Let me say it again: self-care is not an option or a luxury. And I don’t necessarily mean holistic health care. I mean it in the broader sense of putting yourself – body, mind, and spirit – first with some regularity and before it’s too late.

I once heard the story of the “love cup”. I thought it was cheesy at the time but now that I’m juggling three kids, a home, and a job it makes perfect sense.

Fill a pitcher full of water (or margaritas). This represents you. Then get a cup for each responsibility you have in your life – one for each kid, your partner, your job, others in your care, and so on. Now start to fill each cup. What happens? The pitcher empties. It might even be empty before all the cups are filled. But those cups need to be filled so what do you have to do? You have to refill the pitcher.

How can you refill the pitcher?

My first suggestion is always to get up to date on medical appointments. Get a physical. See the dentist and the eye doctor.

Then make a list of at least 10 things you can do that make you happy and refill your pitcher. At a loss for ideas?

  • Take up a new or rekindle an old hobby
  • Take a walk, jog, run, or hike
  • Take a class – yoga, exercise, art, music, foreign language
  • Take a weekly retreat – a hot bath, a good book, lunch with a friend, go see a movie, go to your version of church
  • Take a monthly retreat – a pedicure, a haircut, a massage
  • Take a vacation with your partner – even if it’s just staying home and disconnecting from your day to day hectic life. Just “get away” and reconnect with each other.

But who has the time for all this “taking”?

Nobody does. But we make time for everything and everybody else. Why don’t we make time for us? Put classes and retreats on your calendar and to-do list. Give them the same priority you would give a meeting with your boss. You will stress about the time. You will make excuses to skip. But, you will feel so much better once you are there. You will eventually be happy you went. And your pitcher will be fuller. It may take a few weeks for this to become a habit and for the guilt to subside, but give it time. The “busy-ness” of life will start to feel less busy.

And moms, you are not allowed to use childcare as an excuse. Before my kids were in full-time school, I was terrible at self-care. I skipped doctor’s appointments. I turned down lunch invites. I sucked it up and drug them all to the grocery store and on other errands only to come home stressed and tired and ready to cry. And then a new friend asked if I wanted to start a preschool carpool. Suddenly, I had a few extra minutes in my week. And this new friend would ask me to watch her son after school on occasion and in return she would watch my daughter. Holy cow! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!?! I shared the wealth and made deals with other mommy friends and suddenly, I had ME time!!! And another sweet side effect – my kids got play dates with friends and THEY were happier! Ask another mom to make herself a priority along with you and take turns giving each other time.

Self-care is not an option or a luxury. It is a necessity and a priority. The less time you have for it, the more you need it. Make yourself a priority from this day forward!

Originally published at stretchwithgretch.com