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Elizabeth Barbour, M. Ed.
The Revitalized Business Woman
Missouri City (Houston), Texas

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Self Care in Times of Crisis

A few days ago, our beloved dog, Andy, had a "neurological event". It looks like a stroke caused by a piece of cartilage from his advanced stage arthritis that got dislodged and entered the brain, but it could be a brain tumor and it could be something called vestibular syndrome which is common in elderly dogs. He's hanging in here still 5 days later and we are seeing signs of improvement but it's all still very tenuous and uncertain.

I've been contemplating the timing of this life event for Andy and our family and how it has coincided with the launch of my new Smart Self Care for Busy Women e-course (which begins November 4th). This is one of those times when I am reminded that we teach that which we most need to learn. Even though I've been speaking, coaching and leading retreats about the topic of self care for years, it's a practice that I am continually working on in my own life. I think it's a lot like yoga or meditation or writing or music or whatever your "thing" is... it's not something you "get" and have now "mastered"... it's a life long practice that some days is easy, flowing, beautiful and nourishing and other days makes you want to bang your head against a wall and yell "aaaaaaah!" because it feels so heavy, hard and complex. Yet, we persist because it's necessary for our well-being.

Day to day self care is sometimes easier to manage if you can make it a habit and build it into your routine (like brushing your teeth or preparing dinner), but when you are in crisis mode, there are some concepts that really bubble to the surface as being critical to remember:

1. Know your limits. At 6 am that Wednesday morning, when Andy tried to get up and kept falling, then was walking in circles, drooling and couldn't really function, I knew I needed help. I was home alone with our toddler and Eric was away on business. I thought about calling my neighbor for an extra hand but after assessing the situation, figured it all out so that I could manage to get both Riley and Andy in the car by myself. I dropped Andy off at the vet, took Riley to school, and returned immediately to the vet's office where he promptly told me what I already knew "we think Andy has had a stroke, or something like it". After a lengthy consultation, he told me my options and I knew that keeping Andy at the vet clinic that day and that night was the smart thing to do. I couldn't handle both the baby and the dog by myself either physically or, more importantly, emotionally. I was a wreck and had been crying all morning. Did I want to take Andy home to rest and recover? Of course! But I knew my my limits and it allowed me to collect myself emotionally so that I could bring him home the next day.

2. Give yourself permission to experience the depth of your emotions. For the past 5 days, I've been a blubbering mess. I've cried in front of 2 1/2 year old Riley more than I'd like to. She has been wonderfully sensitive and surprisingly, hasn't cried herself. She keeps saying "You're sad, Mommy. You're worried about Andy. You're worried about Daddy." She gets it. I tell her she's right, we talk about it for a minute, then we do something different like read books or play with toys. I think it's important for me to get the emotions out of my body because then it helps to me to function better. Plus, I'm modeling for my daughter that it's OK to be sad and scared. It's part of life.

3. Know what commitments to keep on your plate and which ones to reschedule. I had several calls scheduled for Friday and knew I didn't have the stamina to get through all of them. So I kept the two clients calls that had been scheduled more than a month prior, and the other two calls which were more get-to-know-you networking calls got postponed to a later date. I'm glad I kept the client calls because they were excellent sessions that helped raise my energy so I felt stronger for the rest of the day. And I'll enjoy getting to know the new people when I'm in a better frame of mind and be more fully present for the conversation.

4. It's critical to cultivate your tribe. One of the greatest gifts over the past 5 days has been our circle of friends and family. Pet lovers or not, they care for us unconditionally and respect our deep bond with Andy. Friends have brought by chocolate, offered to bring dinner, kept Riley for us, sent e-mails, phoned us and soooo many have left love notes on Facebook. When you're in a crisis, there is nothing better than being able to sink in to the circle of support and prayers from your tribe.

So often, we assume that self care should get thrown out the window in difficult times because we have to step up our care for others and the situation we are facing, but the past few days have reminded me that it's in times of crisis that having a good foundation for self care allows us to navigate the rocky terrain more mindfully and make the best possible choices for all concerned.

Inspired Action: What self care concepts do you have in place to help you through a time of crisis or uncertainty? Share in the comments below if you'd like.


