What is the cost of not taking care of yourself?
On an airplane, you are told to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others. This makes sense; if you can’t breathe, you can’t help others. This analogy couldn’t be more accurate for life; however, we forget this crucial instruction.
In our everyday life, we aren’t told to put our oxygen mask on before assisting others. We don’t think about this – it never really occurs to us. We just do what we do and take care of those around us, doing everything and keep going regardless of what we need. And usually, we don’t even realize what is going on.
I call this the scary zone. We don’t even realize we are in it, but it is where we operate. We don’t know we are putting ourselves in danger yet that is precisely what we are doing. The reality is that you cannot be everything for everybody, regardless of how much we want to help others. When you are in this role, the one thing that is at danger is yourself.
Are you giving too much to other and not much to yourself?
It may not show for a while, it may come at you as an increase in stress, as sleepless nights, being run-down, and generally feeling yucky. It may come as too much on your mind, being overloaded and emotional (the emotional part never happened to me, I had a lockdown on my feeling). It could come as physical symptoms: being generally rundown, a cold, or worse, an illness that makes you really sick or messing with everything.
I didn’t take care of myself
This was what happened to me. I don’t for a moment think I caused my cancer, yet I believed that I allowed it. I spent years taking care of everyone around me, trying to be everything for everybody, staying busy so I didn’t ever have to face the grief that I was carrying around. I never looked at what I needed; it wasn’t even part of the equation.
Not only was I not putting on my oxygen mask on, but I was also escaping into busy, so I didn’t have to deal with my own shit. All of the above was a brutal combination for me. Now on the other side of it, I can see it much clear, however, when I was in it I couldn’t. I have learned a lot of lessons in the last couple of years.
How much does it cost?
When do you stop and ask yourself what is the cost to you for all that you do for others? Because there is a cost – physically, mentally, emotionally or maybe even financially. This is a question I ask in a keynote speech I do and I have a version tattooed on my arm – much shorter – At What Cost to Me. I ask this question before I say yes to things; I really stop and think about it. This is what works for me, it may not work for you but find what does, it is essential. You are the one in danger here and please, believe me, you don’t want to walk in my shoes.
I know that you can’t change everything overnight, but you can make some small changes now. Self-care is the start and it is a habit. Here are some tips to get you on the right track.
Making self-care part of your routine
- Take a breather.
When I get home, I take 15 minutes of “Me Time” before I connect with my boys. At work, I listen to a song or two and have a dance party of one for just a few minutes in between meetings.
- Book time for you.
This time has nothing to do with work, parenting, or relationships. It is just for you. Take a class. Go for a walk. See a movie.
- Forgive yourself.
You cannot be everything to everyone. You only do so much, and sometimes you just can’t show up. Guess what? That’s ok! Walk away when you need to walk away. For instance, when my youngest son (We call him “Wild,” a name he’s earned!) is challenging, and I begin to yell, I take pause and give myself a time-out to regroup.
You don’t always have to be doing something. It actually doesn’t matter if the dishes are done or the house is clean, or the emails are answered. Take a break and let it not matter for a little while. Be still.
Life is too short to put yourself in a position where you are not ok. I know first hand what trying to be everything for everybody can do. Now I put my oxygen mask on; first, I choose me, then everybody else.
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