Taking Care of Others by Caring for You
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It always makes me chuckle when someone remarks, “You must never sleep.” They obviously do not know that my closest friends have literally nicknamed me “The Nap Queen.” As in, as pictured, one of them even bought me such a shirt for a recent birthday.
As a wife, mom to a two-year-old, bestie to my Golden Lab, daughter of aging parents, small business owner, attorney, community volunteer, and more, however, I know all too well how it feels to never have time to myself and often sacrifice my own needs for the sake of serving others.
If you, too, find yourself frequently prioritizing every task except your personal health and well-being, you need this article as much as I do. As well-intentioned as we may be in our quest to take care of our loved ones and communities but not ourselves, if we do not change this behavior and also tend to our own welfare, we will burnout and eventually, not have any energy left to pour into others. To ensure this does not happen, let’s consider aspects of your life for which you should make time in addition to investing in others as a servant leader.
You Are Worthy of Rest
I saw the quote pictured here earlier this year and it really spoke to me, “You don’t have to earn the right to rest. You are worthy of rest regardless of the status of your to-do list.”
Let this statement sink in. How powerful it is. Have you considered the number of times your to-do list was prioritized over self-care? How many times you skipped the family dinner or were incapable of relaxing while watching a movie because you had “too much to do?” Both of my hands are raised because I have struggled with this behavior.
Then, I learned the problem with this logic – your to-do list will always be full. We are high achievers. Dreaming big dreams and setting audacious goals is the fabric of our being. We would not be who we are if our cups were not running over with all the ways we can change the world. This was crystalized for me during a conversation with my then 90-year-old grandfather about six months before he passed.
Knowing that his condition was terminal, he said, “I am not ready to go, there are so many things I have left to do.” In that moment, I understood – no matter how long and full my life, there will always be work left to do. So, the question becomes, how will you manage that workload?
For me, the answer came in understanding that just like drugs or alcohol, work is an addiction. It certainly was for me – there were countless 100-hour weeks during the first decade-plus of my career when my professional obligations were fulfilled to the exclusion of time with family and friends and for self-care. Then, one day, a successful entrepreneur girlfriend reflected, “If you let it, your business will consume you. There are indefinite ways to continue to grow and improve. The trick is to accept that your task list will always be full, set work-life boundaries, and fill the time you have designated for you with the things you value.”
For my girlfriend, that meant capping the weekly hours she dedicated to her apparel company for increased time with her children while they were young and to workout for her health. For you, it may mean a strict “no work on weekends” policy to immerse yourself in your passion project and check a book off your reading list. What is critical is that at least part of your time each week is spent doing something for you. We cannot be our best selves if we give 100% of our energy to others. So, to lead a happy and balanced life and stay at the top of your business game, commit to investing in fabulous you.
Invest in Your Health
Part of investing in you involves maintaining your health. A famous essay circulated after the death of Steve Jobs states, “Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – Life. When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – Book of Healthy Life.” Near the end of his life, Jobs spent considerable time addressing his regret for putting off for nine months potentially life-saving surgery that could have cured his cancer and delayed his untimely death.
Similarly, I have previously delayed visiting the doctor when I was consumed with work and convinced I was healthy only to discover significant, but treatable, issues when I finally made appointments. Personally, these were needed wake-up calls on the importance of health – you cannot accomplish anything without it.
So, a very real part of caring for others is addressing your own physical and mental health. Making time for grocery shopping, meal prep, exercise, meditation, mindfulness, doctor’s appointments and more is not indulgent, these are real things that can significantly impact your life and the length of it. The next time you think of canceling a medical appointment or delaying a workout to free up time on your calendar, don’t. Instead, commit to caring for you. It is the only way you can continue investing in others.
Be Educated About Your Finances
Cait Flanders said, “You might get 85 years on this planet – don’t spend 65 paying off a lifestyle you can’t afford.”
Like your health, your finances deserve attention. Is your income sufficient to cover your expenses? Are you saving enough for retirement? Are there additional tax deductions for which you are eligible and should take advantage? Are the stocks in your 401(K) optimal holdings? Managing your money is important and has long-lasting impacts on your life and your ability to care for others. So, get educated, establish financial goals, and motivate yourself to achieve them.
Engage Legal Advice
As a lawyer, I can personally attest that there are times when everyone needs legal assistance. Whether it is regarding divorce, estate planning, employment rights, or corporate law, personally navigating such issues oftentimes leads to unforeseen mistakes. To avoid unintended consequences that can have a long-lasting impact, engage the advice of skilled attorneys who are reputable within their industry. Their professional experience can ensure that you, your family and your business are best protected so that you can continue focusing your resources where they are best-served, helping others.
Surround Yourself with Mentors & Cheerleaders
Research shows that you are greatly influenced by the five people with whom you spend the most time. Who are they? Do they build you up with love, support you, and provide you with mentorship? Or, do they bring you down so that you are not your best self? Do not underestimate the energy you are deriving from your closest circle. If it is toxic, make necessary changes and surround yourself with those who bring you joy.
Award-winning writer, poet and philosopher Emily Maroutian said that, “A tree that refuses water and sunlight for itself, can’t bear fruits for others.” Remember that spreading your sunshine oftentimes requires shining a light on you first.
And, do YOU have additional tips that will help the SYS community?! We’re sure you do, so please share your advice by emailing us at Melanie@SpreadYourSunshine.com or by sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.
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