My mind is scattered, I want a thousand naps, and I had a cookie for dinner.
Yep, it’s finals week.
In the midst of all the craziness going on at the end of my first semester of graduate school, I noticed my list of priorities sitting on my nightstand, the one I made with my counselor back towards the beginning of the semester. (Refer back to this post.) I paused for a moment to read through it again, and as I read each line, a bigger and bigger smile stretched across my face. While looking at the list of everything I value, I realized that I have steadily managed all 12 of them. I have balanced each and every thing that I hold dear.
Just a couple of months ago, I struggled to maintain even just three of the priorities on my list, forgetting about myself while swimming in the depth of all the new transitions and responsibilities involved with beginning graduate school. I accomplished the aspects of my life that I absolutely needed to, and neglected everything else.
Since then, I have learned how to orient my life so that I fulfill all of my various roles and engage in the things I value in my life in a way that works with my new graduate school lifestyle. That sentence makes it sound simple, but let me tell you – it took a ton of work, mountains of patience, and a whole lot of grace from Jesus Christ.
While many things have helped me reach this new point, including my many valued and supportive relationships, the largest instigator of change during this time has been my inner recognition that I am worth my time. Before, I pushed and pushed and pushed myself, working to fulfill all of the roles that I deemed important, neglecting my own needs in order to be “successful.” While I may have appeared put-together and on top of things, my emotions, spirituality, and mental health steadily declined as I continued to sacrifice my “me” time for all of these other areas of my life.
As I emphasize repeatedly, self-care proves to be utterly important as we journey throughout our lives. No matter how much we strive to give of ourselves and help others, we must do things that replenish our own energy so that we actually have something to pour out when we try to share from our cup.
To get to this point, I followed a series of difficult, yet healing steps.
I started by reaching out for support from the people closest to me, who helped me determine places in my life where I could temporarily cut back. Through their encouragement, I addressed my immediate needs, and just from this, I started to gain back some of my health. Then, I slowly, and one-at-a-time, reincorporated each aspect of my life that I had previously neglected. While doing this, I reevaluated the amount of time and energy that I could realistically engage in in each category. My nature is generally to reach for the highest standards in everything I do, but I had to adjust my expectations to align with what truly brings me fulfillment, not what I thought would fulfill me. Once I did all of these things, I found myself naturally re-integrating all 12 of the valued portions back into my life.
Throughout all of this, I placed extra emphasis on self-care. My mid-semester breakdown awakened me to the fact that I needed to do some serious readjusting in the ways I cared for myself. I started taking breaks during work, scheduling out time to spend with the people I care about, grocery shopping for healthy ingredients, finishing my work in advance of the deadline, going to therapy regularly, and coloring with my favorite markers, to name just a few of the things I started to do to value my “me” time. I realized that I am worth it.
Miraculously, while taking the time to work on myself as a sane (or somewhat sane) human being, I found that my ability to intentionally engage with others rose dramatically. I had more energy to invest in good causes around me, and more brain space to listen to friends who needed someone to chat with. As I prayed more, I found more time to serve the people around me. While rising from the beginning of poorly managing three priorities, to now positively handling twelve priorities, I started to live a freer, more giving, and more fulfilling life.
There is always hope, and we can always improve. Where we are at any one point does not determine our future, and we have the ability to invest in the things that are important to us in order to bring health and happiness to our lives. Whatever is on your list, fight for it. It’s worth it, and so are you.
In Joy, Monica
Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.
1 Timothy 4:16