This time of year, holiday songs, movies, and decorations can trigger a slide show of memories; I frequently think of my late friend, Jaci. Although she was one of the busiest people I’ve ever met – a superhero single mom who ran her own business – she had an amazing way of being able to suddenly and completely prioritize herself.

Many times, I witnessed her stopping in her tracks when she registered that she was pushing through feelings of exhaustion. One of her superpowers (that I always envied) was an ability to fall asleep at will. She would say, “I’m tired and need to nap,” and then just do it. I’m not sure how many people can fall asleep at a moment’s notice, but I’m not one of them.

My friend’s ability to recognize how her energy ebbed and flowed throughout the day was remarkable. Too often, we keep an eagle eye on our watches and phones, focused on managing our time. We press ourselves to reach goals – do more, give more, get more out of each day – while ignoring cues from our body about how our health and energy are being affected.

For many, the holiday season brings in a host of extra stressors. Among them, increased busyness, longer to-do lists, family and friends visiting, holiday parties, and new financial considerations. All of these added stressors sap our energy. With less energy, we are trying to accomplish more, making time management our focus.

Just because we CAN pack our days with to-dos, and forfeit our time off to catch up, doesn’t mean we should.

We may squeeze every moment out of the day by prioritizing, calling ahead, ordering online, grabbing lunch to go, doing two things at once. sure, certain times may require it, but what happens when we don’t let up and just keep pushing-pushing-pushing ourselves?

I often see patterns of self-blaming when friends or clients run behind, sleep in, get sick, or in some other way fail to accomplish what they think they “should” have been able to do. I’ve done the same. Most of us are conditioned to feel a sense of failure when we don’t live up to what we think we “should” be able to do. A common response to “failing” is telling ourselves to “try harder.” But getting trapped in that cycle can be exhausting.

But exhaustion or illness can be a blessing in disguise: our body’s way of shouting “ENOUGH!” We can become so accustomed to pushing through discomfort, to value performance above all else, that we forget to value of our own health, happiness, and wellbeing. In all our striving we have forgotten how to listen to our bodies, gauge our energy, and prioritize our needs.

My friend Jaci, the superhero single mom, modeled a different way of tackling her endless and towering to-do list and mastering the art of getting things done: She put herself at the top of the list.

She knew that she only had the ability to accomplish everything when her batteries were fully chargedShe understood that the more tired she felt and the more she had to get done, the more she had to take care of herself to do it.

Adding self-care to our already overwhelmed lives might sound stressful, but it doesn’t have to look like attending a daily yoga class, hour-long meditation sessions, joining a gym, or booking a weekly massage. Self-care can start small.

When your self-care needs a lift, ask yourself the following:

Am I paying attention to how my energy ebbs and flows throughout the day? 

  • Can I schedule tasks and breaks according my body’s natural energy?

Am I remembering to eat regularly and drink enough water?

  • Am I choosing to eat highly nutritious foods?
  • Can I put a water bottle at my desk or in my car to help me stay hydrated?

Am I getting enough sleep?

  • Do I pause or take real breaks when I feel exhausted?
  • Can I go home early to get extra sleep when I feel my wellbeing suffering
  • How can I prioritize my physical health over how I think I “should” be?

Do I talk to myself with love and encouragement?

  • Am I remembering to celebrate what I DID get done?

When my lists calls fro more output, am I increasing what recharges me in order to match it?

Enjoy this holiday season — and when you catch yourself pushing harder, try this: Imagine my lovely friend standing beside you, her cape blowing in the wind, poking you gently and reminding you how much you deserve to prioritize yourself.