Are you forgotten on the back burner of your priority list?

How do you make self-love a priority? Or, do you? 

When we balance taking care of family, working hard, and serving our communities, sometimes “we” take a back seat on our own priority list.

But then…

an important deadline is missed, or 

lab work comes back indicating diabetes, or

a relationship is broken.

…a sudden reminder that self-care is what makes everything else work. 

We’ve forgotten… “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

I think the two most overlooked words are “as yourself.”

I remember a sermon several years ago. The pastor said that in our culture we don’t need any help with loving ourselves. That most people loved themselves too much. 

I totally disagree.

Self-love is not self-absorption or self-indulgence. Or selfish.

These are born out of feeling inadequate and unloved. Out of not loving ourselves. 

Genuine self-love is the result of knowing we are loved and cared for by Another, greater than ourselves. And this is what makes truly loving others possible. 

Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels:

But how does this happen in practice?

By having clear and specific goals – not just “what,” but “why,” – and scheduling in time for you before you schedule anything else. Because if you try to squeeze “you” in, let’s be honest…you won’t fit.

For me, a large part of my focus is my business, and this year I’m weaving self-care into how I operate. 

Like setting aside more time to be strategic and develop ideas for delivering superior value to my clients. I think a lot about how to help them achieve the transformation they want. I’m planning ahead three months so I know what’s on the horizon and don’t get blindsided.

I set health goals for the first time in a few years: meditation six days a week, two plant-only days per week, eating less dairy (cheese!), and upping my fiber to average 40+ grams per day. And I’m still doing it! Because I have clear, compelling reasons to follow through. 

I also have a goal to read 24 books, at least four of them fiction. I love business and mindset books, so purposefully choosing fiction must be a goal. (My favorite book so far this year? Quench!)

The one thing all of these goals have in common? They require time and attention that I was previously putting elsewhere. Like “getting things done.” And I admit… sometimes I feel guilty when I decline an invitation. Or feel like I should be “doing more” for everyone else. 

But I believe we need to reclaim “as yourself” if we are to serve our families, friends, customers/bosses and communities. 

We are limited, finite beings. I’m willing to work hard and serve hard. And take excellent care of myself in the process.

3 ways to manage overwhelm better than a glass of wine will

Up until a few years ago, I enjoyed a glass or two of wine most days. It wasn’t a problem per se, but then I looked at why I was drinking it.

For one thing, I genuinely enjoy wine and belong to wine clubs I like. And it’s fun drinking good wine with good friends. I also thought that it helped me relax and wind down after a hard day.

Some of those reasons I like, which is why I still drink wine. But the last one didn’t sit right with me. 

If I was honest, the need to relax or forget my day came from feeling overwhelmed with too much to do, or rehashing all of the things that went wrong that day which made me feel like I deserved a treat. I just wanted to escape for a while and not think about it all.

And I wasn’t getting sloshed or missing work. Plus, lots of people did it. Memes on social media indicated I wasn’t alone. What was the big deal? Well, the big deal was that I was using wine as a way to 

…manage overwhelm,

…make myself feel better after a bad day, and

…treat myself with something special.

It was a pattern I’d trained myself into so I knew I could train myself out of it. 

manage overwhelm
Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

Here are three ways I learned to manage overwhelm without a glass of wine (or ice cream, or insert your “self-management style” here):

  1. I retrained my brain: feeling overwhelmed comes from thoughts like “I have too much to do” or “I don’t know how I can possibly get everything done.” I gradually learned to tell myself that I have plenty of time and energy to do the things I want to do. Now when that feeling comes up, I step back and notice it’s coming from a thought. I see if there’s any validity to it and if I need to delegate or take some action to lessen the load. Then I remind myself I’ve got it handled.
  2. I took time to recognize wins: at the end of the day our minds easily grab onto the bad parts, like the flat tire or oversleeping our alarm. I began consciously recognizing the positives, particularly those that were the result of my own efforts which allows me to feel successful. These don’t need to be big wins – notice that most of the “bad” stuff in our day is not monumental, either. Simple acknowledgement of the good helps to neutralize our tendency to go negative.
  3. I found real pleasure: My coach taught me that many of the things we enjoy are false pleasures. For me, enjoying Tolo Cabernet on Saturday night with friends is a genuine pleasure. But two glasses of wine on Tuesday night is not. Once I thought differently about my day and started exploring what treating myself really looked like, I found true enjoyment. And I realized that I deserve so much more than vegging out with wine to relax after a long day. 

The best part is feeling like I have the tools to relax and manage my mind around overwhelm without “needing” a glass of wine. 

The same is possible with anything else we misuse to distract ourselves from feeling bad or uncomfortable (like food, social media, Netflix). And once you learn to do it with one thing, you can do it with anything to create a healthy lifestyle that you absolutely love!

How to be happier, make big changes and feel better

For longer than I care to admit, when I thought about how to be happier my mind went to my job. My body. My relationships. That is, once I graduated. Got a job I liked. Left a job I hated. Lost the last 10 lbs. Then I would be happier. 

I dutifully held my feet to the fire. Found fault in what I did wrong so I could redirect my efforts. And, of course, repeated my positive affirmations. So why wasn’t I happier? Or more satisfied? 

Well, I was doing it wrong. Giving up when I made a mistake made me feel worse than the mistake itself. Chastising myself didn’t make me do better. And then when a happy thing did happen, it didn’t make me happier. At least not for long. 

Today, I feel better than I ever have and am making bigger changes in my life. I’ve figured a lot of things out along the way, and books are part of that journey. Here are three that helped me and I continue to refer back to the concepts in each of them. (And pinky swear, I read them all the way through!)

The How of Happiness: The best news from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work is that we control up to 40% of our happiness. Research indicates that we’re born with about 50% of our “happiness setpoint.” Only 10% is related to circumstances, like a cash windfall or diagnosis. The rest is up to us and Sonja offers ten happiness activities to consider, based on your individuality. I especially like her work on gratitude, that goes beyond the typical advice. (BTW, I got to meet Sonja in 2019 when we both spoke at the MSMU Women’s Leadership Conference. I geeked out a little.)

Photo by Andre Furtado:

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: As a recovering perfectionist, this book offers practical advice for making big changes through small steps. Do you ever start out gung ho with, say, eliminating sugar, but then eat an Oreo and then think “what’s the use?” If you feel like “change is hard” Robert Maurer shows you that it doesn’t have to be. 

Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself: At least  92% of clients who coach with me need more self-compassion. If you’re over 50, for sure you’ve come to believe that chastising yourself for a Cheetos binge will prevent you from buying the next bag. Yeah, not so much. Kristen Neff shows how to be happier and healthier by being kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a good friend and you’re more likely to break out of unhelpful patterns. 

There you have it, proven strategies for how to be happier, make big changes and feel better about yourself. One small step at a time. 

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