Letting go creates space

Self care sometimes involves making disappointing choices in the short-term for long-term gains.

Recently I chose to remove myself from two commitments I made to other people. One was a professional opportunity, the other was a personal experience.

In both instances, here was the general sequence of events:

  1. Initially I said “Yes, this sounds great! I’m in!”
  2. As time went by, I got an intuitive hit “This isn’t right for you, you need to step back while you can.”
  3. My monkey mind jumped in “But I want to do this! I’m really excited about it! I like the people I’m engaged with. The opportunity is awesome!”
  4. Monkey mind continued with “And what will they think? I said I’d do it and now I’m backing out? They will think I’m not reliable or a flake or a terrible person!”
  5. Wise self jumps in with “There are 3 excellent reasons for you to release yourself from this commitment. The other parties involved will understand it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. Trust yourself.”
  6. When I notified the others involved with my commitments of my need to change my plans, I experienced total and complete relief.
  7. Life goes on.

One of my best friends is always asking me "Where's the relief? Find the relief. Follow the relief!" and she's right.

I hate hurting and disappointing others and sometimes that happens when I change my mind.

But even more than that, I hate hurting and disappointing myself.

And that’s where listening to my intuition and acting on it is so critical! 

Because I have to live with me. Noone else does.

I don't want to walk around feeling stressed all the time. I want to feel peace, joy and ease!

Letting go creates space.

Sometimes the space allows something bigger, better, more exciting, more perfect to show up.

And sometimes the space is simply more space.

We all need more breathing room, don’t you think?


Inspired Action: What do you have on your already full plate right now that you could step back from? Think about a work project, a volunteer commitment or some other “yes” you said when you really wanted to say “no”. It’s not too late. You get to change your mind. The power of choices is yours. Relief is yours for the taking.


Change your perspective


Have you ever felt "stuck" with a project or an idea?

You think about it all the time. It swirls 'round and 'round in your head.

But every time you try to take action, that's all you end up doing... trying. (Yoda would not be pleased....!)

Yeah, me too. That's how I've been feeling about a writing project that I've been working on for the past few weeks.

Then yesterday, on Facebook, my friend/colleague/former coach/amazing entrepreneur Karyn Greenstreet posted "I love the writing process, don't you?"

And my immediate knee jerk response in my head was "OMG NO! I hate it!"

So I commented on Karyn's post and asked her if she'd be willing to share what she loved about writing.

Here's what she said:

"Hmmm...why do I love writing? For me, it's an extension of teaching. I'm taking a topic I'm passionate about (in this case, how to market to small biz owners), and sharing what I know on the topic. It help ME to get clarity about what's inside my head by writing it down for someone else to read...The other thing is that I always feel like I'm writing to someone I know... It feels more personal that way. Kinda like a love letter, but for those who love business."

And that, my friends, was a lightbulb moment for me.

I was looking at writing as a chore, something requiring effort, a task that is difficult for me. But when I consider Karyn's perspective of writing as an extension of my teacher/coach self and especially thinking about sending a note to someone I really care about... well, that sheds some new light on the situation. Suddenly it felt easy and fun.

This morning, I went to a local coffee shop and in 45 minutes, got more done on my current writing project than I'd accomplished in the last three weeks. All because Karyn helped me to see it from a different perspective. (Thanks Karyn! YOU ROCK!)

So here's the question for you.

In what aspect of YOUR business or life do you need some new perspective?

And who can you ask for help to un-stick you? Not to say "Help! I'm stuck!" (because that really just invites the stuck-ness to stick around!)

Instead, ask the question "I see that you do X well. Can you tell me why you love it so much?" then sit back and allow yourself to look at your "thing" in a whole new way, through their eyes. You might just have a lightbulb moment like I did and make great progress. Wouldn't that be fun?

Inspired Action:

1. Identify an area of your business or life where you need some new perspective. (some ideas... organizing, finances, marketing, selling, collaboration, self care, networking, your website, household chores, health & wellness, etc)

2. Identify someone who's good at the thing you think you're not (which may or may not be true, but that's not the point) and ask them to tell you about why they love "it" so.

3. Use their answers to fuel your next action steps.

Let me know how it goes in the comments below! E.