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  • Don’t Put “Self-Care” on Your To-Do List

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    Don’t Put “Self-Care” on Your To-Do List

    This blog post has been brewing for a long time. It was in April that I reached out to the Podcaster below to let her know I’d be using a line from her Podcast’s guest’s words.

    I have been listening to this Podcaster who is a therapist-turned-coach to women in mid-life (see the similarity?). The specific episode is here:

    But upon reflection, this blog post has been developing my entire adult life.


    As a coach to women in the sandwich generation, I worry daily that words and phrases like “self-care” and “mindfulness” and “yoga” and “meditation” are so common, so used, so in the common vernacular that we don’t hear them anymore. They’ve become like the adults in the Charlie Brown series of our childhood. (wah, wah, wah wah wah wah)

    The problem, though, is that self-care is the answer. Indeed, for most of my clients; sandwiched as they are between the needs of growing kids (and young adults) and the increasing needs of aging relatives, often the only power they have is over their own care. Women in the sandwich generation can’t accelerate maturity and development of their children and can’t slow the aging of their relatives.

    We can, however, decide (to some degree and extent) whether or not to take care of ourselves. We can decide, however, to take an honest look at our situation and if we are feeling neglected because “everyone else’s needs come first” or because we’ve grown attached to the identity of being “that person.”

    Identity Issues

    • You know, the go to person.
    • The person who handles things.
    • The person who takes care of shit.
    • The person who takes care of (mom, dad, laundry, bills, doctor appointments, medications, and soccer practice…)
    • The sibling who does it all.
    • The person who cares. 

    blocks that spell out who are you to show the need to make self care specific

    But, more often than not, when I work with a client and they are open to an honest review, they realize that while their lives are indeed a functional challenge, they have adopted an identity that they both complain about and fiercely protect. This often limits their willingness to outsource, to take breaks, to let go of control, and to CARE for themselves.

    If you want to change how you feel (which, if you are like most of my clients, is angry, tired, exhausted, resentful, depleted), you are going to have to change YOU. That begins with real self-care.

    Not mani/pedis. Not bubble baths.

    Authentic, deep, reflective SELF care.

    Radical SELF care.

    Start with this: Don’t put self-care on your to-do list. Self-care, in its truest and most healing, recreating, restorative form is not a to-do list item to be nestled among:

    a picture with a text board with a to-do list to show how it's important to make self care an authentic endeavor

    1. Pick up Dad’s Rx
    2. Sign Jerome up for dance
    3. Go to yoga
    4. Change the auto-pay care for the electric bill

    Real self-care is bidirectional and emerges from regular reflection, regular dates with yourself, knowing yourself, and becoming clear on what feels right, energizing and good to you today, this week, and next week. It’s an ongoing process and you don’t have to explain it or defend it to anyone. It’s your SELF care. 

    Me? I like to “pretty plan.” I surround myself with planners, stickers, highlighters (no dark colors, highlighters should only be yellow, maybe light pinks), and fine point colors pens. Does that seem weird to you? Good because self-care should be specific, unique, and very, very personal.

    a planner with highlighters and washi tape to show my own self care time

    Let me be completely honest with you. A job I’ve held for 10+ years ended last month due to pandemic impact. 90% of the staff was laid off. I was hopeful I would be able to “make it” with my psychotherapy practice and my coaching business. But my budget said otherwise. I hate that fact. I feel like I have “paid my dues” by working multiple simultaneous jobs for years. But, the numbers spoke louder than my anger, and I looked for a job that would allow me to keep the psychotherapy practice and build this business with more planning and less urgency. I got one quickly. The challenge is that the job will be weekend overnights and will be demanding. I am not young, and my schedule once again will be difficult. I will need to be intentional and “on point” about caring for myself. Under the best of circumstances, working overnights are brutal on humans. I will need to plan, be steadfast, and make choices that nourish my soul. This real “self care” isn’t collapsible into a checkbox.

    I was meeting with my own Accountability Coach this week and we were working deep in my Asana board. He was quite firm about the need for my to take my own advice and prioritize me.

    You Do You, Boo

    Don’t put self-care on YOUR to-do list, either. Instead, endeavor to make some time, unapologetically, to reflect on who you are, what actually matters to you (not what people say should matter) and make self care part of your life, your everyday, your being. Make it as important as – if not more important – as all the other persons you are for and about.

    I’d be delighted to help with that.


    1. Victoria Cravens

      Victoria Cravens

      July 13, 2021 at 4:29 am -

      This is so good…so true! Giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves in more meaningful ways than just booking a monthly nail appointment – but to actually be taking care of ourselves on a day to day basis – truly body, mind, and spirit. We can say we know it is essential, but you are so right – we still end up at the end of the list – and if we are first too many times, feel selfish. Perhaps we can imagine that if we provide the example, our sisters, daughters, girlfriends, etc… will get the idea and realize they can do it too! Thank you, Joanne!

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