As women we’re often told that we have to put ourselves first, and I think that’s challenging for many of us to really internalize – let alone actually achieve. We think that to put ourselves at the top of our list, means that we must push everyone else that we care about to the bottom – and that may seem almost selfish. Rather than being selfish, I’d like to offer an opposing perspective, since to me this seems like the most loving act – that you want to show up from your heart, to be the best YOU that you can be. Putting yourself first means that your #1 priority is to clean up your clutter and confusion (yep, that’s right – both mental and physical!) so that you have the freedom, space and capacity to be your best self. After all, how can you be your best self and take care of everyone else, if you are consumed with resentment, exhaustion and a feeling of complete overwhelm?
I’m really a firm believer in the familiar adage from the flight attendant at the beginning of the flight – “In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” It’s a message most of us have heard numerous times and have learned to tune out. And yet, it’s critical – take care of yourself in order to be your most effective, and so that you can take care of others. This simple action of putting yourself first, can make a huge difference in both our effectiveness and in our life satisfaction.
While many of my clients ask to work on topic areas such as increasing their executive presence, living a more fulfilling life, or building a high-performance team — an underlying piece of the coaching work continually involves understanding your own self-care. It’s essential in order to sustain high performance and endurance in your career and in your personal life. I can certainly speak from experience. There was a time a few years ago that I fell into this trap and put myself on the back burner. I rationalized it with the excuse of not having enough time. In addition to my regular role, I had taken on a couple of additional assignments, my mom was sick, and I was still trying to do the usual things at home – you know, spending time with my husband and family. Since I literally didn’t have enough hours in the day to do it all, I spent my time on what I ‘thought’ should be the priorities. The more time I spent on these other ‘priorities’ and neglected my own self-care, the farther and farther away I found myself from living my own personal values and beliefs. I was giving up my personal happiness as I mistakenly functioned to achieve someone else’s version of success. At one point I felt completely overwhelmed and had lost sight of what was truly important to me – I was just going through the motions. Can you relate???
So, what changed? My husband, bless his loving and bold nature, told me the unvarnished truth! While it was quite a shock since I thought I’d been putting on a pretty good front, it did help me begin to drop my mask. I was doing it all…couldn’t he see that? And well, yeah, I was tired – exhausted to the bone. And maybe there was some truth to what he was saying, but hey, I’m superwoman, right?!?!? I was confused, had way too many thoughts flitting through my brain that I was trying to remember, and wasn’t spending my time effectively – at work or at home. I was dropping many of the things that had worked so well for me over the years – successful methods and processes of prioritization, decision-making, stress reduction and self-care.
I’d like to share with you a few tips and ideas that can help ease a stressful period or offer a little space to catch your breath. For me, some of these tips became a life preserver. It didn’t happen overnight, and yet slowly and surely, I found my way back to my authentic me, my true essence – not some version of me that society thought I should be. By prioritizing my own self-care, I was able to find clarity in my life, to embrace and live my own personal values and beliefs. This allowed me to really step up and to take care of those people who matter most to me, while being fully present – no longer just showing up.
So, I invite you to join me and embrace the notion of self-care – the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness – and make it a part of your daily life. Many walking this path find that they reap the benefits of greater peace of mind, strong results, better relationships, less stress and living a genuine and truly successful life.
8 Tips to ease your stress:
- Eat and drink to fuel your body. Yep, staying away from that glass of wine or beer, and those comfort foods will serve you better than gorging yourself.
- Move. That’s right – it might be a walk, dancing, running, yoga, stretching, exercising – whatever works best for you. In addition to the health benefits, movement has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever.
- Meditate. Study and practice relaxation techniques (meditation, visualization, PQ reps, etc.). Taking the time to relax every day helps manage stress and protect the body from the effects of stress.
- Say No. If you’re like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. Instead of taking on everything, learn to say No to those things that are not your most important priorities so that you have the time to do what really needs to get done.
- Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs and life priorities, the better you will feel – no matter how busy your life is.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay – and healthy – to realize you can’t be 100% successful at everything all at once. I tell people, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at one time”.
- Set time aside for quiet reflection and develop a personal daily ritual that supports this. For one of my clients, it’s having tea first thing each morning at a table or location away from her work desk. Some of my clients have incorporated nightly journaling or even an afternoon 20-minute nap. The key is to find something relaxing and stick to it!
- Be Present. Living in the now is a great way to reduce stress. Focusing on the future creates anxiety and thinking about the past creates regret. Furthermore, the future does not exist because when it arrives, it arrives in the present moment. The only thing that exists is right now and focusing on the present moment and situation directly in front of you can significantly reduce your stress.