If you’ve ever ridden on an airplane, what’s the first thing the flight attendants tell you during the safety spiel? Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you go to help another person. Why? Because that would suck if you died from lack of oxygen while trying to help someone else, and you’re definitely not helping if you’re dead! Often as women, we put ourselves on the back burner (and 10x more if we have a family to look after). We take care of everyone else first. We’ll say, “I’ll do this for me after I do this for them.”, but that time never comes or you keep pushing it back. If you take care of kids, a sick relative, or anyone else, add an unhealthy dose of female guilt. Society has taught us that if we even think about doing something for ourselves or spending money on our ourselves, then we’re super selfish! Insert the “I can’t believe I’d be so self-centered” guilt here.
Well, guess what! You can’t pour from an empty cup! Listen, Sis… if you don’t hear anything else, hear this: IT IS OF NUMBER ONE IMPORTANCE THAT YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF CONSISTENTLY! If you don’t, you’ll end up having a mini meltdown like I did one dreadful Monday morning. Or even worse, you’ll gradually end up with mental or physical issues. The negative side effects of not practicing self-care will start off small and barely noticeable before growing into something bigger and potentially debilitating for you! It’s all of the little moments you let slide that add up to one giant meltdown. You THINK that you’re helping everyone by putting them first, but you really aren’t - whether you realize it or not. I can guarantee you that your productivity is less, your energy is lacking, and there’s a high chance that your daily mood is negatively affected.
I balance a lot of roles in my life: wife, mother, entrepreneur, recent graduate, mental health therapist, life coach, social butterfly, you name it! At the time of my meltdown, I thought I was balancing all of my roles really well. However, the crocodile tears rolling down my cheeks told me otherwise. One day I sat crying my eyes out… trying to talk myself down from a ledge! “Everything will be okay. You can do it. It always works out. Noooooo! It’s too much at once! Who the hell do I call when I need help? NO ONE! That’s who!” Let me set the scene…
My children were 6 and 4 years old at the time. Between the two of them, I spent a lot of time shuffling between practices, games, dance recitals, and play dates. Furthermore, I’m a mompreneur. I was maintaining one business while growing a second business. One of my businesses is in direct sales. So, I often did in-home parties in the evenings. If those were during the week, I’d have to find a babysitter because my husband usually got home from work around bed time.
Also, I was a graduate student - meaning my life was supposed to be devoted to reading, writing, researching, discussing, testing, repeat! For those that don’t know, a graduate student is expected to spend 30 plus hours per week doing those things. That’s basically a full-time job! On top of that, my master’s program said, “That work isn’t enough! Let’s add a required internship along with the book work!” Now, I know what I signed up for, but still! Imagine working a full-time job for almost a year for free! FREE! No pay, Sis! You work for $0 an hour! It’s only 24 hours in a day. So, if I’m doing those two things “full-time”, when am I supposed to run my businesses? School definitely pulled me away from those; so, I wasn’t bringing in as much income, if any some months. This slowly caused a financial struggle within my marriage because it takes the combined incomes of both my husband & I to maintain our household. It also didn’t help that I was averaging 2-3 hours of sleep per night. Can we say easily agitated & barely functioning?
Now back to Doom’s Day… I had received bad news after bad news after bad effing news all within the hour. I hung up the phone from the last bad news reporter, and then, came the tears. Essentially, it came down to everyone always came to me with their problems that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to with mine. I bawled at my desk for at least five minutes. I mean-cry-me-a-river, ugly-snot-face crying! One rule I live by is to give yourself 5 minutes to feel all of the emotions that come with whatever negative situation you’re going through. Then, suck it up, get over it, find the lesson, and make a move towards growth! So, I got myself together and went to sleep for the rest of the day until it was time to pick up my children from school. I slept like a baby! When I woke up, I told myself that I refuse to be that person. Plus, I need to be operating at 100% because I literally have people’s lives in my hands.
So, let me share with you 5 of the utmost important factors in practicing self-care!
GET SOME SLEEP! This is an easily overlooked self-care habit (especially if you’re a night owl like me). Sporadic sleeping doesn’t count, either. I increased my sleep from 2-3 hours to 4-5 hours to a final average of 7 hours. The world of difference it will make for you! Try getting to bed by a certain time each night. Force yourself to stop what you’re doing, and go to bed. Whatever you were doing will still be there tomorrow. Your mental health will thank you! [MOMS: Assuming your children don’t have medical issues, get them sleeping regularly and in their own room/space, too! This will be good for both you and them… but that’s another post for another day!]
IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO! You don’t have to do everything for everybody! You don’t have to always explain why you said no, either. One thing is for certain and two things for sure, the world will still turn. Oh, and it’s actually empowering when people are able to accomplish things on their own.
SET BOUNDARIES! This goes hand-in-hand with #2. Set them with your spouse, kids, family, friends, co-workers, strangers…basically everyone. If you’re not used to setting and keeping healthy boundaries, then, you’ll likely catch a lot of resistance (especially from those that abuse your invisible boundaries in the first place). Your relationships will actually grow stronger, but beware that some relationships will end, too. If so, celebrate! I’ll bet money that the ended relationship was highly draining anyway, and you don’t need that type of negativity in yo’ life, Girlfriend!
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO DO FOR YOURSELF! If you have trouble with that, then, you have my full permission to do at least 1 thing for yourself once a month (but preferably weekly). You’ve got to keep yourself sane, Woman! What relaxes you? What do you like to do for fun? What brings you the ultimate joy? Do that, and do it more! Like clockwork! Do not let anyone or anything stop you from doing this for yourself! For me that was massages. Thanks to Groupon, I got 3 massages in one week for the price of 1 massage! Your thing doesn’t have to cost money, though. It can be as simple as reading for an hour, taking a nap, dancing, having a ladies’ night, etc. As long as, whatever it is – is fulfilling and relaxing for YOU!
BE VULNERABLE! It’s okay to show your flaws and ask for help. You don’t have to be perfect for everyone all of the time. That’s an extremely draining life to live. If you have a group of people that you help often, I bet at least a few would be delighted at the chance to return the favor back to you. It can be simple things, too. Do you know how excited my kids get when I ask for someone to zip up my dress? If they both heard me ask, they for real argue over who gets to “help mommy”.
So, that does it folks! Commit to yourself to regularly practice these 5 self-care tips. You will find that your days are lighter and less stressful. You’ll feel rejuvenated. You’ll be more productive and accomplish way more than when you ran on “E”. Remember, “E” stands for empty and exhausted, and you ain’t getting anywhere with that, Honey! You know how you wish you had more hours in a day? Practice self-care, and they magically appear in the same 24 hours you had before! How? I don’t know, but it happens! You’ll likely end up with true free time on your hands. Bonus tip for you over-achievers: if you add in healthy eating and moving your sexy body around, that’ll only boost your energy even more! Now, get out of here, and get yo’ self-care on!
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Lindsey Vertner is an entrepreneur with many businesses. As the founder of Lindsey Vertner, LLC, Lindsey serves as a life coach and public speaker. Her “No excuses!” coaching technique and her unique perspective from a life-threatening wreck allow her to help women live a passionate life full of purpose and balance. Lindsey holds a master’s in Professional Counseling from Liberty University and a bachelor’s in Psychology from Indiana University.