Do you take time just for you? If you’re like most working moms, the answer is ‘no’. In my polls of working women, nearly half indicated that “finding time for myself” was one of the biggest work-life challenges they faced.
Women, in particular, don’t take good care of themselves. By nature we are care givers and nurturers. We don’t need social pressure to transform us into emotional resources for the family. We are programmed somehow that spending time on ourselves will be at the expense of the family, so we…don’t. We are so focused on meeting the needs of others that we forget our own needs. Or downplay them.
Maria, Director of Faculty Development at a large community college district in Arizona told me: “Between work and family, I put myself last. Some days I get so busy, I don’t take time to eat. And now that I’m middle-aged, I need to be concerned about my health too.”
We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. I think of the airlines; they had it right. Think back to your last flight. At the beginning of each flight, they go through a safety spiel, and it goes something like this. “In the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the overhead compartment. Place the mask over your face and tighten the straps.” Then they go on to say, “If you are traveling with a small child (or someone who is acting like a child!), then please secure the mask on yourself first, and then assist the child with their mask.” The point is this: we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others, to be the best we can be in each of our roles as wife, mother, and businesswoman.
If you don’t get off the treadmill and take leisure time, there will be serious effects. Lynn was a middle-aged manager at HP, a driven and ambitious woman who worked long hours and always strived to do her best. Like many others, she describes herself as a perfectionist. Because she kept pushing herself beyond her limits, Lynn landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness. The doctor informed her family she may not make it. Miraculously she did, but while in her hospital bed, Lynn reflected on how she’d been living her life. She knew she’d been given a second chance. This was Lynn’s wake-up call; she made a 180 degree turn, changing jobs to take on a position with far less stress, a position where she no longer managed people but projects. She found time to spend with family and friends. She stopped to smell the proverbial roses and enjoy life. Today, Lynn is happy, healthy and productive. “My friends can’t believe I’m the same person.”
Taking care of you is not selfish; it is necessary for your health and well-being. And anything that keeps you away from being yourself will cause you stress. You matter. And when you believe it and embrace it, you’ll experience freedom.
As busy working women, we oftentimes put ourselves last. We were brought up to be nurturers and caregivers, so this is what we do best. However, sometimes we are so focused on meeting the needs of others, that we don’t take good care of ourselves – especially when it comes to getting enough rest or exercise.
The airlines realize the importance of taking care of oneself. At the beginning of each flight, they go through a safety spiel in which they tell us to put on an oxygen mask in the unlikely event of an emergency. Then they go on to say, “If you are traveling with a small child, then put your mask on first and then assist your child”. The point is that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
Taking good care of yourself is critical to your emotional and physical health. If you’re not used to putting yourself first, how can you do so? Here are five tips.
1. Put yourself on the priority list. When you write your “to do” list, be sure to put yourself on the list. Write down something you can do just for yourself. Maybe it’s going for a short walk, listening to music, or reading a book.
2. Schedule it in your calendar. Not only put yourself on the list, but also schedule time on your calendar to do the things you want to do – like shopping or taking a Zumba class. Treat it like a meeting, so you can protect your “me” time.
3. Do it early. Things can get in the way of your personal time, so schedule it early before the complications of the day sidetrack you.
4. Find a partner. Whether it’s having a workout partner, meeting a friend for coffee, or attending a class, you’re more likely to make it happen if you’re accountable to someone else.
5. Go on a mini-retreat. Every once in awhile we need more extended time to ourselves. Take time out once every few months to spend a day at the beach, in the mountains, at a day spa — or wherever will rejuvenate you.
By practicing these tips, you’ll be able to be the best you can be in your various roles – as a wife, mother, friend, and worker.