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Why I Removed Self-Care From My To-Do List


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I am a big proponent of the parenting philosophy that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help anyone else.  I learned the hard way that when I’m exhausted, distracted, and stressed, I can’t be the kind of mom or leader I want to be. That’s why I was shocked, a few years ago, when I discovered that my self-care was stressing me out.


This may sound ridiculous but bear with me.


I love a good checklist.  It feels deeply satisfying to list my priorities, make a plan for the day, and then draw a line through my accomplishments.  Unfortunately, when I don’t complete my list, I have a tendency to scold myself. I judge how I procrastinated or got lost in details that weren’t necessary.  I tell myself that I just need to work harder to fit everything in.


This scheduling framework made me focus on what I was neglecting.  Reviewing my weekly plan, I saw work deadlines that I consistently met and personal commitments I didn’t honor.  My conclusion was that I was bad at taking care of myself. I felt guilty and ashamed.


I realized that if I want a lifestyle that supports my mental and physical health, a checklist is not the best tool for me.  It feels too pass-fail. It creates a false choice between activities that feel pleasurable and those that feel responsible, when in reality, a task can be both.


Self-care fits into my life now because it’s an ongoing conversation between my thinking mind and my other sources of intelligence.  When I notice I’m feeling tired or depleted, I pause and ask myself:


“How do you feel right now?”

“What do you want more of?”

“How can we make this activity more enjoyable?”

“What will help you recharge in the next 5 minutes?”


If I’m craving time in nature, I bring my kids to the park or take a five minute walk between office buildings.  If I notice I need more connection, I call a friend. If I’m craving movement, I take a dance break before responding to emails.

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For me, self-care is a present-moment mindfulness practice.  By not ignoring myself for too long, I find it’s easier to maintain my energy and resilience.  I’m still learning as I go. If I miss a cue from my body or make too many commitments, it’s an opportunity to learn what works better and practice self-compassion.  


In the end, kindness toward myself was the care I needed most.


Instagram: laurenstreb

Website: www.laurenstreb.com/purposeful-work-checklist

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