Women are amazing care-givers. We care for our children. We care for our spouses and partners. We care for our friends. We care for our homes. We care for our animal friends. We care for our neighbors. We care for our community. We care for our bosses and colleagues. But somewhere in the midst of all of this caring, we have a tendency to forget ourselves. We often put ourselves at the bottom of the list.

What this looks like is that someone else’s emergency becomes our emergency. And when that happens, our plans and our needs get placed on the back-burner.

“So what?” you may say. “I like taking care of my family and others.” (Well, so do I, but....)

Here’s “what”. If we do this as a way of being -- as a habit, as an on-going practice -- then we end up wondering what happened to our needs. We end up feeling resentful and frustrated and like we aren’t worth a whole lot.

Take Joyce, for example. She’s caring for her ill husband, plus she is self-employed in a field which necessitates taking immediate action. Somewhere in the middle of taking care of everyone else’s needs, she’s wondering where her needs fit in.

Or take Erin. Her husband’s business has suffered horribly over the past several years due to the economy. Her mother is quite old, frequently ill and difficult to deal with. She often feels as though she has no time for herself or to build the business she aches for.

What I’ve discovered is this: if we do not determine that we are worthy of sacred time to ourselves, if we do not allow ourselves several different outlets of play and joy each day, we pay a heavy price in happiness and peace of mind.

How can we care for someone else when we are depleted ourselves?

Think of your emotional world as being like a gas tank. When it’s full, you can go, and go, and go, and go. But when it’s empty? Girlfriend, you’re going nowhere! And you’ve got nothing left to give!

And yet we frequently feel we must give. We must take care of this crisis. We must take care of this emergency. We must listen to this friend. We must look for this lost item. We must help fix this problem.

I’m here to say: No. We mustn’t. Really.

One day a while ago, my husband discovered that mice had made a little nest in his car's engine and chewed through some electrical wires. Now, at the time he discovered this, I had my swimsuit on, and my bag and towel in hand, and I was walking down the driveway to the pool.

Suddenly, he needed my help in deciding what to do. He began to process his upset about what had happened. He feared a $2,000 repair bill and was totally triggered.

I immediately helped him. After thoroughly talking through our options, taking pictures of the damage, looking for evidence we could bag (I suppose we’ve been watching “Bones” too much), and in general taking a cool head in this, I called the insurance company to see if we could place a claim. Yes, we could. We were told what the next step in this process was and then we were done.

By this time, it was two hours after I had been headed to the pool, and then too late for me to do laps on a Saturday morning. The sun was too high and there were too many families to be able to swim seriously, which is one of the ways in which I nurture my being.

Then, I got mad. I got mad at myself that I had made his emergency my emergency and because of that I was not able to take care of myself in the way that I love to do. His emergency could have waited until after my swim. But because I love him, I wanted him to feel better right away and to know that everything would be all right. I became the care-giver.

Unfortunately, I then didn't feel good.

The good news is, I don’t do this all the time. Generally speaking, my emotional tank stays pretty full most of the time, because I have practiced taking care of myself. However, I always know that when I give up my sacred time to take care of someone else on an ongoing basis, then I pay the price.

So, if this is a challenge for you -- if you're doing this on an ongoing basis -- then here’s how to take care of yourself better.

Your Action Steps

1. Decide you’re worth it, and begin to say “No” to other people’s emergencies and say “Yes” to your own sacred time. This is usually a tricky first step, because the causes are always so seductive. “Mom, help me...” “Honey, can you...?” “I really need your help with...” “Oh, my gosh, can you believe this happened?...” and so on.

2. Decide when you are going to give yourself some sacred time. Decide what you are going to do during this time -- even if it’s just to sit and read, make a conscious decision to give yourself time to do that.

3. Create an action plan just for you by scheduling it into your calendar.

4. Realize that you may have to employ some of the following (and figure out a way to be okay with it):
--Do not answer the phone when it’s your sacred time. Seriously.
--Do not play on email when it's your sacred time.
--Go someplace in your home where you can shut the door and be alone when it’s your sacred time, or
--Go someplace away from home when it’s your sacred time if you must.

5. Create a list of things you love to do -- and then commit to doing 3-5 of them daily. By the way, the list doesn’t have to have huge, time-sucking things. On my list is “watch the birds at my birdfeeders.” This means feeding them once a day, which takes about five minutes. So, five minutes a day for all-day love! To me, it’s a no-brainer; it brings me joy and takes very little work or effort on my part. Fill your list with things that are time-intensive (scrapbooking, trail-riding, canoeing, etc.), as well as low-maintenance items (watching a favorite comedy show, reading a poem, lighting a candle, playing with your dog or cat).

If you simply cannot give yourself permission to do 3-5 of these daily, then start with one a day for one week, and then go to two a day the second week, and so on until you work your way up to doing more and more things you love each day. Before long, you’ll be able to give to everyone you love without feeling resentful and frustrated because your emotional “tank” will be full and you will know that you can fill it yourself, doing things you love, giving to yourself when others cannot, for whatever reason.

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Anne Presuel, Interfaith Minister, Divine Intuitive, and master energy therapist, coaches conscious, heart-centered (and often overwhelmed) entrepreneurs to tune into their own 6th sense while building 6-figure businesses. Her approach uses Law of Attraction principles, affirmations, and subtle energy techniques (EFT). Get your FREE "Activate Your Intuition Now!" Kit at http://DivinelyIntuitiveBusiness.com.