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Listen up, cause we need to talk about something.
- Remember that day when you had free time all to yourself?
- Remember when you got that super good night’s rest?
- Remember that one time when you went out with your friends?
- Remember when you took the time to make yourself look sexy?
Yeah, me neither…. That’s the problem.
I know that our kids need us and I’m not encouraging anyone to neglect their responsibilities to their kids.
But I wanna talk about balance as a parent. Specifically about taking care of yourself, inside and out.
(Please note- depression or anxiety disorders may need professional help of a doctor and/or counselor. These steps should not take the place of professional help.)
Fill Your Cup
Here’s an analogy to make my point.
Let’s say everybody has a cup that represents their needs- emotional, spiritual, physical, all of it. Each person is actively working to fill their cup. A full cup means that all of their needs and wants are being met. An empty cup means none of their needs and wants are being met.
Almost nobody has a full cup, because let’s face it, there’s always something else that we want. So it’s ok if our cup isn’t completely full.
As you go, you see people who have needs that you can fill. So you share some of your water with them.
That’s awfully nice of you! But what about your own cup?
It’s no big deal to share because you have ways of keeping your water levels up.
- You go to work to get more money for groceries, so you don’t mind sharing a few dollars with a homeless man or that cup of sugar with your neighbor.
- You listen to a friend’s venting, and in turn they let you vent to them. You’re both emotionally filled in the end.
- You have a comfortable home, so you don’t mind letting your brother stay in the guest bedroom for a while until he has a place of his own.
Having all these needs met keeps your water up.
But it takes effort to keep it that way.
You are constantly sharing your water with your kids. In fact, in proportion to other people, you give way more water to your kids than to anyone else! Again, this is no problem as long as you are replenishing your own water.
But every once and a while, you give ALL of your water to someone (maybe it’s your kids). And you are left with nothing.
Two things happen here:
- First, you feel drained and destitute because your needs aren’t being met. It takes significantly more work to refill an empty cup than it does to replenish bits of water here and there.
- Second, you are no longer capable of helping anyone else. You might want to, you might try to, but you can’t. I can’t stress this point enough- YOU CAN’T FILL ANYONE ELSE’S CUP, NOT EVEN A LITTLE, WHEN YOUR OWN CUP IS EMPTY.
As parents, we must take care of ourselves. Nobody else in the world cares for our kids the same way we do. Not their grandparents, not aunts and uncles, nobody. We must keep our cups full so that we can share our water with our kids, because nobody else will. At least, not like we do.
How do we recover from having an empty cup or a near empty cup?
First of all, let me say that this is different for everyone because each empty cup looks different. There are people who are rich, but their cups are still empty. I’ve seen people who have almost nothing, and yet they are happy. Their cups are full.
1) Get your Basic Needs Met
Material things are important- you know, basic necessities like food, water, shelter. Make sure you have the basic necessities in life first.
Then work on some of the following steps to fill your cup.
2) Your Purpose
Everyone needs a purpose in life.
It gives us drive, it gives us a will to carry on, it fills our cup.
So what is your purpose?
Dig deep. Start by finding out what you care about. I recommend making a list of at least 50 things that you care about. I find that when I can’t think of any more items for my list, but I know I have to reach 50, I start to think harder about the question.
My answers start to get more and more creative and my true colors are revealed.
Once you have your list, step back and notice patterns.
What things are truly important to you?
- Financial Security?
- Building a better world?
- Giving to others?
Once you know what you value, you have your direction. Do some research. Put some time and thought into what you can do NOW.
It’s good to have some overall goals, like “I want to get a promotion at work” or “I want to have a good relationship with my sister”. Goals like these take time to achieve, so it can be difficult to feel proud of your achievement right at this moment.
Those are good things to work for long-term, but make sure you have some goals that you can reach TODAY. This might be “I want to make my sister smile” or “I want to work for an extra 30 minutes to show my boss that I am invested in this company.”
If your cup is empty, you need some immediate wins to fill it back up. Make 1-2 goals that you can be successful at NOW. Then follow through.
Notice when you do well! Notice when you achieve something! Notice the good things you do.
And give yourself a reward! You earned it.
You would reward anyone else for doing something good, wouldn’t you? So reward yourself too!
It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to take time or money.
- Even just an “I did it!” can be a reward.
- Or maybe it’s “I’m going to stay up for an extra 20 minutes after the kids are sleeping and play my favorite game on my phone”.
