I had spent nearly three months stopping and starting an essay about the value of self-care.
Every time I sat down to write, I found myself frustrated. I was stuck, but I couldn’t figure out why. I just kept starting and stopping in a futile cycle.
Then, one day I had to pull over to the side of St. Charles Avenue to cry in my car. In the midst of this meltdown, it became clear that I needed a major recharge. I navigated my way back home, where I took a long, hot bath and ate french fries in bed.
The next day, still barely holding tears at bay, I phoned a trusted friend. In her infinite wisdom, she asked, “What are you doing for self-care these days?”
Stunned silent, I quickly realized I didn’t have an answer to her simple question because I wasn’t taking care of myself. The truth was, I’d been failing at caring for myself for months. No wonder I was stuck in my writing — I wasn’t walking the walk.
Trust, I’m not referring to the #selfcare that is merely an excuse to publicly flaunt some sort of luscious lifestyle filled with champagne, massages, and painted nails. The self-care I’m talking about is the radical kind. It’s the non-sexy kind that brings balance to your life, the kind that leads to serenity and real happiness.
For the next hour, I picked apart the last six months. I quickly saw just how little self-care I was actually practicing. Eventually, I discovered where the problems all started.
Back in July, I’d made a decision to go deeper into the work of helping women learn to love themselves. I wanted to get my life coach certification and add self-love coaching to the services we provide at Jaci Blue. The thing is, I was hesitant to add anything to my already busy schedule, but I knew this was going to be an important addition to my business plan and ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.
One of the requirements is a weekly class on Wednesday afternoons — a block of time that, for years, has been carved out as “me time.” As an introverted extrovert who talks a lot and works weekends, turning off my phone one day a week is my version of putting on my own oxygen mask first.
Despite knowing better, I set myself aside. “No big deal, I’ll just take two hours out of my ‘me time’ to attend this class,” I rationalized. “Plus, it’s only six months, you’ll be fine.”
And I was, at first.
But that one decision had a trickle-down effect. Soon, I was sneaking hair appointments and other things into my Wednesday schedule. Before long, the problem spread to other parts of my week, too. I stopped meditating when I woke, and instead rushed out to the gym. Speaking of the gym, I started going extra days, replacing my valuable morning walks. My calendar filled to the brim with meetings, appointments and after work events. I was easily spending 12- to 14-hour stretches away from home.
I couldn’t remember the last time I paused for lunch. Shoving food into my mouth while working on a project at the computer had become the norm. And even my food choices were diminishing. Whole grains and vegetables that give me energy were replaced with the types of takeout that make my body feel sluggish. Most days, I was even skipping my morning jiggle!
I’d slowly carved away most of what gave my life balance.
No wonder I found myself in full meltdown mode. The trickle-down effect was real. I was exhausted. 
But here’s the good thing about self-care: As quickly as it gets depleted, you can fill yourself back up.
The next day, I made a conscious choice to put myself first.
I started by reaching out to one of the mentors from my life coaching course and asked for advice on time management. After listening to me snot cry in an overwhelmed state for five minutes she quickly cut to the chase.
She told me most of her female entrepreneur clients struggle to “fit it all in,” and it’s really easy to work after hours from home or fill days off with work tasks. When we do that, we don’t create any space to enjoy life or worse, have nagging guilt when we’re trying to have fun.
It was like she knew me!
I was willing to try whatever this coach suggested. Luckily, her instruction was simple, she told me to divide my schedule into three parts: focus, flex, and fun.
I already knew I’m best in the mornings. I went to my calendar and I blocked off my mornings with the words “focus time.” Meaning, this is my time to do all the things that need my full concentration in order to get accomplished. Then I blocked off “flex time” to start after lunch. Here I have space to do the other things on my to-do list that can be interrupted if necessary. And last, but certainly not least, I blocked off “fun time.” For me, this is evenings and Sundays.
She drove home the importance of prioritizing tasks by filtering my to-do list through my value system, which meant I had to clearly define my value system. With the guidance of my peer coach, I saw that I couldn’t tap into any of my values if I wasn’t taking care of myself.
For example, I am not focused during my “focus time” if I skip my morning walk and/or breakfast. If I don’t get my work done during my day, I can’t relax and have fun in the evening. Having a life filled with fun is a high value of mine. Therefore, radical self-care is my number one value, trickle-down effect.
In order to ensure I would actually incorporate self-care back into my schedule, I got real basic. I blocked out non-negotiable time for things like meditation, walks, and lunch. With really clear boundaries set in my schedule, I can get all the things that make up my work life accomplished and make space for a life outside of work. There’s freedom in the schedule.
Within a few days, I was feeling better. Within a few weeks, I was sleeping better — feeling less stressed and laughing more. I was myself again!
It’s important to mention, I didn’t get the calendar right the first time. It took a few weeks of moving things around until I found my balance. Still, I haven’t maintained a perfect balance (some days just get hijacked, and that’s okay). If I keep putting my needs first, I find moments of serenity.
And those moments add up to days, weeks, months and years. I heard a friend say recently, “Enough ordinary good days will add up to an extraordinarily good life.”
I’m pretty sure he’s on to something.
 Don’t get a girl wrong, I rarely rock an unpainted hand, but that’s just lagniappe.
 Yes, I see the irony of a self-love coach drowning in the lack of self-care. But what is life, if not an opportunity for grown?
 Unfortunately, I know what it feels like to glitter Muses shoes “shoulding” all over myself about an unfinished task list. I’m pretty sure self-flagellation is not included in the array of Carnival festivities.