Filling Up Your Tank for the Journey

“Rest for a few minutes? Are you crazy? I haven’t finished the dishes yet!”

“Sure the yoga sessions refresh me, but my youngest just told me about a school project that’s due tomorrow.”

“Coloring makes me feel so good and gives me a sense of accomplishment. But it’s such a silly little hobby and I have important things to get done.”

Do voices like these ring through your head whenever you think about taking time for yourself? And if you DO fight them down, do you feel guilty the whole time you’re “indulging yourself”?

Do You Just Tape Over the Engine Light?

You probably already know that you need to energize yourself before you can help others. If you burn yourself out, you do no one any good. Putting yourself under constant stress by not replenishing your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical resources is like the time I was in college and drove my car without changing the oil. Huh. After awhile, it broke down. It was completely out of oil, and that does nasty things to a car’s insides. According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all women surveyed said they were “highly stressed.” That figure was up in four years by 25% from an earlier survey.

In fact, in a 2011 Women’s Health article (April, p. 60), the author quotes San Francisco clinical psychologist Steve Orma: “Many young women think if they’re not working every second of every day, they’re lazy. They are ashamed of taking breaks and feel they’re not a ‘good’ enough person if they aren’t pushing themselves to the absolute limit. It has become a moral issue.”

So how do we overcome those feelings of guilt about spending time on ourselves?

Pie Charts, Support and Journaling

A 2013 article in Women in Higher Education (January, p. 22) warns about the risks to women’s heart health when high levels of stress are maintained. The author mentions several ways to reduce stress, but three methods stood out to me: look at how you spend your time, develop a support network, and keep a journal.

I don’t generally get too analytical about how I spend my time,  but here’s something I tried. List out your daily routine, and assign a rough percentage estimate of how much of your day you spend on each task. Creating a pie chart of those estimates can reveal how little time you spend on yourself–and what time you could divert to stress-resisting activities.

Friends and family are helpful as a source of support when you’re reinventing or renewing yourself, but if they’re also the source of some of your stress, or if they don’t fully understand why you want to change your life and follow your dreams, turn to a support group. The reason I set up the Reward Your Success™ support group on Facebook is to bring together people who are going through the same struggles you are.

Keeping a journal is a good way to express emotional issues you don’t feel comfortable sharing aloud. Some studies suggest, according to this Women in Higher Education article, that regular journaling can strengthen the immune system. I find journaling can be aimless, though, which is why I designed the Success! journal as a step-by-step guide. When you list your goals in the journal and reward yourself for completing them, you begin your journey with a sense of purpose.

Renew Your Spirit, Re-energize Your Life

[Note: This post was originally posted on my Reward Your Success site with an additional paragraph.]

The sun beats down on you with unrelenting ferocity. Sweat trickles across your heated skin like little hot spiders. You wipe your forehead with the back of your hand, but it only transfers the salty condensation from one place to another.

Someone hands you a tumbler of ice water.

The rivulets trickling down the sides of the glass are little icy angels singing of shade and cool breezes. You pour the cold liquid down your throat, and all the cells in your body rejoice. Within moments you feel you could do anything, accomplish anything!

THAT is renewal.

Not Only But Also

I’ve written about reinvention a lot lately, but this past weekend I realized that’s not the only opportunity for change we face. A dear friend helped me understand that we need time to renew as well. In fact, we’re much more likely to need renewal more often than reinvention. Even if we’ve reinvented ourselves, we face obstacles and challenges on our brave journey. Renewal gives us a chance to reflect, adjust and rededicate ourselves to our goals.

Variety is the Spice of Renewal

Renewal can take many forms, depending on how harrying your journey has been lately. At its most basic, renewal is the pause that refreshes. Take stock in how you’re feeling–mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Record your thoughts in your journal, and while you’re writing, review your current goals. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Do something just for you. Take it easy for a little bit. Stretch–your mind or your body. Pray for strength. Contact a friend. Smile at someone. Share your moment with others so they’ll benefit from the renewal as well.