I’m a list maker. I always keep a To Do list. I keep one for work tasks and one for personal use. I love to check things off my list once they’re complete. It makes me feel productive and accomplished.

For the last 8 weeks “write a First World Problems post” has been on my work list. Each Monday I stare at it and think, What can I write about? What has happened or inspired me in the last few days?

The truth is, a lot has happened in the last 8 weeks. Christmas, New Year’s, my son’s 3rd birthday, Valentine’s Day. From a work standpoint, the beginning of a new year means a new budget, new plans, new grants to be written, new spreadsheets, new trainings and workshops, etc. Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been feeling one step behind. I’ve been too busy and overwhelmed to write a blog post.

Last week I saw a meme on Instagram that said, “Hey Responsible Parents, what’s it like to open your van door at school pickup and not have trash fall out?”  This made me laugh. I thought to myself, how does trash accumulate in cars anyway? Why don’t people just throw it in a garbage can or take it inside?

Headed to work last Thursday, I climbed into my Honda, hit the garage door opener, put my car into reverse and looked at the screen on my dash. Most mornings my backup camera shows the outline of my narrow garage opening, along with handy, dotted guidelines to help me navigate my way out and avoid tearing off a side view mirror – which, embarrassingly, is something I have done before. I also used duct tape to affix said mirror back to my vehicle…but I digress.

On this morning, however, as I glanced at the screen, I could only see smudges. My car was so filthy that it looked like a dense fog had taken up residence just above my license plate. To back out of my garage, I had to physically turn around. And when I turned around, I looked down at the back seat.

Guess what I saw? TRASH. Lots of junk and trash. Valentine’s candy wrappers, dirty socks, sticker remnants, stale goldfish, wadded up napkins, petrified silly string and sucker sticks. Never was I more grateful to own a car with leather seats.

In that moment it occurred to me, maybe I’m not a responsible parent. Maybe I’m not a responsible person at all. Because if I was, my car would not be this dirty. My To Do list would not be so long. I would be saving more money, and exercising more, and organizing my closets, and replacing the missing plank on my deck, and calling the repairman to fix my broken stove, and scheduling that dermatologist appointment I’ve been putting off.

I put the car in park and added these items to my To Do list.

I went from feeling one step behind to miles from the finish line. I felt defeated and deflated and wondered how I’d gotten into this slump. I started questioning myself. Why do I still dwell on the past? Shouldn’t I be over that by now? Why can’t I move on? Why don’t I take more chances? Why did I use duct tape on my car?

At the Beyond Addiction support group, we talk a lot about self-care. Self-care helps us emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not only do you benefit from self-care, but so do others in your life.

When you’re preoccupied and overwhelmed with caring for an addicted loved one, life can seem too heavy. Hopelessness and exhaustion takes over and your thoughts are so muddled, your mind can be as cloudy as the lens to my car’s backup camera.

Lots of things can weigh us down and cause stress – caring for an ailing parent, broken relationships, financial struggles, the loss of a loved one, or even having a massive To Do list. When these situations occur, so much of our time is spent worrying that we often forget to take care of ourselves.

In times of struggle, we may still be showering regularly and brushing our teeth, but what about our emotional hygiene? An article from Psychology Today refers to emotional hygiene as “being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.”

Is having a lengthy To Do list considered a psychological wound? Probably not, but it still affects my stress level and ability to make self-care a priority. When I start to feel overwhelmed, emotional hygiene ends up at the bottom of my list.

It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. At the support group meetings we ask the group to share some of the ways they practice self-care. It’s my favorite part of each meeting because it focuses the attention back to the individual in a positive way. Plus, I love hearing that the group members are taking the time to do something for themselves.

Here are some of their examples:

  • Write in a journal
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Spend time alone
  • Go for a run
  • Read a book
  • De-clutter
  • Meditate or pray
  • Go to counseling
  • Help someone in need
  • Take a nap
  • Disconnect from social media for a week
  • Learn when to say no
  • Be more mindful

One of our support group resources says “You don’t have to deny the problem at hand in order to take care of yourself and enjoy other parts of your life.”

Self-care is said to produce positive feelings and increase self-esteem. Being in a good mood and having a greater sense of confidence better equips us to handle stress.

How will you practice self-care today?

Think about it. And consider adding it to the top of your To Do list.  🙂