves. Clearly our personal needs are not as important.
Imagine that if, in the depths of our stress, we actively reach for our mask. What if we take a few moments to assess our own needs and address it without delay? No way, you say. I can’t even begin to think about doing something for myself when my family’s to-do list is overflowing! How can you even suggest I do something like workout when my family needs me to go to the grocery store?
Well then, I say to you — where is your personal to-do list? The one that you’ve shoved to the bottom of your pile while you mumbled “I’ll get to that one day” and then moved on? Maybe it’s in the back of your mind — you think about it from time to time (when you’re putting your kids to bed), but it’s dauntingly impossible to get to. Until now.
DO ONE THING: You owe it to yourself to do just one thing for you. Put your proverbial mask on right now and do something on that list. Go for a walk, start writing in your journal, close your eyes and meditate, watch a show that’s been on your DVR for months, something that you will enjoy, treasure and benefit from for hours after you do it.
Still no? Ok, so let’s rewind. Before you even get started, think of how you’ll feel afterward. Think of the other things you have to do that day, and imagine yourself doing them with that post-self-care feeling. You know what that feeling is? Satisfaction. Gratification. Pride. A sense of relaxation and completion. Reaching for your mask yet?
Things are going to go through your head while you fight with yourself about actually getting it done. Take an early morning workout for example. You’re going to push snooze, and instead of falling asleep for another 9 minutes, you’re going to argue with yourself — your day is packed, you have meetings, responsibilities, people who depend on you and challenges you don’t even know about that are coming your way. Just get in a little more sleep…you can squeeze it in after work or after the kids go to bed. Oh yeah? Chances are, the time in front of you will be the only opportunity, and you’re arguing with yourself as time ticks on. Your only “me time” is if you get up while the house is still dark and accomplish the workout you promised yourself the night before. Your feet hit the floor. Ok, you can do this.
Then you get through it — wow — you actually did it! You come home, open the front door, and yes, the rest of your to-do list is now looking you square in the face. But you know what? Your day has already begun, and you’ve already checked “me” off of your to-do list. Your mask is already on. Time to rescue everyone else in your life.
Originally published at medium.com