Most of us struggle with finding the right balance in our lives between the demands of our work, the needs of our families, and our own needs.
If we’re not careful, we find ourselves giving to others to the point we have nothing left for ourselves.
Caring for others feeds their souls much the same way food nourishes the body. Just as cooking for others does not put food in our own bellies, we do not nourish ourselves simply by taking care of everyone else.
Years ago I learned a secret that I want to share with you. A senior executive in our firm told how she had learned to ease the transition from business traveler to wife and mother. Each time she returned from a trip, she’d stop at a shop just a few blocks from her home. There she’d use the bathroom and sip a cup of tea to collect herself.
The short delay made a tremendous difference. Instead of charging through the door exhausted, in need of the bathroom and a drink, those 15 minutes for herself allowed her to enter the door at home ready to meet the needs of her children and her lover.
She was ready simply because she had already taken care of her own needs, rather than coming through the door expecting her family to take care of her. Were their needs more important than her own? No. Should she have expected them to cater to her needs? After all, she was the one who had endured the rigors and frustrations of travel. Any one who has stayed home and fulfilled the role of single parent knows doing so is equally rigorous and frustrating. We each have our own challenges and needs, and unless you’re suffering a life-threatening condition, chances are yours aren’t really greater than mine.
She added this me-time to her schedule because she valued her relationships and knew that finding balance was important. She took time to care for her own needs first so she could care for her family’s needs. She was rewarded with a more welcoming and gentle return to home, everyone was happy to see her, she was happy to see them, and they all found it easier to accept her comings and goings because of the pleasant reunions.
Sometimes we forget that taking care of our own needs is not only important, it is preferable to expecting others to take care of us.
This same technique works even when we’re only away at the office for a normal work day. Before we return home, we can sit quietly at our desk for a few minutes, or sit in our car in the driveway before entering the house. Or stop at the park and watch the squirrels. If we’re at home all day with children, we may need to wait until they fall asleep to get a few minutes to ourselves where we are free of the distractions of housework or television.
Taking care of ourselves on a daily basis doesn’t have to be complex, cost a cent, or take more than a few minutes at a time. It does mean we have to plan for it, and be consistent in doing it. The better we care for ourselves, the better able we are to care for others. A well-balanced life is key to having strong and enduring relationships.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: Our ability to balance the demands of our relationships and obligations rests on our ability to first care for ourselves. When we trust that we ourselves are worth as much as those around us, we find it easier to take time to care for our own needs.
What is your favorite way to take care of yourself so that you are fortified to take care of others? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!