Time to focus on me? Impossible, you might say. Ask me again in 20 years.
I remember feeling this way. Being a mum, wife and working full-time, my mind was always 'on'. Either on with a million urgent tasks that needed my attention, such as school or emotional needs of my children, tasks around the home and being a leader in a work environment with near a hundred moving parts each day (that is, almost a hundred children, staff and families. Oh, so variable ... but vital to prioritise).
The funny thing was, while my mind felt like a hampster wheel turning and turning and turning, there were other days when I couldn't think at all, or remember, and I'd be in almost a haze of denial. Was it my body's way of stopping the mental overload? Yes, highly likely.
I knew what self-care was and could easily tout I'd enjoyed a relaxing bath, went for a walk or listened to music I enjoyed. But that wasn't enough.
Do you ever roll your eyes to yourself and whisper internally, 'if one more person tells me to light a candle and take a bath ... ! No, that's not going to solve my problems right now. In fact, I'll feel worse - guilty, unproductive and there'll be CHAOS to return to. No thank you.'
I hear you and I get it. So many mothers and leaders I work with feel, even the idea of taking significant time for themselves can increase their worry and concern. And so it doesn't happen.
Believe me, I understand. But I know the downside of this thinking too. Total burnout - emotionally, physically, mentally. And that plays out in the relationships closest to you.
This was me. I was so 'done', I could barely hold a conversation with my children. So I sat at my kitchen table one night and wrote what I wouldn't tolerate anymore. What I wouldn't tolerate from myself.
Sitting at the table, knowing my children were a few feet away in their bedrooms, yet I couldn't attend to them. Not as the mother I wanted to be I mean. And my work? I'm sure I wasn't the leader I dreamed of either.
I'm all for personal empowerment and owning our own 'stuff' but I don't think it's our fault. I write often about the social expectations placed on women and the advice shared by well-meaning family and friends, but it's the standards women place on themselves that impact the most. And that's what we have to relearn.... before it's too late.
We're in a global and unprecedented pandemic that will have long-term affects we're unable to understand right now. That's one reason why the time is NOW that you must focus on yourself. When employment is uncertain, health is at risk, travel is restricted, families and work places are under stress, it's now we need to dig deep and take hold of what matters.
Our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellness is NEEDED like it's never been needed before. This game of life is a marathon my dear friends, not a sprint.
'What's the answer?' you may ask, 'if self-care in the form of walking or taking a relaxing bath aren't enough?' Would you believe me if I said it's even easier than that? I'm now that mum, 20 years on, and oh how I wish I knew then what I know now. One act of kindness or self-care in a week or a month isn't it. The answer's in the smallest of steps ... but implemented EVERY DAY.
Breathing deeply. Being grateful. Moving your body. Nourishing your soul. Leaning slowly into these practices each day is the care women need now.
So tie up those laces, take a deep breath and let's go. Together we'll run this event, shoulder to shoulder and reap the rewards of our individual and collective renewed vigour, increased energy and elevated feelings of purpose & pride as we cross the finish line, look back and see the gifts it gave those we love.
Now's the time to focus on you.
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