How to fit self-care into your busy schedule

by Shannon Talbot

"Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others". Ahhhhh what I wouldn’t give to hear those words again soon. The words that used to annoy me after hearing them so many times but that I now long for.

In today's blog I'm not talking travel, although that would be lovely, but rather I'm talking self-care - i.e., putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

It's December 11th as I write this, and I don't know about you, but I am worn out! I'm literally doing the countdown several times a day: 5 more days of work plus 4 days of being "on call" for work, 6 more days of school and 14 more days until Christmas. This is crunch time people. And although I thrive off being busy and challenged, I also have anticipatory anxiety which means that right now I am also wondering how the heck I am going to get everything done and not lose it on my kids or my husband in the process. Let's face it, most of us probably put on a good face at work but then take out our stress on the people closest to us. Am I right?

Now let's add in that I'm also launching a side business of being a Health and Life Coach, writing a weekly blog, studying and ensuring I still have lots of family time where I am actually present (i.e., no phone in hand). I can feel the anxiety rising as I write this. But the good news is, that through my reading, studying and working with trained professionals, I now know my signs of burnout and how to “treat them” in a self-caring way versus a self-destructive way.

But it’s not easy. I have that little devil sitting on my shoulder saying, “go ahead sleep in, drink the wine, eat the chips and stay up late binge watching cheesy Christmas movies.” And sometimes I give in. But I also now recognize that the day after giving in is not a great day. I’m sluggish, behind on my to do list and usually crankier with my family. It took a while and hard work to get here but it only takes one of those days to remind me to get back to my regular routine and how good I feel when I follow it. Energized, focused, happy and more patient - a big bonus with two young, energetic boys.

Now let me pause for a moment. I do not have this 5am go go go routine every day. I deliberately have days off so I can indulge and sleep in. I just do better when those days are planned versus days I fall out of routine. I also do better when I take care of myself and pay attention to when I’m getting burnt out. I then have the energy and patience to take care of others. Remember, put your own oxygen mask on first!

On that note, I wanted to share what self-care looks like to me and since many of you have asked me how I fit everything in, I also wanted to share a bit about how I organize my schedule, especially as we head into a new year and we look to set goals! Stress will come and go in our lives so while we can’t eliminate it, we can learn how to better manage it, so it doesn’t burn us out or overwhelm us.

As Lou Holtz says, “it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

Tip #1 – Know your stress or burnout signals. Here are mine:

· Neck pain. Since I was in grade 6, I have had neck pain issues and just this past year I finally linked them to stress.

· Nausea

· Headaches

· Getting downright irritated and short with people

· Restlessness (especially when my brain won’t shut off)

Tip #2 – Recognize the signals and do something (healthy) about them. As soon as I feel any of the above starting, I know it’s time for one (or several) of the following: