Ever feel like your life is a to-do list? A never ending catalogue of tasks. An endless ream of must do’s. Life can feel like that sometimes. And, if you’re like me, your mental health falls to the bottom of the list. Along with self-care and the things you enjoy. If this sounds familiar, then the top of your list is probably full of household chores, life admin and supporting others. The question is, amongst all this doing, where are you? What on your list boosts you? Makes you feel alive? Gives you a sense of identity. Recently I’ve realised that my to-do list keeps me so busy with things I need to do to live my life. That I never have time to live my life. Or look after myself for that matter. So, what gives? Literally.
Accept the To-Do List
As many of us know, the to-do list never seems to get any shorter. So, the idea that “I’ll do self-care when [insert relevant point]” is a vicious circle. The to-do list grows quicker than we can tick off items. I’m forever waiting for my life to get less busy or for things to get easier. I tell myself I’ll look after myself then. That I’ll have more time to invest in my mental health. But it never happens. So, accept the to-do list. Accept that if you’re waiting to have time for your mental health. It is unlikely to happen. Accept this and we have a starting point. I know this isn’t necessarily easy. Acceptance rarely is. But we need to acknowledge this before we can take the step towards change. And sometimes we must live through the endless to-do’s before we realise the need for change.
For A Guide to Pressing Pause for Your Mental Health read here.
Be a Priority
Self-care is all about making yourself a priority. It’s not me first, but me too. Once you’ve accepted the to-do list is not going anywhere. And like Alice’s descent into Wonderland; seemingly endless. We realise the need to put ourselves on the to-do list. Doing so changes our narrative on how we look after ourselves. It switches the balance from thinking of everything else as the priority and ourselves as the option. We must be an item on the to-do list. We are a priority.
This change of thinking isn’t easy. If being at the bottom of the to-do list. Or not even on the to-do list is our modus operandi. Then putting ourselves on the to-do list may feel strange or uncomfortable. We may struggle or even fight against it at first. But remember the acceptance. It’s the reason why you must make the change. The perfect time to look after your mental health will not happen. You have to make it happen. So, put yourself on the list and make it as important as everything else. Safeguard it so it doesn’t fall lower on the list or off the list completely.
For Can I Be My Own Priority read here.
Being on the List
Once we’re committed to being on our list. We have to make sure that we will stay there. I’ve committed many times and honestly it’s not always gone to plan. That’s ok. There will be times when something does get in the way and we have to be realistic. But within this flexibility, how can we ensure we stay on the to-do list? Do we need some form of accountability? Perhaps book yourself in somewhere. Whether it’s a gym session, going to the cinema, table at a restaurant or anywhere else. Having a booking will make you less likely to cancel. Or have an accountability buddy. This can work two ways. Either invite someone along, perhaps someone who also struggles to have some time for self-care. Knowing that if you cancel they won’t do self-care either will keep you engaged. Or let someone know that you are going to do it. Ask them to check in with you. We’re better at letting ourselves down than others.
For A Guide to Prioritizing Self-Care By Prioritizing You read here.
More Me. More To-Do.
Paradoxically, being on the list will help you get through the list. And perhaps, in a perfect world, will give you even more time for yourself. We know that when life is a to-do list, burnout is a real threat. We’re not built to always be on the go. Humans need downtime. We are not machines. And yet we act like we are. But think about how we react to others. Ever told a fried to stay home and look after themselves when feeling under par? Insisted that your children have a nap? Or parent put their feet up? We seem to have two different sets of expectations for ourselves and others. We know and often actively encourage others to slow down. But expect ourselves to always be able to push through and carry on.
We know the more that we do this, the quicker we burnout. And the quicker we burnout, the less productive we become. Our energy and motivation wanes. So, the more we invest in ourselves, the better we will work. Thus, we maximize our ability to do. Looking after ourselves, having ourselves on the to-do list, ensures we get through it that much quicker. It’s win-win.
What are your thoughts? Does life feel like a to-do list? Any tips for getting through and prioritizing yourself? As always let me know below.