A question I am asked all the time is, "How can I possibly take better care of myself when there is so much else I have to do?" My busy clients tell me all the time that they have too much going on to exercise or eat right or to take time to relax or pursue their passion.

They are operating from the belief that they will be unable to take better care of themselves until their life calms down or stops requiring so much from them. They ARE busy, but that isn't what's stopping them. What's stopping them is their mindset. The truth is, it's not exactly the busyness that has them stuck, it's where their self-care falls on their priority list.

Self-care is not something that is only available to the unoccupied. In fact, the busier and more demanding our lives, the more self-care pays for itself. The best and the brightest–the ones who REALLY flourish–do so, in part, because they understand the value of quality self-care. Self-care is essential to keeping us fueled, energized and ready to perform at optimal levels. Self-care helps us to be at our best and to be available to the others who need us.

If you are someone who struggles to take good care of yourself, I'd suggest you start by asking some basic questions. Spend some time identifying what it is that you ARE prioritizing. Where does your energy go and where exactly do you fall on your priority list? Actions reveal volumes more than our intentions do. As you answer these questions, pay attention to where you actually spend your time. Who and what is getting the benefit of your limited energy?

Picture the demands and responsibilities in your life on a pie chart, a giant pie where you divide your energy into a wedge shaped piece for each priority. You might want to actually draw this out and estimate the size of each piece. How much energy goes into each priority? You might have a piece for work, for parenting, for your partner, for each of the things that are important in your life. Now I challenge you to be very honest and think about how big a piece there is for YOU. How much pie do you get? Are you feeding yourself at all? (By the way, it's not a coincidence if you aren't on your pie chart and you are someone who struggles with weight and overeating. Many struggles with food are the result of not feeding ourselves the things and experiences we really need and using food as a poor substitute.)

If you don't see yourself adequately represented on your pie chart or your priority list, changing this pattern must be the number one priority if you are going to make any successful changes in how you care for yourself.

The truth is, until you find a way to prioritize yourself, you won't get where you want to go. Many women don't like to hear this. Some even have a strong belief that making this shift is impossible–that the other needs in their lives are too demanding or too much. Many feel selfish when they think about making such a shift. The idea of taking up more time and space makes some people very uncomfortable. If this applies to you, don't panic. Sometimes drastic changes are called for, but in many cases, you'd be amazed at the smaller shifts you can make to begin to see a difference. If even that seems impossible, it's a strong indication that this is a place where you'll want to ask for help.

Prioritizing self-care (and really sticking to it) can be difficult at first. When we are busy, sometimes it feels like we are so occupied putting out fires that there is no time to stop–let alone figure out how to do something differently. Pay yourself first. That's the secret. Plan ahead and schedule the things that you need and crave, just like you probably plan for and work around the things that you are prioritizing now. Start by sitting down at the beginning of each week, thinking about what you need–time to menu plan, exercise, quiet time, a phone call with a friend–and schedule it. Write it in your calendar like you would an important work event. Begin with something small. Plan it and follow through.

Making this shift (even with one small action) can have a major impact. You'll be amazed how it reverberates through your life. Learning how to put yourself on the map is an essential step in creating the life you want to be living. If you aren't doing it already, it's the most empowering next step you can take.

Author's Bio: 

Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach, emotional eating expert, and the founder of www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and overwhelm. Find out more and pick up her free audio series: “5 simple steps to move beyond overwhelm with food and life” at www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com

Copyright 2009 - Melissa McCreery, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and provide full author credit.>