“Rest for a few minutes? Are you crazy? I haven't finished the dishes yet!”
“Sure the yoga sessions refresh me, but my youngest just told me about a school project that's due tomorrow.”
“Coloring makes me feel so good and gives me a sense of accomplishment. But it's such a silly little hobby and I have important things to get done.”
Do voices like these ring through your head whenever you think about taking time for yourself? And if you DO fight them down, do you feel guilty the whole time you're “indulging yourself”?
Do You Just Tape Over the Engine Light?
You probably already know that you need to energize yourself before you can help others. If you burn yourself out, you do no one any good. Putting yourself under constant stress by not replenishing your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical resources is like the time I was in college and drove my car without changing the oil. Huh. After awhile, it broke down. It was completely out of oil, and that does nasty things to a car's insides. According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all women surveyed said they were “highly stressed.” That figure was up in four years by 25% from an earlier survey.
In fact, in a 2011 Women's Health article (April, p. 60), the author quotes San Francisco clinical psychologist Steve Orma: “Many young women think if they're not working every second of every day, they're lazy. They are ashamed of taking breaks and feel they're not a ‘good' enough person if they aren't pushing themselves to the absolute limit. It has become a moral issue.”
So how do we overcome those feelings of guilt about spending time on ourselves?
Pie Charts, Support and Journaling
A 2013 article in Women in Higher Education (January, p. 22) warns about the risks to women's heart health when high levels of stress are maintained. The author mentions several ways to reduce stress, but three methods stood out to me: look at how you spend your time, develop a support network, and keep a journal.
I don't generally get too analytical about how I spend my time, but here's something I tried. List out your daily routine, and assign a rough percentage estimate of how much of your day you spend on each task. Creating a pie chart of those estimates can reveal how little time you spend on yourself–and what time you could divert to stress-resisting activities.
Friends and family are helpful as a source of support when you're reinventing or renewing yourself, but if they're also the source of some of your stress, or if they don't fully understand why you want to change your life and follow your dreams, turn to a support group. The reason I set up the Reward Your Success™ support group on Facebook is to bring together people who are going through the same struggles you are.
Keeping a journal is a good way to express emotional issues you don't feel comfortable sharing aloud. Some studies suggest, according to this Women in Higher Education article, that regular journaling can strengthen the immune system. I find journaling can be aimless, though, which is why I designed the Success! journal as a step-by-step guide. When you list your goals in the journal and reward yourself for completing them, you begin your journey with a sense of purpose.