Last week, I was feeling overwhelmed and worn out. Today, I am feeling energized, grateful, happy and light. I had an amazing weekend, which is why I feel so good today. I filled my tank and that puts me back out into the world more able to do my work of helping others.
Take care of myself? What’s that?
You know how when you board a flight, the attendant goes through those boring safety instructions that you hardly listen to? In case you weren’t listening, she tells you to put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others with their masks. This is because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you can’t help anyone. This is exactly the point of self-care!
If you are exhausted, stressed-out, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you can’t help anybody!!
We often feel guilty for taking care of ourselves, especially women, especially moms. We believe that others’ needs are more important than our own, that somehow we are less valuable than others. That belief could make up a whole other blog (and probably will!). But even if that were true (which, to be clear, it’s not!), even if your only purpose is to take care of others, do your job, accomplish certain tasks, you still need to take care of yourself in order to do that. You can’t drive a car that’s out of gas, and you can’t do the work of your life if you are out of gas.
Fill up the Tank
So how do you fill your tank? The first obstacle to taking care of yourself is that when you haven’t done it in a while, you forget what feels good. You may not know how to take good care of yourself.
Step one is to remember what feels good. What makes you happy and energized and ready to go out there and do what needs to get done. The best way to do that is to really pay attention to when you feel energized and when you feel drained.
I became very mindful this weekend of what felt good. I could almost see my fuel gauge climbing from “E” to “F” because I started paying really close attention to how I was feeling and what was making me feel that way.
I was traveling this weekend, and the first thing I did after checking into my hotel was to go for a walk on the beach. The beach and the ocean always give me energy and peace. So, my battery starts to charge, and I make a mental note that this is a way to fill myself up. Mental note #1.
I spent the next 60 or so hours at the Most Awesome Conference (yes, that was the actual name!) for therapists, learning how to be of more value to my clients and potential future clients. The power of being in a tribe of people who share my values, my passion, my mission was hugely energizing. So, I learned to spend time connecting with people like this from time to time because it gives me the energy I need to do the work I want to do. Mental note #2.
Next, I headed to LA to see people I love and don’t see very often. I continued the theme of connection, but this time with a personal twist. I know I get joy from spending time with friends and family, but I am often so busy that I don’t make this a priority, even though it is really the one thing that matters most to me. Mental note #3.
I also noticed that as much as I love the time connecting with amazing people, I also need some quiet time to myself. I need to take a few minutes to read, take a solitary walk on the beach, practice mindfulness with my new Muse. Mental note #4.
It’s funny because I often think of self-care as getting a massage, getting a manicure, something like that. And I do love those things. But those aren’t actually the things that fill me up. The things that brought joy and energy to my heart and soul this weekend were people, the ocean, some quiet moments.
None of these things are to-do items that will add more stress to my life. These aren’t the self-care things that I should do, like eating healthy and exercising. I should do those too, but these things are different. These things really, truly, make me feel good in the moment and for many, many moments afterward. They give meaning to my life and give me momentum to keep working, helping and caring for others, doing the tedious tasks of life with less resentment and more gratitude.
Hit the Gas
I am grateful. I am energized. I am happy. I am ready to return to the world and do what needs to get done. I am equipped to help others, to care for others, to be kind to others.
This is the goal of self-care. It is not a selfish endeavor. It is a way to be your best self. And your best self can do great and powerful things!
So what is it that fills up your tank? I challenge you to pay attention and figure that out. Then, once you know what it is that fills you up, make a trip to the station and fill yourself up. Imagine what you could do, where you could go, on a full tank!