The Fourth Step to Balance: Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

(Based on the book: Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms – 7 Steps to a Balanced Life)

Do you find yourself insisting, “Between the kids, my partner, and my job, I just don’t have any time for myself?” If so, let’s talk about oxygen masks. There’s a good reason why airlines instruct you to put your own on first, then and only then to assist your children or other family members.

After all, if you can’t breathe, if you’re getting weaker, fainter, more confused, losing consciousness, you’ll be no good to anyone else. This concept is easy to understand in a life or death situation, but not so easy to grasp in your own day-to-day life.

Many busy moms—working or not—barely take a moment to breathe on their own and wind up stressed, anxious, full of self-doubt, even depressed. And there are other repercussions as well. If you keep insisting you have no time for yourself, what are you teaching your kids about your value as a person? What are you modeling about how to live when they grow up?

With the hustle and bustle of life, time for yourself is frequently winds up on the back burner. By learning to take time for yourself and making that a priority, you are saving your sanity, your self-respect, perhaps your marriage . . . You are not only finding your own balance, you are modeling healthy behavior for your children.

I can almost hear you groaning and grimacing, asking, “But isn’t that self-centered? Shouldn’t I give every second of my time to my family, to my career, to others?” Let’s redefine the term self-centered and take it from negative to positive.

Here’s an alternative definition of self-centered: becoming centered within yourself.

I’m talking about me time, time to be alone and still, time to regain your composure. Failure to take this time can rob you of your natural ability to tap into a deeper wisdom that place inside each of us which holds our answers.

Me time can be alone time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about what refreshes you, what enlivens and supports you. Don’t forget time with your girlfriends—very important—and extended family get-together time. All of these can give you that much needed burst of pure oxygen, time to refresh and renew.

I have seen the full spectrum of me time activities among my friends: sewing, exercising, scrapbooking, hiking, reading, and performing charity work. What is your me time? Have you made it a priority in your life? I love having a circle of girlfriends who lift me up and give me their unconditional love and lots of laughter.

My group of girlfriends loves to do adult sleepovers, which are an inexpensive way to stage our get-togethers. We rally the troops, plan a simple dinner, pull out the board games, and sometime a classic movie. Trust me . . . A slumber party at forty is just as fun as when you were ten. Or how about a hike with a girlfriend once the kids go to bed?

The icing on this particular cake is when your friends live close by, have children the same age as yours, and when the spouses are also friends. This makes gatherings fun for the whole family. And speaking of family, how often do you get together with yours?

It doesn’t matter what you do with your friends as long as you get that quality time. Nor will it take away from your partner or children because you will come home a happier lady with more of you to give.

My dream is for all women to have someone, either a circle of friends or a BFF to turn to on a regular basis and receive unconditional support and love. If you don’t have a friend or group like this right now, step out of your comfort zone and try to meet new people. There are many places to reach out to other women: your children’s school, parks, church, community activities, the gym, even online. Don’t be embarrassed to say, “I’m looking to meet new people in the area. Would you like to grab a coffee with me?”

When many women think of me time, they immediately think of pampering. Nothing wrong with that! Do you need me to say it again?

My sister splurges on manicures. A close friend is adamant about having her hair colored every month. Others are book club aficionados or massage junkies. (Have you ever tried chair massage? Aaahhhh! Perfect for days when you need a quick, unscheduled pick-me-up.)

I read my bible daily, since my relationship with God centers me faster than anything else. If religion is not a mainstay in your life, how about exploring meditation, taking walks ( sans cell phone), learning some relaxing yoga poses, or spending time close to the aromas, sights, and sounds of nature?

By the way, ladies, your man needs his guy time! I hope you don’t begrudge him that important outlet.

When my balance goes off kilter, I feel as if I’m suffocating, losing control of my schedule, my body clock, and my emotions. I’ll immediately ask my husband Jared for a helping hand so I can squeeze in an hour of me time. I take a long walk with my yellow lab or arrange something fun for the upcoming weekend with our family. Any of this puts me on the path to balance again, along with quiet spiritual time to decompress.

It took me several years to recognize what the unhealthy, out-of-balance Michelle looked and felt like. Now that I know my own patterns and symptoms, I try to stop them dead in their tracks. Do you recognize when you start to lose control of your stability?

Once you understand what balance feels like, you won’t want to live any other way. Getting to that sense of contentedness—or whatever balance feels like to you—takes developing new routines and some practice.

Why not make it your mission to find what works for you? The ability to start making changes is in your hands. From my book, Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms, here are a few questions and suggestions:

 

  1. Do you take the time to invest in your own well-being? What is your me time? How often do you arrange this into your schedule?
  2. Try to schedule 30 minutes a day of me time, even if you have to get up 30 minutes earlier. Read a book, go for a walk, take a swim, head to the gym, or get together with a friend for a latte. Just do it.
  3. Review your budget to plan for these expenditures. Do you need to reduce another expense to fit this into your monthly financial plan?
  4. Share the importance of me time with your partner. You both need to have that time without feeling guilty or selfish about it.

 

Taking time for your own needs leads to better balance. It’s that simple. You’ll approach challenges with more grace, you’ll feel supported, you’ll bring that newfound ease and joy into everything you do and everyone you do it with.

Selfish? Not at all. It’s as vital as oxygen.

 

About Michelle:

Michelle Perry Higgins is the author of the Amazon best-seller, Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms and The Everything Binder.  As a financial planner and principal of California Financial Advisors in San Ramon, California, ​Ms. Higgins specializes in wealth management. Since 1996 she has built a successful practice advising executive professionals into retirement, and her passion for finance has helped hundreds of individuals better understand the process of investing and fiscal planning.

Ms. Higgins was featured as a 2012 and 2013 Five Star Wealth Manager Award, Diablo Magazine, and was also ranked in the Top 50 Women-Owned RIAs in 2013, Top 25 Women RIAs in 2012 and 2014, and Top 40 Under 40 by WealthManagement.com. She has been quoted in Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and The Los Angeles Times, is a Wall Street Journal Expert Panelist.

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Maloon, Powers, Pitre & Higgins, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor, Securities offered through Financial Telesis Inc. (Member FINRA/SIPC), Maloon, Powers, Pitre & Higgins, LLC/California Financial Advisors and Financial Telesis Inc. are not affiliated.