A friend who does a lot of pro bono work in addition to demanding full-time paying projects seemed to be in a debilitating cycle: She'd work till she collapsed, when she'd have to take a couple of weeks off to recuperate (during which time she lost both momentum and money), and then she'd fall back immediately into the same frenzied work routine. Because she is a brilliant woman, and kind, her family and friends often called on her expertise in matters professional and otherwise. Her appointment book looked like the diary of a Survivor contestant. Which, in a way, she was. But though she had won many hard-earned victories for other people, she herself was barely surviving. (Not incidentally, her house, quite literally, was falling down around her.) So she started to make exercise—which sometimes meant just a vigorous walk—a priority, planned her meals thoughtfully rather than eating on the run, turned off the telephone after 11 P.M. so she could get a full night's sleep, and settled in with a guy who happened to be terrific at fixing things, like leaky plumbing and loose shingles. Guess how all this affected her work: Because she is now more engaged and energetically enthusiastic, her projects are reaching (and therefore helping) more people than ever before.
I recently read about a kind of therapy advocating that when we're stressed or suffering, we put our hand over our heart or touch our cheek as we might touch the cheek of a child we love, and say simply, "I understand." In that moment, we're accomplishing one of our greatest responsibilities; without feeling loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, we can never really know what they are.
It's the easy way to put yourself first. And it only takes a moment.
Advice for a Better You