Self-care is giving the world the best part of you, instead of what’s left of you. -Katie Reed
I originally posted this on September 2019 and given the world pandemic, I felt this was much needed again.
I am grateful that these posts are being so well received. I appreciate the encouragement and the feedback on how these can get better. Thank you for taking the time to read, like, share and comment. I am still learning a lot on how to do these, like turning on ability to comment 🤦♀️. Now onto the story…..
The first step is recognizing you’re out of balance…
I have a confession. I am a recovering workaholic. You know that person, always online, perpetually busy, working towards unending timelines, deadlines, not taking time to enjoy the ride. The one that, from afar, looks so successful and joyful. The genuinely determined one, fueled by grit, but ignoring the real refueling energy, by taking time out of the hustle to take care of themselves. Yup, that was me for a very long time. My teams saw it long before I did, and I should have taken a clue when they gave me a cute book on being a workaholic. Looking back, I was just too busy to get it. 🤦♀️
Somehow, I got so focused on everyone and everything else, I left myself behind. I wasn’t even on my radar. Just too busy. I also had an executive coach, some years ago, suggest that I start meditating for 10 minutes a day. I thought she was crazy. How can you possibly be still for 10 minutes?
And on top of that, focus on breathing. What new age babble was that? I clearly wasn’t ready. And although I was growing in experience and learning new things, I wasn’t growing to my full potential.
Slow slide to where I didn’t want to be…
I slowly gained weight, I slowly wasn’t as positive in my inner thoughts, and gradually became out of touch with my WHY! I justified these things with getting older, and as you age, these things happen. I gave myself zero time to explore my self-talk, you know that pesky subconscious that nags at you, wiggling in to say, “take a breath girl, something isn’t clicking.” I was sidetracked by a lot of activity, missing what I knew: that activity doesn’t equal outcomes and certainly doesn’t equal happiness.
I slowly started to feel out of sync with my thoughts, passion, and what drives my energy. I was on the daily survival grind without knowing it. The crashing waves of life were rolling on my shores.
I finally awoke when I saw a picture of myself. It was one of the most joyous occasions that I could remember in a long time. One that felt right on so many levels. Yet the picture, to me, showed a smile not quite touching my eyes and a physique that to me whispered: “wow, she really let herself go.” I felt sad inside and a bit adrift and decided right there and then that I had to make myself a priority. I couldn’t do what I am genuinely passionate about, which is helping others if I couldn’t help myself. 🤦♀️
I started small, knowing that a “Big Bang” approach for me wouldn’t be sustainable. I had to incorporate new life choices that were part of my daily routine and into my regular flow.
The first step, which I think was the hardest, was self-forgiveness and erasing the sense of failing myself. I had to forgive that I hadn’t recognized the slow slip to where I was.
I then permitted myself to take 10 minutes for myself every day to meditate and not feel selfish about that. I had to shift my thinking and realize I wasn’t taking time away from others. Especially at 5:00 am! Those new emails that came in overnight really could wait.
Next, I started walking a bit every day, to add one (1) mile additional each day on top of the daily steps I regularly took doing standard stuff. I started thinking about how to increase my daily levels during the day with things like walking during a conference call using the Skype app. Doing the company mandated training while walking on the mobile app. Finding small pockets of time where I could get a few extra steps in—walking while doing eMails instead of sitting at my desk. I was focused on integrating steps into my hectic day by finding small pockets of time. Soon I felt free, untethered from the excuses that I didn’t have time to walk. Now I achieve 8-10 miles each day. 🙌🙌
I began to look harder at what I was fueling my body with. Being mindful about what I was eating and not letting a hectic schedule leave me starving and not thinking about what I was stuffing my face with. I cut out a lot of carbs and gained my old energy back. I found I had more ideas and felt my creativity and positivity improving as well. After a year, I was down in weight, up in energy, and sustaining my plan.
A few other things that I discovered along the journey to self-care: I had a lot of downtime while driving 40 minutes each way to work. Instead of listening to music, why not listen to books or podcasts on leadership, motivation, and other topics, I am interested in learning. Before long, I had read 15 books and discovered wonderful podcasts, that I would never have had time for before.
What I have learned so far…
What I learned was that I am the one who wasn’t in control of my complete life, and I was more selfish by not taking care of myself. I had to own that and stop making excuses why I couldn’t take time for myself. As a leader, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, etc… I strive to have the positive energy to unleash the potential in those around me. That takes self-care to recharge the batteries and ensure that you can give back in helping to solve problems, remove barriers, listening intently, etc… In my personal life, I had to realize that I wasn’t giving the best of myself, and therefore those that I cared so much about were getting my leftover scraps. I was burning myself out.
All through this, I still was viewed as successful, happy, and energetic. But inside, I was treading water. This journey reminded me that how you see a person on the outside doesn’t tell you what is going on with them inside. If we are too busy, then we miss essential clues and are limited to deep connections. Taking time to engage with people and listen to both, what they are and are not saying, can help you understand the more profound struggles that you can help them work through.
Women struggle with taking time for ourselves because that isn’t what we are specially raised to believe. I have always marveled at guys who so clearly carve out time to spend time with their friends. Whether they have families or hectic careers. I don’t see the same necessarily with women. In our minds, we don’t have time. We have families to raise and care for, careers to manage, community organizations to engage in, and many many other things. Add to that the superwoman notion, that we have to be all things great and beautiful. It leaves the idea that taking time for yourself is selfish and something that you shouldn’t do. It is a luxury you cannot afford. With all that, it can be really easy to lose your fire, passion, and purpose.
But here’s the thing. With the changes I have made, I am doing more now than I ever have, with a lot more Joy. I can help others more deeply, and I feel good about myself in all facets of my life. I feel balanced and grounded. I even have learned to say “NO” when I am over-committed (this was so uncomfortable at first).
If you feel guilty about taking time for yourself because you think it will take from others, remind yourself that your taking more from them when you don’t have enough of your awesomeness left over for them. Don’t give crumbs of yourself.
You control your destiny! I won’t trade my self-care time or compromise on the commitment I have made to myself. For me, it has made all the difference in my well-being and genuinely being able to enjoy this ride called life.