“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others”. Ahhhhh what I wouldn’t give to hear those words again soon. The words that used to annoy me after hearing them so many times but that I now long for.
In today’s blog I’m not talking travel, although that would be lovely, but rather I’m talking self-care – i.e., putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
It’s December 11th as I write this, and I don’t know about you, but I am worn out! I’m literally doing the countdown several times a day: 5 more days of work plus 4 days of being “on call” for work, 6 more days of school and 14 more days until Christmas. This is crunch time people. And although I thrive off being busy and challenged, I also have anticipatory anxiety which means that right now I am also wondering how the heck I am going to get everything done and not lose it on my kids or my husband in the process. Let’s face it, most of us probably put on a good face at work but then take out our stress on the people closest to us. Am I right?
Now let’s add in that I’m also launching a side business of being a Health and Life Coach, writing a weekly blog, studying and ensuring I still have lots of family time where I am actually present (i.e., no phone in hand). I can feel the anxiety rising as I write this. But the good news is, that through my reading, studying and working with trained professionals, I now know my signs of burnout and how to “treat them” in a self-caring way versus a self-destructive way.
But it’s not easy. I have that little devil sitting on my shoulder saying, “go ahead sleep in, drink the wine, eat the chips and stay up late binge watching cheesy Christmas movies.” And sometimes I give in. But I also now recognize that the day after giving in is not a great day. I’m sluggish, behind on my to do list and usually crankier with my family. It took a while and hard work to get here but it only takes one of those days to remind me to get back to my regular routine and how good I feel when I follow it. Energized, focused, happy and more patient – a big bonus with two young, energetic boys.
Now let me pause for a moment. I do not have this 5am go go go routine every day. I deliberately have days off so I can indulge and sleep in. I just do better when those days are planned versus days I fall out of routine. I also do better when I take care of myself and pay attention to when I’m getting burnt out. I then have the energy and patience to take care of others. Remember, put your own oxygen mask on first!
On that note, I wanted to share what self-care looks like to me and since many of you have asked me how I fit everything in, I also wanted to share a bit about how I organize my schedule, especially as we head into a new year and we look to set goals! Stress will come and go in our lives so while we can’t eliminate it, we can learn how to better manage it, so it doesn’t burn us out or overwhelm us.
As Lou Holtz says, “it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
Tip #1 – Know your stress or burnout signals. Here are mine:
· Neck pain. Since I was in grade 6, I have had neck pain issues and just this past year I finally linked them to stress.
· Getting downright irritated and short with people
· Restlessness (especially when my brain won’t shut off)
Tip #2 – Recognize the signals and do something (healthy) about them. As soon as I feel any of the above starting, I know it’s time for one (or several) of the following:
· Dance it out – this is one of my all-time faves, especially now that we work from home. Give me 5 minutes to crank an awesome tune and dance like no one else is watching and boom, I immediately feel much better!
· Talk to someone – just don’t make it a regular thing that the only thing you do with that person is complain about what’s going on in your life. No one wants that.
· Have a hot shower or bath
· Get a massage
· Move your body even if you don’t want to – you’ll feel so much better after
· Meditate – just 5 minutes can do a world of good
· Let it all out – journal anything and everything that’s on your mind – get it out and then move on. We can’t fix the past so why dwell on it?
· Prioritize the heck out of everything on your “to do” list – what’s most urgent? What can wait? What do you have on your list for the sake of having on your list but will likely never get done (come on we all have them) – now remove them!
“People are juggling 60-65 projects, on average, at any given time in both their personal and professional lives” – Jay Shetty (award-winning storyteller, podcaster, coach and former monk).
Now when I first heard this on Jay Shetty’s On Purpose podcast (link below), I literally had to stop and listen to it again. 60-65 projects at one time? Yikes! But when I think about it, he’s absolutely right which makes prioritization ever more crucial in our increasingly busy lives.
This leads me to Tip #3 – Know where you want to spend your time
A few years ago, I heard an Executive speak to us at an offsite and he shared a piece of advice that completely changed me. His advice was this….
There are 168 hours in a week. Write down how you currently spend those hours, breaking them into categories.
Here’s what a rough version of mine looked like at the time:
· Sleep – 56
· Work – 40
· Family (getting myself and kids ready, meals, family time, date nights) – 37
· Friends – 8
· TV – 14
· Leftover/Miscellaneous (likely a lot of social media) – 13 hours
Now look at your list. Do you have more or less time available than you would have thought? Does where you spend your time align with your priorities? Is there anything you would change about your list?
Up until doing this exercise I used to claim I had no time to cook, exercise or read. After doing this exercise I realized, I actually did have time for those things and more! And when I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day I turn to this exercise and ensure how I’m spending my time aligns with my priorities. And for those days where my to do list is too big, I triage it and focus on the “must get done” items. For my type-A personality, it can be hard not to get everything done but I’d rather get the high priority items done than get burnt-out trying to do it all.
Fast forward three years and my weekly breakdown now looks something like this (including getting up at 5am during the week):
· Sleep – 49
· Work – 45
· Family (getting myself and kids ready, meals, homework, family time, date nights) – 42
· Friends – 5
· Personal growth – 7
· Side gig – 6
· Exercise – 4
· TV – 8
· Miscellaneous – 2
It’s a pretty powerful exercise to realize where you’re currently spending your time and where you want to be spending your time. Of course, not all of my weeks look like the above but on average, this is what I strive for.
I’d encourage all of you to divide up your 168 hours and let me know your thoughts. Are you surprised at the breakdown? Does the breakdown align with your priorities or do you need to make some adjustments?
Before I sign off, I want to wish you all Happy Holidays & lots of Happiness, Health and Presence in 2021! The Path to Presence blog will not be published next week as I’m going to take some extra time off to spend with my family but will start back again on January 4th.
· Darria Long, Ted Talk, An ER doctor on how to triage your busy lif
· Jay Shetty’s podcast “On Purpose”