Awhile back I looked at my to-do list and noticed something terribly wrong. It wasn't so much what was on my list: call the women on my church committee, bake cookies for our staff coffee break, buy a present for a friend's upcoming wedding. The problem was what wasn't on my list: me.
Before you start thinking me selfish, stop a minute. As Christian women, we spend most of our time taking care of others—coworkers, friends, spouse, Sunday school students, children, roommates, etc.—and next to no time making sure we're as fulfilled and balanced as all the other people in our life.
On the brink of burnout, I knew I had to make some changes. While I was sure a two-week vacation in a sleepy town in Italy would do the trick, I decided to settle for a few simpler—and less budget-busting!—ways to pamper myself. Try a few of these yourself before you succumb to mental melt-down.
Reward yourself. More than once I've splurged and bought myself a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream after my first week on a new job, even if it was just an internship or summer employment. Some weeks I just have to celebrate making it to Friday. What have you—or a friend—accomplished lately? Make it an excuse to celebrate.
Console yourself. When I was a young girl, my mom had a tradition of buying my sister and me a chocolate shake at Wendy's if we were good during a doctor's visit. This is a ritual I still observe—especially for gynecological visits (ick!), painful trips to the dentist (but don't tell him!), and even an occasional visit to the mechanic. Misery may love company, but a Frosty doesn't hurt, either!
Start a tradition. Years ago when I had a roommate, we started an annual Couch Potato Day, for which we stayed in our pjs all day and watched three movies in a row from the comfort of our two couches. We usually scheduled this during the bleak Chicago winter when being cozy indoors is a real treat. Another tradition I love is escaping to the local coffee shop over my lunch hour once a week to read my latest favorite book.
Nap. Some days I zoom home over my lunch hour, fit in a quick nap, and return to the office with fresh energy to tackle my in-box. Give me an hour (on nonworking days, of course), and I'm ready to take on the world. This might seem like a lot of time to devote to yourself, but the dividends to you—and others!—are well worth the sacrifice.
Learn something. A few years ago I took a one-day class in which I learned how to make one of those expensive, handmade photo albums. It was a great break from my usual routine and launched a new hobby. Have you always had an interest in something you've wanted to explore? Check out your local community college, park district, or church calendar for some mind-enriching options.
Create something. There's nothing like coming home from a brain-busting day at the office and sanding furniture. Really! I recently refinished a bookshelf and—after several tries—gave it an antiqued look. While my motives were mostly utilitarian—I needed a place to put my growing collection of cookbooks—the results were creative and freeing. Since we're made in the image of the Creator, we all possess creativity. What have you done with yours lately?
Treat yourself like a vacationer. Part of what I love about staying in a hotel—besides having someone else clean up after me every day—are the little niceties: a carnation on the room service tray, gourmet coffee, small bottles of yummy-smelling lotion and shampoo. I've found those little touches, such as setting the table even when I'm home alone eating canned soup, can make a big difference.
Paint your toenails in winter. Or wear lacy underwear even if you're single and no one else will see it. These are fun and tangible ways to remind yourself you're special.
Dream big, act small. Picture yourself five years from now. What do you hope you've accomplished, seen, achieved in those five years? My big dream is to vacation in Italy. My small actions now are sending for tour brochures and reading a travel narrative about Italy. These little things make my goal seem less distant or unreachable.
Sing to yourself in the car. Next time you're in your car alone, turn off the radio and sing your favorite show tunes, nursery songs, hymns, or whatever makes you smile. It doesn't matter if you can't carry a tune or if the man in the next car looks at you funny—he's either sung a car solo himself sometime or you've just given him a chuckle for the day.
Strategically place photos. My roommate put a funny magazine ad with two men doing housework in the closet where we keep our cleaning supplies. Every time I reach for the 409 or Windex, I laugh all over again. Beat the drudgery of housework by putting photos of loved ones (or favorite comic strips) near your washer and dryer or the desk where you pay bills.
Splurge on one thing at the grocery store. Each time I make a major grocery store run, I treat myself to one thing not on my list. Whether it's flowers, gourmet hot chocolate, or a new, expensive brand of cereal, it brightens my day and makes me feel special each time I smell, drink, or eat whatever I bought.
At the heart of all these ideas is one simple principle—you're a priceless person created by God who deserves to be treated as such. It's not about being selfish, it's about being balanced. You can't meet everyone else's needs and do everything God's designed you for if you're running on empty. So before you stop reading this, brainstorm one way you can add yourself to your to-do list. You'll thank yourself for it later. And probably everyone else on your list will, too!
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