- Or “I’m gonna eat a piece of chocolate.”
It’s the small things that count.
Find a purpose, put in some effort, and reward yourself for your wins.
Click the image below for a great resource on having a purpose in life.
3) Your Look
Another cheap, easy thing you can do to fill your cup is to make yourself look pretty.
Seriously, this totally fills your cup.
Dress for your purpose. It’ll help you win at your goals. And it feels good to look good.
- Do you want to play with your kids more? Put on something that you can get paint on or muddy in.
- Do you want to improve your performance at work? Look professional! Put your hair up, makeup on, shine those shoes, the whole nine yards!
- Do you want to have a relationship with your teenage daughter? When was the last time you tried a new style? Maybe you can ask her to pick an outfit for you. Share in her tastes a little.
Your look says a lot. It really affects how you act. It affects how people perceive you. It affects your attitude.
Use that to your advantage!
Click the image below for some great (and inexpensive!) cosmetics that will help you feel gorgeous!
4) Your Time
Time doesn’t cost any money. But it is a valuable and limited resource.
You’re splitting your time between your kids, your significant other, your job, your social life (if you have one- haha), sleep, chores, etc….
Oh, and I forgot, you need time for yourself.
And that’s just it.
Your water level can go down if you forget to take some time for yourself.
I love my time after my kids are all in bed. They’re down at 8pm every night so that I can have time with me and time with my husband.
Once I’ve got them down, I have to make sure that time is well spent. There are some nights that watching a movie is the perfect activity- I can turn my brain off and relax and that’s exactly what I needed.
But there are other nights when watching a movie doesn’t do anything to fill my cup. I can’t afford to waste that precious alone time, so I need to be aware of my own needs.
I try to take the first 5 minutes after the kids go to sleep to think about the rest of my night. I ask myself, “What do I need in order to stay sane today?”
- Do I need to snuggle my husband?
- Do I need some chocolate?
- Do I need a hot shower?
- Do I need to read a book?
- Do I need to play a game?
- Do I need to get something done so that my to do list is shorter?
- Do I need to turn off my brain for a while?
Once you know what you need, do that. Don’t get distracted. Let the dishes go. You’re more important than the dishes!
Need a little extra help to organize your time? Click the image below!
5) Your Focus
Once you have done every reasonable thing that you can for yourself, start looking out for others.
But this step must be saved for after you’ve got something in your cup again… So we are assuming that the previous steps have replenished your water levels a bit before you try this.
It also decreases the stress of worrying about all the things you wish were different about you. If you’re thinking about others, you’re not picking yourself apart.
This step cures those times when you are happy you’ve made progress, but you get down thinking about how far you have to go. Instead of focusing on your own road, start helping others along the way and you will get where you’re going before you even realize it.
Again, you don’t want to give so much that you have nothing left to give. But you don’t want to be stingy or selfish either. You want to give a healthy amount.
How much is that?
I wish there was an easy answer, but the truth is that how much you can give changes based on how full your cup is at any given time.
You might be able to give more sometimes, but it’s ok to cut back if you need to fill your own cup for a while.
Pay attention to how you feel when you are giving to others and after you give to others.
- Do you feel rejuvenated?
- Like you want to do more?
- Like you have new meaning in your life?
- A sort of a glowing feeling that makes you want to find another person who needs you so that you can help them too?
If you feel this way, you know you are sharing a healthy amount of water.
- Do you feel drained?
- Emotionally exhausted?
Then you are giving too much. Take a step back and help yourself. Then go ahead and offer what you can to others once you are built back up.
A focus on others can build us up. Just don’t let it wipe you out. Find balance.
Nobody’s perfect, and that’s good.
But it doesn’t do you any good unless you really believe it.
- If you really believe it, you can forgive yourself when you fail during this process.
- You notice when your cup is empty or getting empty and you respond accordingly without beating yourself up for letting your cup fluctuate.
- You accept the facts, try to understand what you can do to prevent problems in your future, learn from the situation, and move on.
Grudges against yourself (and others) drain your cup FAST!
So don’t let them sneak into your life.
Notice a problem. See it as a fact, not a personal fail. Make yourself better. No need to dwell on your mistakes.
These steps will help you fill your cup back up, and keep it full.
They help you have a healthy, balanced life even if you don’t have a lot of money or resources. And when you have that, you are in a good position to help others- especially your kids.