“These two threads that run through our life — one pulling us into the world to achieve and make things happen, the other pulling us back from the world to nourish and replenish ourselves — can seem at odds, but in fact they reinforce each other.”
― Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
Angela is a working mom in her fifties with teenage kids. (Angela is real, but her name isn’t; I’m changing all names in this post for privacy.) With a full-time job and two teenagers, both of whom struggle with mental health issues, Angela had zero bandwidth to spare. On top of that, she suffered with chronically poor sleep, which drained her energy and dulled her mind. Angela was stressed out and dragging herself through each day. After work, dinner was whatever she could pull together in a hurry (think takeout or pasta), all too often followed by dessert.
Then, a wake-up call: a routine medical visit revealed prediabetes and astronomically high cholesterol and triglycerides. Angela cut out the junk food and started planning healthy meals. At first, she didn’t have the extra energy and brain power to add meal planning and additional cooking to her life, so she hired a friend to help.
Fast forward a few weeks. Angela’s mood and energy are transformed. She’s bouncing through her day, not dragging. She’s taking on extra projects at work and digging into hobbies at home. She has far more attention and focus to give her kids. She’s sleeping better, she’s dropping weight, and she can’t wait to find out what her next blood tests will show.
Lavelle is a human powerhouse. Also in her fifties with a teenager at home, Lavelle is an entrepreneur juggling far too many projects for an ordinary mortal. For her, time management is an extreme sport.
For years, Lavelle was up late every night handling task after task. Then she started working with a life coach and rethinking her priorities, and she began to prioritize sleep. Lavelle is more calm, more centered, and more focused. And here’s the big one — she’s more productive.
Angela “didn’t have the energy” to eat properly. Lavelle “didn’t have time” to sleep. But when each of these women made the decision to start giving their body what it needs, life got easier. They weren’t more squeezed; they had more space.
I’m deeply committed to doing what it takes to feel good. I’m human, and I slip up sometimes, but I have well-established foundational habits that support my physical and mental health. I could have written this post about anything, but I chose this topic because I’m passionate about it and I want to encourage you, to pump you up about how great life is when you take time for your well-being. If healthy self-care were a rock band, I’d be in the front row at every concert, cheering my heart out.
But still — even thought I’m a sleep-enough-eat-right-move-your-body #1 superfan — every day, I need to recommit, over and over.
Every day, I need to talk myself into doing what my mind and body need. Again.
Here’s some of the dialogue that goes on in my head on a daily basis.
Me: “It’s cold out. I want to stay in my bathrobe and have tea.”
Me: “That sounds nice, but feeling good tomorrow depends on sleeping well tonight, and you’ll sleep better tonight if you get natural light on your eyeballs right now. Also, what you truly want is victory over your massive to-do list. If you want your brain in top shape for the day, you need to get outside and move now so you start your day with a clear mind.”
Me: “I don’t have time to wash all this lettuce.”
Me: “Do you remember how clear and focused you felt all afternoon on Monday after you had salad and protein for lunch? What you don’t have time for is trying to work when you’re unsatisfied after nothing but a spoonful of almond butter for lunch and you’re in the kitchen over and over hunting for snacks.”
Me: “I just need to finish writing this one email.”
Me: “Actually, you need to get out of that chair and move around for even one minute. Sitting is the new smoking. The email will still be there.”
The theme? There’s constant tension between what feels good for a short time right now versus what will help me feel good, for a longer period of time, in the future.
Failing to take care of ourselves costs us time. Everything we do takes longer when we’re struggling through the day on no sleep and bad food. And lack of self-care can cost us precious years of life by increasing our risk for illness like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The great Les Brown has said, “If you do what is easy, your life will be hard. But if you do what is hard, your life will be easy.”
The “I-don’t-wanna” voice will always be with us. Every one of us. Always. The difference is this: do we let it rule us? Or do we acknowledge it, anticipate it, and prepare to overcome it?
You don’t have time to work out, or wash lettuce, or get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour? My friend, you don’t have time not to.