Take Care of You First

What is your limit? Have you reached yours?

Do you ever think to yourself as you are falling asleep at night. “I never seem to have time for me?” or “There has to be more to life?” or “Things have to be better than this?”

I know I used to do that, but I never stopped for long enough to consider how things could be different. Focusing on everything and everyone but myself was a great distraction.

At work, the more dedicated I was, the prouder I felt.  The more hours I worked, the more productive I felt.  In my home life, I was eager to lend a hand to family and friends.
From time to time, someone would hint that I needed to focus on me, but that seemed so selfish.

It took me a very long time to figure out that if I didn’t take care of myself first, I wouldn’t be in very good shape to offer my help to others.

Here’s how my story unfolded:

For over 25 years, I worked myself to the bone in corporate America. I cared for my family and friends in my spare time, and I worked 60-70 hours per week at my job. I was darn proud of it all!  I looked after the house, spent time with my husband and somehow squeezed time in for family and friends. I was on the gerbil wheel of insanity and didn’t know how to get off of it.

Then, about six years ago, my husband and I made the decision to welcome my 90-year-old grandmother (Gam) into our home to care for her.

Initially, Gam did not require a lot of care, but my husband and I put a lot of time and effort into making her feel loved, safe and part of the family.

As time passed, I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I could with Gam, but I was feeling pressure from work. Gam’s health began to decline after she had lived with us for about three years, and it become a challenge for me to care for her and stay on top of work – something had to give.

The guilt began to set in. I had so many demands, and I didn’t know what to do. My husband, David, and my mother-in-law were a huge help, but I felt overwhelmed.
My friends told me to put Gam in a nursing home, which was not an option for me.  Gam’s parents had left her when she was a few years old, and she lived in orphanages and foster homes until she met my grandfather.  I couldn’t have her start her life and end her life in a sterile facility with no love, especially after all that she had done for me throughout my life.

I was tearing myself apart trying to figure out how to make this all work, and seeing my inner struggle, David, encouraged me to quit my job.  At first I thought he was nuts. However, the longer I considered it, the more sense it seemed to make. I began to listen to myself and most importantly, I began listening to my heart. I realized that leaving my job was the right thing to do.

It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. I felt like I had gotten sucked into my job to the point that it identified me, and I was terrified of who I would be when I left.
I gave my notice six months ago, and I haven’t looked back .

Sadly, Gam passed away about a month after I left my job. I was hoping to have more time with her, however I cherished every moment that I did have with her.

Once I made the decision to take control of my life, I began focusing on me and taking better care of myself. Now I have a renewed energy that enables me to give so much more to everyone around me, and I no longer feel deprived.

So ask yourself – are you putting you first? Maybe you are a dedicated stay-at-home mom, a successful professional who dedicates his/her life to work. Maybe you have a boat-load of responsibilities that all need your attention.  Maybe you are the primary caregiver of an aging parent or grandparent, like I was.

Maybe you put your time into your kids and your job and your friends- into everyone but you. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you’ve ever told yourself “there has to be more to life,” I challenge you to stop and consider your options. This may very well be the perfect time to take care of you first.

Contributed by Business, Executive and Life Coach, Lori Fortuna

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