Hello, darling! How are you doing? Are you finding ways of loving yourself and your life?

Earlier this year, when I took my digital sabbatical, I never told you the real reason I did it. Part of it, of course, was that my partner and I were going to be in Europe for nearly a month, and while I’m happy to share trip highlights after the fact, I don’t like to advertise that I’m not going to be home.  In fact, when we  planned the trip, I actually had planned to continue working remotely,  while JB was engaged in his work.

But there was more to the story.  The big truth, my dear, is that I was feeling burned out.

Now, I’ll be honest.  I’ve had workaholic tendencies for my entire life. I admired my father and learned through observation that his hard work and dedication led him to a successful and satisfying career.  The logical side of my brain will often insist that if I work harder, I’ll get more done.  My body has taught me that working harder doesn’t always mean I’m truly working smarter, though.

If it wasn’t too much work that caused my feelings of burnout, though, what did?

Was it the coaching sessions with my clients? Not at all. I adore the people I work with and every coaching session leaves me feeling more alive and more energized.

Instead it was all of the “other” stuff that goes along with my chosen approach to my coaching practice: weekly writing, a weekly newsletter, eCourses, and more.

Darling, I was doing the very thing I advise my clients not to do. I was trying to make everything look the way it “should.” I was feeling that in order to be perceived as successful and authentic, I had to be “on” all the time, whether I was on my own website, or connecting with people via social media.

I was also skipping my personal rituals. I was going online before I’d had my first cup of coffee, and feeling like I would never get to the bottom of my email. I was ignoring my own rule about stopping work by six p.m. every evening. (My father, by the way, arrived home from work at 5:30 every evening.)

I wasn’t eating regularly. I wasn’t exercising.

I wasn’t nourishing my soul.

I wasn’t even meditating.

And the end result of all the things I was not doing in order to meet those artificial expectations of “should” and “must” meant that I was burned out, exhausted, and cranky.

I found inspiration by observing the way Kate Swoboda handled her sabbatical, and decided that I should use the trip to Europe to take a modified digital sabbatical of my own, and focus on finding my center, instead of finding the perfect image for my weekly post.

The first part of our European sojourn was spent in The Netherlands, where I gave up any semblance of a work routine in favor going on daily explorations with my camera and notebook.  Instead of writing for the web, I returned to paper journaling, giving myself permission not to worry about how things “should” sound. I dug into what my heart wanted and what my soul needed in order to feel nourished.

I re-learned a huge lesson during this time: in order to be productive and still feel nourished, I need to take care of myself.

I had been skipping self-care in order to push myself to work harder. I had been forsaking my own needs in order to care for and foster inspiration in other people.

As I shared on my birthday in  pearls of wisdom I learned as I wound my way from 43 to 44:

#11 Denying yourself necessary time for self-care is detrimental not only to your body, but also to your mind and soul.   You must allow time for regular meals, meditation, exercise, flossing, long showers, etc.

Darling, in order to be productive, in order to energize your body and nourish your soul, the only “must” is to take care of yourself as well as you would take care of someone you love.

Let’s be dead honest here:  I was denying myself time for self-care because I didn’t believe I deserved it.  I believed that if I hadn’t reached a certain number of tweets and Facebook posts, then I hadn’t earned a bike ride.

I thought that if I’d failed to create all the content I had scheduled for my week, then I couldn’t take time to create a lovely meal for my lunch, or that if I didn’t get my email “under control” first thing, then I must stay at my desk and continue slogging away fueled by only coffee.

So, let me be frank with you, darling:

If you want to stoke your creativity, you have to create space for play.  If you want to nourish your soul, then you need to honor your spirituality through prayer/mediation/quiet time.

If you want a loving relationship, you have to make time for – and create space – for quality time with your partner.

If you want to be productive, you need supportive and nourishing routines. If you want to keep your dreams and goals in the forefront, you need to regularly review them.

If you want to love your life, you need to create enough white space in your schedule to allow for spontaneity and serendipity.

Forsaking your own self-care is no way to be of service to – or take care of – others.

We’re already past the midway point of October and before you know it, the holiday season will be upon us.  For many people, the challenge of juggling schedules and joys of extra time with family are more stressful and enjoyable. The new year means updating our goals and rededicating ourselves to our dreams.

Despite having learned this lesson, I still have a tendency to fall out of my self-care practices  when I get stressed or busy.  Thankfully, I know this about myself.

You see, in order to head off any potential backsliding as I move into this busy time of the year, I have to make sure that there is a plan in place to ensure that as I continue to stretch and grow  – and plan and dream,  I don’t lose track of me in the process.

One– I’m going to whip my office into shape as well as the house. That means I’ll participate alongside everyone in my “Home Office Edition: Clearing Clutter & Creating Systems for Entrepreneurs and Others Who Office At Home” course followed by 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting  for Fall (and Getting a Jump on the Holiday Season)  eCourse. When I become muddled, clearing my physical space is a path to giving me greater clarity.

Two – I’m going to make quality sleep a priority. No staying up late on Facebook. The older I get, the more I understand how critical sleep is for our mental and physical well being.

Darling, Self-care is a practice.  You often need to rekindle the fires of your soul by regularly tending your mind, body and soul.

Make a vow with me that you are going to re-dedicate yourself to taking care of YOU.

You must become dedicated to loving yourself so that you can love your life.

Because, darling, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you could find yourself where I was: exhausted, burned out, and failing in your productivity.

How do you want your life to look?  How do you want to feel as we move into the final months of 2012?  What can you do to ensure that both you and your dreams are nourished as we prepare for the coming year?

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