Now that the holidays are quickly approaching, we caregivers are busier as ever. This month’s column is a message that’s been delivered before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s time to revisit how we can keep things from spinning out of control. It’s time to remember that it is possible to live a balanced life. But how? I have a few suggestions.
A balanced life begins by putting yourself first, which might sound selfish in light of all the necessary duties you juggle as a spouse, mother, daughter, employee or employer, friend, volunteer. And if a woman actually finds time for self-care, she’s bound to hear “Should,” “Can’t” or “When will it all get done?” either from herself or someone whose load she’s been carrying.
Self-care daydreams for women typically translate into wishes for spa treatments, uninterrupted naps, or short getaways. But self-care is much, much more. It includes things like healthy lifestyle choices—what to eat, how much to sleep, whether or not to exercise. Self-care also includes self compassion, setting boundaries and having a good graspof what is truly valued.
Self-correction is never more needed than in the area of how hard and fast women now live their lives. Being overly committed is like being the conductor of a runaway train. Too much going, doing, and giving makes us feel out of control. If we are not emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted, then we are likely swamped with guilt about what we are not doing and whom we have let down.
What Are We To Do?
The solution is not easy. Taking care of yourself demands focus and requires developing a backbone, but it works. First, pledge to be responsible for your life. Get tough, take charge. Remember you are the conductor, and you get to determine how fast your train runs.
Start with commitments and daily tasks. Evaluate every chore. If the obligation doesn’t meet the effective self-care criteria (see #3 in the sidebar), then stop doing it. Instead consider something that brings you joy, pleasure or relaxation—things like yoga, a nap, a short walk, gardening or reading. Exchanging over-doing with fun or restful activities will refresh you, help you control your stress and make you feel better. More importantly, making self-care a priority means you become a better care-giver for yourself and all those you love.
Remember, you didn’t get hyper-committed overnight, so it may take some time to extract yourself from some commitments. Once the job is done, vow never to return to your former out-of balance ways.
But I Have To…
Are you overestimating how much others need you? Cutting back on unnecessary distractions is easier before everyone is worn to a frazzle. With the onset of the hectic holiday season, it’s time for a recheck of your self-care skills.
Most importantly, this tip must be at the top of your Santa's list for Christmas 2010: promise yourself that on December 24th and 25th, you will live in the present moment. You will enjoy spending time with your family, your children and friends. This holiday season will only pass once.
Tips for Effective Self-Care:
- Monitor your schedule and don’t overload it.
- Eliminate items from your schedule if they don’t serve your purpose.
- Before adding an item to your schedule, ask yourself if it:
– benefits yourself, is fun or relaxing,
– is required for pursuing your mission or values,
– benefits your family or meets your family’s needs,
– benefits or meets your professional needs
- Be ruthless about tasks you take on.
- Delegate tasks to your family members.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Say “No” without guilt, and mean it.
Allyn Evans (TheAlertParent.com) is a published author, professional speaker and consultant residing in Still water.