Quick. Think of the last time you did something to truly nurture yourself. Struggling to come up with the date? You are not alone. Most of us suffer from chronic self-neglect. In our busy lives, it always feels like something’s gotta give and the easiest thing to give, the easy person to disappoint is ourselves and so that’s what happens. Over and over again, Mami settles or sells herself short. We offer our families, careers, even strangers so much and treat everyone with so much respect and, yet, we often fail to give ourselves the same treatment.

Though we think otherwise, neglecting ourselves is not, really, the easiest thing to do—not in the long run. Neglecting ourselves is actually the easiest way to insure that our energy and enthusiasm run out before we want. It is the fastest road to burn out. It is the most disempowering behavior.

I learned the lesson of self-care the hard way. At 25, I was a zealous teacher, coach, and administrator at an inner-city high school. I wanted so much to make a difference that I cut every corner that I could when it came to my own care in order to have that time and energy to care for others. Ultimately, I wound up hospitalized and out of school for weeks. The short cuts I was taking to gain more time with my students, to increase the attention I had to give them, actually backfired. Those minutes I stole from sleeping, eating, decompressing, dreaming so I could attend to my students even more, cost me weeks in the classroom. It was not just a difficult lesson to learn, it was humbling. I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did nor was I invincible.

I would be lying to say that was the only time I ever had to learn that self-care was important. One of my fundamental beliefs is that life keeps handing you the lesson you need to learn until you learn it. Fail to learn the lesson the first time, and life amplifies the message so that you might learn it the next time. When I got sick as a teacher, I actually landed in the hospital two different times because I just wouldn’t learn my lesson. Now, I try to indulge in very deliberate self-care every day—even if it means just ten quiet minutes to myself for reading, exercising, praying, or meditating. And what I have found is that the girl who thought she didn’t have time for that was totally wrong. All of those investments in my own care have come back to me tenfold, making me more dynamic, efficient, and capable. Self-care, as it turns out, is like my own fountain of youth, fulfilling possibility in a way that my self-sacrificing, do-unto-others-always-and-never-for-yourself approach never did.

Today, I want to challenge you to do three things:
First, write down a list of everything that you love doing and the date you last did those things. If you can’t remember the date precisely, a general date will do.
• Next, write down what you want in your life. This list can capture concrete things like a bedroom that is a sanctuary or something more conceptual like a peaceful family life.
• Finally, sit down with your calendar and look at the things you enjoy from list one and your values and dreams from list two. What can you schedule into your life right now that will respond to what speaks to you and offer you care? In your calendar, schedule at least one thing a day for the next seven days that nurtures you. Then, treat each one of those activities with as much reverence as you treat other responsibilities. Honor your need for nurturing and your ability to nurture yourself by showing up for you every single day, just as you would show up for anyone else in your life.

If this care is difficult for you to offer yourself, then hold onto two thoughts: The invaluable lesson you are teaching your children and the wonderful way you are sustaining yourself so that you can continue to live your purpose and passion so fully. Because, here’s the truth when it comes to addressing our own needs: By taking better care of ourselves, we enjoy life more, are better able to manage stress, have a more balanced approach to our daily life, and are better able to offer the world our talents and gifts. Vamonos!