In today’s chaotic world, it’s easy for women to feel burned out, beaten down, and depleted…and the high-stress holiday season only makes those feelings worse.
According to Vickie Milazzo, though, taking time to strategically renew yourself will go a long way toward helping you to reclaim the excitement and energy that will enable you to thrive instead of just survive this holiday season.
You’re a modern woman…which means you’re barely surviving. You work yourself to the bone for ever-diminishing returns, thanks to the rising cost of everything from gas to food to health insurance. And with the holidays just around the corner, your budget is about to be stretched even thinner. Meanwhile, you serve as cook, maid, shrink, tutor, and handyman at home…plus head holiday shopper, gift wrapper, and the family’s go-to turkey chef. When life’s little “emergencies” crop up—a broken water heater, a toothache, a parent-teacher conference to discuss your son’s recent homework boycott—well, those land on your plate, too. No wonder you feel you’re one permission slip away from a complete breakdown!
And here’s the worst part: lately, the bar is so low you find yourself celebrating the mere fact that you survived another day. To be energized and fulfilled—well, that’s so far at the top of your hierarchy of needs that you can’t even see it for the cloud cover.
Women should not accept this state of stressed-out existence and call it living, insists Vickie Milazzo. You can lead a successful life and cultivate a wellspring of energy that will renew your mind, body, and soul every day—and there’s no better time than the holidays to give yourself a break.
“Today’s woman has taken on an extreme life crammed to overflowing with commitments and responsibility,” observes Milazzo, author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “It’s not possible to stretch yourself to the breaking point every day and not break.
“You wouldn’t expect a battery to keep going forever without recharging it, and you shouldn’t expect it of yourself either,” she adds. “Women need to learn to revitalize their minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits frequently, so that they’ll have abundant energy whenever they need it.”
Milazzo suggests that women try to look objectively at their lives and routines, as though they were happening to a good friend. What advice would you give her?
“You’d probably tell this ‘friend’ to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and spend a few minutes doing something enjoyable before the next day and its demands come crashing in,” Milazzo guesses. “You know that this advice is sound, too…so listen.”
Milazzo speaks from experience. After working (overtime) for six years as a registered nurse, in 1982 she faced the reality that she was unsatisfied with her career, financially strapped, and burned out across the board.
“I realized that if I wanted to thrive instead of just survive, the first thing I needed to do was cultivate a fulfilling relationship with myself,” she recalls. “Yes, I know that it might seem impossible to take even one moment out of your overscheduled life, but I promise you that it can be done. Too often, our own behaviors and habits sabotage us and prevent us from taking the renewal steps we need for restoration, causing us to slip further and further into the desperate state we’re trying to escape.”
The fact is, every woman needs to renew and refuel her body, feelings, mind, and spirit on a regular basis, so that she can reflect on what’s important and maintain perspective and equilibrium. And with habitual rejuvenation, promises Milazzo, you’ll be able to complete your daily tasks while having the energy to pursue your big goals and passions…and still have some vigor left over for great sex!
Read on for eight of Milazzo’s tried-and-true suggestions to help you renew yourself in the midst of your manic life:
Plan for renewal. With days, weeks, and months that are packed full of responsibility, you can’t exactly head to the spa, to the nearest mountain for a hike, or to wherever you go to relax and reflect on a moment’s notice. (Heck, you can’t even paint your own toenails in the bathroom without being interrupted!) So if you want to renew your energy, you’re going to have to schedule time for relaxation just as systematically as you would plan to complete a long-term project at work. If you keep waiting for the right moment to kick back and smell the roses, it’ll never happen because life will get in the way.
Renew physically. While many of us would like to think that frequent trips through the drive-through don’t have that much of an ill effect, the truth is that these empty calories have a negative impact on our short- and long-term health. The same goes for poor sleep and insufficient exercise. Look honestly at your eating, fitness, and resting habits. Are they helping or hurting? If it’s the latter, you need to know that it’s not only your body that’s affected; your productivity, energy, creativity, and motivation will also take a hit.
Renew emotionally. These days there’s certainly more than enough to worry about: healthcare, cutbacks at work, your dwindling bank account, the price of gas…the list goes on. It’s easy to spend all of your energy fretting and contingency planning. Sooner or later, though, you’ll hit emotional rock bottom (if you haven’t already), and you’ll go through life bitter, put-upon, and exhausted. Plus, if you don’t renew emotionally, you’re likely to overreact or underreact to various situations, which will only multiply the number of things you have to fret about! To avoid this fate, you need to allow your emotions to recover and be uplifted on a regular basis.
Renew spiritually. All other types of renewal will be temporary fixes unless you have a deep-seated sense of serenity within you to draw upon. Spiritual discipline is definitely a journey, not a destination, but its benefits are peace, calm, and enlightenment. Figure out what works for you, whether it’s meditation, prayer, study, service, or something else, and incorporate it into your routine. Just a few “time-out” moments at the beginning and end of each day can make a significant impact.
Renew mentally. Most of us never stop to consider how often we feed our minds less-than-healthy fuel. Whether it’s reality TV, bad romance novels, talk radio, or Farmville, the activities we pursue in our downtime often don’t renew our energy (and may even deplete it). No, you don’t have to read scholarly articles and watch educational documentaries every day, but it is important to throw some thought-provoking activities into the mix. Consider visiting a museum, gallery, or arboretum that you normally pass by, or try your hand at something creative like painting or writing.
Celebrate to intensify renewal. Think about it: life without celebration would be one long stream of to-do lists, thankless tasks, and mindless drudgery. When you accomplish a goal or pass a milestone—big or small—it’s smart to take a little time to celebrate your success. Even thirty seconds of allowing joy to bubble up inside you can act as a great pick-me-up and keep burnout at bay.
“You need to experience satisfaction when you reach your objectives, so make a habit of celebrating each success,” Milazzo reiterates. “When you acknowledge the little things, the big goals also seem more attainable. For example, just being considered for a promotion is worthy of self-congratulations. Even if things don’t work out as you hoped they would, you can still celebrate your willingness to step out into the unknown.”
Renew with the people you love. Have you ever noticed that we often work ourselves to the bone to benefit the people we love…and end up rarely spending time with them as a result? No, you can’t blow off all work and responsibilities, but make sure that close relationships stay at the top of your priority list. The fact is, since life and love don’t happen in a vacuum, surrounding yourself with people you love guarantees you more positive experiences.
Renew by giving back. The phrase “giving back” often conjures up the mental image of a wealthy philanthropist writing sizeable checks to various charities and organizations. No wonder many of us don’t consider ourselves to be givers—we’re more focused on making sure that our own accounts aren’t overdrawn! However, giving doesn’t have to mean cracking open your wallet—time, mentoring others, or giving spiritual or emotional support are all just as valuable.
“Ultimately, taking the time to renew yourself will give you the energy and capacity to enjoy the life you were blessed with—even in the midst of tough times,” Milazzo concludes. “Remember that it’s okay, and even encouraged, to take care of yourself. While periodic and strategic renewal won’t get rid of all your problems, it will lighten your load and help you to remain solid in the midst of the chaos.”
Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Wall Street Journal best-selling author Milazzo shares the innovative suc¬cess strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.