I know, I know, you've heard that you should always put on your own oxygen mask first before helping to put it on others. This sounds good in theory, but you seem to have misplaced your mask.
The best advice I was ever given when I started as a school psychologist was from my intern supervisor who was retiring after 30 years with much recognition for excellence. He told me that as a school psychologist, it was my responsibility to be a good role model for self-care. He also said, "I didn't get to be CA school psychologist of the year by writing good reports." What I took from his advice was this:
My first responsibility is to take care of myself and...
My connections with people are much more important than my connections with paper or things.
This advice has served me well over the years, yet I have continued to have issues with fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue. I do not feel like I have taken on more than my share of work, but then in the education system everyone's share is disproportionately large. If anything, I sometimes feel guilt like I am not taking on enough. The thing is though, if I did I would go from adrenal fatigue to adrenal burnout in a heartbeat and then I would not be of any use to anyone.
Of course I know that I could be practicing better self-care. The question for me is not so much, "how do I practice better self-care?" The question is, "how do I find the time for self-care?"
Here are a few things I've found helpful in sorting out my time and reducing "busyness." I am better at some of them than others.
Prioritize - When everything seems equally important, it is difficult to decide what to do first. Sometimes urgent things come up and take precedence over things that are more important in the long run. First get a clear vision of where you want to go in the future. What would be your ideal life, and what steps would take you closer to that? Look at the things you love and need to really thrive.
Eliminate - You may have ideas about the things you "should" be doing, but if they don't align with your priorities they are just distracting you from those things that do. Don't let the "shoulds" push out your loves and needs. Eliminate the things in your life that don't align with your big picture goals or nourish your mind, body and/or soul.
Facilitate - Facilitate means to make something easier or less difficult. You can do this by taking out unnecessary steps and simplifying what is left, Some tools that help with this are chunking similar activities together, finding an effective system to write things down and retrieve them, refrain from multitasking and unplug in times we need to focus.
Automate - For those tasks that you just have to do, you can be more effective with your time if you automate them to make them consistent, regular and predictable. Some tools for automation include schedules, routines and written templates.
Delegate - There may be things you are doing yourself because you believe it will save you time or money when in fact, there might be someone out there who can do it more effectively than you. Consider passing on responsibilities that could be handled as well or better by someone else so that you can free up your time for the things you are really good at or nourish you.
Now it's time to take action! What is one thing you can eliminate, facilitate, automate or delegate this week to make more room for self-care?
Photo courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photography
This week I'm finishing up my new guide: Stop Spinning Your Wheels! Making Time for What's Important. Sign up for my e-mail list for your free copy.