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We’re bringing this blog to you as part of Stress Awareness Month.
I once stumbled down Las Vegas Boulevard announcing to the world that I wasn’t everybody’s mom. I was my own mom! Yes, there were drinks involved. For weeks I was complaining that I felt like I had hundreds of children and had to take care of everyone. And I was over it. So, it only took a few drinks and some down time in Vegas to proclaim it.
But the reality was that I didn’t have to take care of everyone. I was just programmed that way since I grew up as a caretaker and as a woman. I really only have to take care of myself. And the more I do that, the world goes on and people start not needing another mother. What??? Blasphemy!
Giving Too Much
Yes, it’s true. I meet with women all the time and it’s the same story. They are exhausted, stressed out, in chronic pain, feel like they are falling apart and maybe just a little bit crazy.
The root issue: They are giving too much. In this day and age women are expected to be everything to everyone (OK maybe we always have), but now not only are you the default parent, the cook, the housekeeper, the dog walker and supposed to be ready to roll in the hay at a moment’s notice, you are also expected to have a full-time career.
Well, I don’t know how many hours you have in your day, but I only have 24 of them. And I make sure eight hours of them are sleeping so I can be awake for the eight hours I work each day. That doesn’t leave much time for anything else, so I have learned I have to choose wisely and make myself a priority.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. I have heard it all before. In fact, I’ve even said all these things myself (except the kids part). You have to work 10- to 12-hour days as there’s too much to do. You can’t go to yoga because you have to drive the kids to all of their extracurricular activities every night of the week. You don’t have enough time to eat better, so you continue to inhale food on the way to work in your car and eat some carrots and a yogurt for lunch at your desk. You just don’t have enough time, period. You don’t have enough money. You don’t deserve it. You are not worthy of more. You, my friend, are your own saboteur.
Before you pull out the tissues and say I am a meanie, please know I only say these things because I personally know what these limiting self-beliefs and behaviors do for us. Limit us. We will never have enough time to truly take care of and love ourselves if we do not make ourselves a priority. Boundaries have to be set - at work, at home, with loved ones, with ourselves. It doesn’t happen overnight. And I guarantee you will piss someone off. I do all the time. But I am not everyone’s mom anymore.
That doesn’t mean I have a black heart and the personality of Cruella de Ville. I still nurture and support others, but I make sure I nurture and support myself first through daily self-care rituals like self-massage, journaling, meditation and saying "no" a lot. And I now ensure that I have at least one day of rest each week, preferably two. And by rest I mean laying on the couch reading for pleasure, hiking in the woods with my dog, taking a nap, getting a massage, whatever. Now, I had to consciously rearrange my schedule to have time to rest. At one point I worked for two months straight without a day off and I turned into an exhausted, crazy mess. Even beasts of burden have a day of rest. We all need it.
So, bottom line: It’s time you make yourself a priority. Start with just doing one thing for yourself and you’ll find that you feel so much better you see the light and want more. Just one thing, one time per week. And yes, sometimes it is hormones and you may need some herbal support to bring you down from crazytown. Most often it’s a combination of years of running on empty, high levels of stress and then endocrine disruption follows suit. But the good news is that if you start making yourself a priority, even in just one little way (I like to call it one act of defiance), you can start paving the path to a new, nourished you.
How are you making yourself a priority?
Editor's Note: Alyssa Pfenning was recently featured on the HBA weekly podcast as a part of Stress Awareness Month. It’s Episode 15, “Wild Wisdom to Relieve Stress,” which aired on April 15. Join Healthy by Association.