This time of year, holiday songs, movies, and decorations trigger a slide show of memories. I frequently think of my late friend, Jaci Stelloh. 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 “too tired.” One of her superpowers (that I always envied) was the ability to fall asleep at will. She would say, “I’m tired. I need to nap,” and do it. I’m not sure how many people can fall asleep at a moment’s notice, but I’m not one of them.
Jaci’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 our health, energy, and other needs.
Every year, the holiday season seems to blow in a host of extra stressors. Among them: increased busyness, longer to-do lists, family visits, holiday parties, and financial considerations. All of these additional stressors sap our energy — so with less energy or time, we are trying to accomplish more.
Time management is our focus this time of year. We squeeze every moment out of the day by prioritizing, calling ahead, ordering online, grabbing lunch to go, doing two things at once — but it’s not always a good idea to keep pushing-pushing-pushing ourselves.
Just because we can pack our days with to-dos and forfeit our weekends to nonstop obligations, doesn’t mean that we should.
I often see a pattern 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 do 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 get done. A natural response to “failing” is telling ourselves to “try harder.” It’s a draining cycle we can get trapped in.
Unfortunately, going straight from “that didn’t work, let’s try again” or “I didn’t get enough done today, I’ll wake up earlier tomorrow” misses a vitally important question.
Why didn’t we get enough done, although we pushed ourselves so hard?
Why do we feel so exhausted that we slept through our alarm?
Why did we get sick?
Why don’t I feel as the joy I want to feel this time of year?
Exhaustion or illness is a body’s way of shouting at us “ENOUGH!” So many of us have become so accustomed to pushing through discomfort, to value performance above all else, that we have forgotten the value of our own health and happiness and wellbeing!
We have forgotten how to listen to our bodies, gauge our energy, and prioritize our needs.
My friend Jaci, the superhero single mom, showed me a different way of tackling her endless and towering to-do list and 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 charged. She 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 self-care doesn’t have to look like attending a daily yoga class, joining a gym, or booking a weekly massage. Self-care can start small…
Am I paying attention to how our 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 water?
- Am I sitting down to eat, and avoiding low nutrition 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 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 grows longer, am I increasing what refills my batteries to match it?
Try these 3 steps to start recharging your batteries:
Energy R & R, (Repair & Remove)
Worry, preoccupation, procrastination, and low self-care can drain our energy levels faster than running a marathon. The fix? Identify what is sapping your energy. What steps can you take immediately to remove some of the things draining you? What have you been avoiding? What can you delete from your to-do list? Where can you delegate or reschedule in order to create more realistic time frames?
Identify Your HEP and LEP: The High Energy Points and Low Energy Points in your normal day. Plan as many of your priorities as possible during your HEP time of day. Schedule a meal or a break during your LEP to refuel your batteries. As often as you can, move with the rhythms of your body’s energy during your day.
Upgrade Your Food
Fast food is low in nutrition, and high in salt. Grab a lettuce wrap over a burger, a smoothie over a soda, and keep in mind that sodium, caffeine, and heaters all dehydrate our bodies.
Forget everything you’ve heard about diets for the moment and think about food and drink in these simple terms: If it’s whole, real food, eat it. If it’s water, drink it. If your allergic or sensitive to something, or feel poorly when you eat it, avoid it.
You’ve got this.
When I pause, or hard stop (even for a minute!) to take care of myself, I sometimes imagine wrapping my own cape around my shoulders as I pour a cup of tea, put my feet up or lie down, and feel gratitude for my friend sharing some of her superpower.
Enjoy this holiday season — and when you catch yourself pushing harder, do what I do: Imagine my lovely friend standing beside you, cape blowing in the wind, poking you gently and telling you to prioritize yourself.