We all know we can take better care of others if we take care of ourselves first. We've heard the flight attendant tell us to put the mask over our own mouth before helping the person next to us. It makes sense, of course. We need to be at our best in order to provide the best care and support to the people we love.
But knowing all that doesn't make it easy. Even though taking care of yourself should be priority No. 1, it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes you have to step back, look at what's happening, and make intentional changes.
Are any of these signs familiar?
You're not getting everything done. There are two reasons I can't get everything on my to-do list done. The first reason is that the list is too long (sound familiar?) and the second is that I'm just not showing up. I don't care about the tasks because I'm overwhelmed. I'm doing too many things that drain me and not enough things that fill me up.
You're frequently tired or sick. There are times when sickness is going to happen, of course. But sometimes tired and sick is happening because you aren't getting in the basic care needed to function. Not enough sleep, not enough healthy food, and not enough relaxation time can leave you feeling deflated and open to illness.
You have ZERO patience. This is my favorite indicator that someone isn't taking enough time for themself. The conversation with another mom will start out with all the reasons her kids are driving her crazy or how she keeps snapping without knowing why. It usually isn't long before the topic of "me time" comes up. How can we expect to be calm and relaxed when we are not taking the time to recharge?
Get used to saying NO! Get in the habit of giving a standard response to any invite, no matter who asks or when. "I need to check my calendar, I'll text you when I'm at home." This gives you the time to think about whether you really want to say yes or not. Take it one step further by remembering that anytime you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to another. Say yes to YOU more often by saying no to the stuff that doesn't really matter.
Turn chores into "me" time. We have to vacuum the house and do the dishes and clean the bathrooms and...this isn't going to change. What can change is how you go about doing these chores. I love listening to audio books. That's something I consider "me" time. There is no reason I can't enjoy an awesome book while I scrub the toilet.
Let them help! Part of the reason we don't have time for ourselves is that we insist on doing everything ourselves. I felt a huge weight lifted when I asked my hubby to take on cooking during the weekend. He was happy to do it, and now there are at least two days a week I don't have to think about it. Our partners are not the only ones who can help, though. Give the kids cleaning tasks that fit their age and skill level. It's easy enough to make cleaning with kids a pleasurable experience, and it helps instill a strong work ethic—a win-win!
Schedule in date nights. Remember a few years ago when spending time with your partner was just what you needed? Having fun, relaxing, and connecting with your partner is a big part of taking care of you. This past year, my husband and I made it a priority to have one date night a month. It's been wonderful! Don't get caught up in the idea that you have to get a babysitter, get dressed up, and spend a lot of money, though—some of the best date nights happen at home.
Lead by example. Here's what I know about me: Sometimes it's easier to do something for my kids than it is to do something for myself. Is that true for you? If so, this tip will make the biggest difference for you. Think about your daughter (or your son) as an adult. Do you want him or her to know how to slow down and relax? Guess what the best way to teach them that skill is? That's right—show them how to take care of themselves by taking care of yourself! See what I did there? Pretty clever trick, right?
There are so many ways you can make yourself a priority. What will you do today to take care of you?