Having competing priorities is a reality of being a member of the human race in the 21st century. As women of the 'sandwich generation' this gets amplified as we may still have children at home, caring responsibilities and stretching careers or businesses. So, how do we balance rising to the challenge and being at our best, whilst practising the necessary self care required to keep us thriving and performing? 
During my time as a professional coach, this is something I have witnessed many times. Women focused on their careers and success, often sacrifice their own self-care and well-being in order to get where they want to be. This drive is something that I have admired, to a point, but it often has dire consequences on health and performance of the woman, undermining her original goal. 
So what are some of the common behaviours? 
1. Working excessive hours every day to the point where this becomes 'normal'. This often spills over into the weekends, so we never get the chance to rest, recover and get a fresh perspective. 
2. Not feeling that we can say 'no' to our leaders, colleagues, clients or families, even when their requests are unreasonable or unrealistic. Will me saying 'no' be seen as a failing or a weakness? Will one of my colleagues say 'yes' and take the opportunity I have been working so hard to attain? 
3. Self-sabotaging with food and drink. When we work hard we often play hard to compensate for the stress. Drinking every or most days becomes a pattern to relax and undwind but quite often ends up with us feeling sluggish and even anxious. Likewise, 'treating' ourselves to the food we want, but don't need, becomes a regular habit that is hard to change when we are tired and in need of a pick me up. 
4. Not taking time out for self-care. I am a bit of a broken record on this one but if you don't take time out to invest in yourself, eventually the cracks will start to show and either your health or performance will suffer. Self-care is a pretty personal thing but includes exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, managing your finances and doing activities that give you joy. Without these things, we aren't operating on all cylinders and we cannot be at our best. 
5. Living at 100 MPH. When we live our lives at a fast pace it means that we never take time out to reflect because 'I don't have time'. This often leads to a creeping lack of awareness of your behaviours and the choices you are making. This pace is addictive and is sometimes referred to as the 'opium of action'. We get a buzz out of living at speed but our behaviours are not always discerning or useful. 
So here comes the reality check: 
꒍ There are only 24 hours in every day, 168 hours a week, 8760 hours in a year. Time is a great leveller. Whatever our circumstances, we all have the same amount of time.  
꒍ We choose how we use our time. There may be pressures from other people in your life but ultimately you choose how you use this precious resource. 
꒍ We are dispensible. For many of us, our work gives us a great deal of purpose and meaning but, ultimately, we are not indispensible. If we could not perform our role for some reason, somebody else would step into our shoes.  
꒍ Investing in ourselves is an act of self-love. Neglecting ourselves is an act of self-sabotage. You have to decide how much love you deserve and start demonstrating it to yourself, one choice at a time. 
꒍ We have more power than we think. When we get clear on what we want, what we need and what we value, it is liberating and will guide us to make the right choices. This requires reflection and self-awareness and that means giving some of your precious time to this vital activity. 
Focusing on self-care and challenge is about achieving the right balance 
Getting the balance right between self-care and challenge is a very personal balancing act. Some people invest greatly self-care as they do not want too much challenge in their lives and careers. This is a personal decision and often links to individual circumstances, stage of life, values and life goals. 
If you do have aspirations to progress and have high challenge in your life, how do you still ensure that you safeguard and support yourself on that journey? 
Some questions to consider: 
1. What is your vision? What do you want for your life, your career, your business, yourself?  
2. What does your ideal work week looks like? Do you want to work full time? Part-time? 9 to 5 or different hours? How many hours a week will you work? How will you set some boundaries about your working week? 
3. How can you schedule self-care activities into your week? Self-care is important. How do you plan when it will happen and what you want to invest in, like any other meeting or priority project? 
4. How do you book in regular time to reflect? How do you book in weekly reflection and planning time where you can assess your priorities, what activities add value and what doesn't add value? 
5. What important conversations need to happen to safeguard your well-being and performance? Who do you need to speak with to re-align expectations, push back when requests are unrealistic, share responsibility or delegate? 
6. How can you practice consistent self-love via your choices and decisions? Learning to value yourself and your time is crucial if you want others to do the same. This is hugely important if you are a role model for others. Set the example you want for those around you. They see your behaviour and that can create pressure and expectations. 
How can you take some time out to reflect on these questions honestly? What small changes can you take immediately that will help you strike the self-care/challenge balance? 
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this blog, please book a free, no obligation, discovery call (link at the bottom of this page) or contact us via email at contact@thriveover40.co.uk. 
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