“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.” ~Mary D’Agostino” 1 (Single Mom and Grandmom)
Mary is a smart woman, and I often don’t want to take her advice. I have been great at “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”. This is when you take from one account just to get by and pay a bill on a different account. This expression is from 14th C England.1 And I am here to tell you, that method doesn’t work- for money, for sleep, for energy, for any limited resources. It keeps me up at night, makes me want to run away, drink tequila, watch Netflix all night, and buy new shoes online- preferably all of these simultaneously!
Physical health: I have done this robbing Peter to pay Paul with my energy and health. For example, at work I had a deadline so I stayed up until 1 am, got up at 5 am, for four days in a row to get it all done. By the time I drank enough coffee to meet the deadline, I lost sleep, gained a urinary tract infection from dehydration, lost composure, and cried somewhere awkward and for a silly reason (“I can’t find the button, and it is gone forever”). And I probably snapped at someone thoughtlessly.
Our physical health is something we invest in, much like car care, so she can keep on running! We depend on our body lasting us for so many years. It really isn’t worth it to end up a medial mess the month our kids finally get launched on their 1st job and we can relax the “pedal to the metal” we have been doing for a decade. We need to keep a little gas in the tank to enjoy our time when the work is done.
It is unrealistic for me to say we never pull those 19 hour days, or weeks of a string of them. But we need to be aware of what we are doing, when it is approaching, and treat it as special circumstances, not the norm.
Financial health: The same exact circumstances occur- we rob our future financial health by debting today, not keeping track of our financial health, not even knowing what our “must-haves” and “needs” are, much less how they add up. No spending plan2 (aka budget) = no idea where our money is going = it is likely getting wasted. Of course we have all done this, the important thing is to get back on track and decide we want to be intentional with our money. We want to own it, not BE owned.
Emotional Health: When we don’t pay attention to the unrealistic commitments we make, we let people down and can lose respect of colleagues and friends as well as our own self-respect. When we don’t pay attention to the boundaries we let people cross, we lose balance and self-confidence. This happens too. Who has not promised something would be completed by Friday and realized Thursday night that we had not started it yet?
It all comes from not paying attention. We need to pay attention to our physical, financial, and emotional health. When we lose track of ourselves, our health, and our lives, we find ourselves in a life we may feel the need to escape from.
- Remember the big 3 for health: water, sleep, nutrition. Name just one thing that you and your kids could help each other focus on to improve one of these.
- What commitments have you made that are currently impossible to keep? A) What can you delegate? B) What can you cancel or eliminate? C) What can you re-prioritize/rearrange to make the commitment?
- Find your spending plan, look at it- is it realistic? Do you need to sit down and re-prioritize? Do you know where your money is going?2
- List 3-5 additional topics on your plate that you need to start revisiting this weekend. What can you do to reduce ill-health/stress they are causing you? Commit to looking at them, not solving, just looking!
I know, this is $%^& that you don’t want to look at or think about. For now, just write the list and set intention to start paying attention, to start making baby-step changes to your usual patterns.
1Mary D’Agostino, Heart of Gaia. https://marydagostino.com/ Marydagostino@comast.net.
3 More on Boundaries here: Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.