The Only Thing That Needs to be on Your To-Do List.

Self-care day relaxing in a robe

Learning how our bodies like to deal with stress and taking care of ourselves – in whatever form works best for each of us – has to be on our to-do list.  

When I am busy and have a million things to do and every minute of the day scheduled, the last thing I think I have time for is myself.  Taking a walk, going to the gym, rest, sitting still in meditation, talking through a stressful event with a friend, these are all things that the *feel* so “extra.”  Right? 

Who has time to do that?  Have you even seen my to-do list?  

It’s easy to think that taking care of ourselves is something we’ll do when we have nothing else going on.  “Oh, sure, if I had time it would be nice to sit still in my floor for half an hour in meditation twice a day.”  Or perhaps look at someone else and think, “Well, sure, if I had as much spare time as she does, I’d go to the gym, too.”

But if we really think about it — we can’t afford to skip taking care of ourselves.  

The first thing my doctor said was “What are you doing to deal with your stress? If you don’t process your stress, nothing I do will make any difference.”

I recently saw a new physician who focuses on integrative medicine.  He didn’t ask how I was feeling, or what my symptoms were.  The first thing he said to me, essentially, was “What are you doing to deal with your stress?  If you don’t process your stress, nothing I do will make a difference.”  Chronic stress affects our bodies and contributes to each of the leading causes of death in the United States and many other diseases, including my autoimmune condition.  Stress affects our bodies in ways we don’t fully understand.

If we don’t take care of that stress on a daily or weekly basis, our bodies have their own ways of making us slow down until we do.  

I’ve been running behind recently, overwhelmed and playing catch up in too many areas of my life.  Sleep.  My work.  Writing.  I want to put off yoga, or running, or meditating, until later, after I make this phone call, after I finish this deadline, after I mark one more thing off my list.  

But taking care of ourselves is the one thing we can’t afford to put off until tomorrow.  Unlike everything else on our “to-do” list, taking care of ourselves will make the rest of our day go more smoothly. It’s the only way to move the stress from our heads through our bodies and out of our way.

It will help us show up for all of those other things we need to do.

Life feels better.

When I take care of myself, the rest of my day feels more spacious.

I feel less overwhelmed.  


My to-do list hasn’t changed, but it doesn’t freak me out nearly as much.

When a sweet moment happens with my son, I can pause and feel that happiness.  

Frustrating events don’t seem like such a big deal.  People acting badly? Eh.  Conditions out of my control?  That sucks.  

Crap happens whether I work out or not, but I can stay positive much more easily if I am taking steps to process my stress.  The dishwasher will leak. The train will make me late.  My son will get sick.  The car will eventually break down.  I can’t control that.

I can only control whether I’m taking care of myself so that I don’t lose my mind when crap happens.  

Taking care of myself in this way sometimes feels like a “waste” of time.  I’m not actively knocking something off of my to-do list, so what’s the point, right?  But when we’re overwhelmed, when we are searching for a few extra minutes in the day, that’s when we need to do it the most.  Even if it’s three minutes.  Even if it’s four minutes.  Even if it’s five deep breaths.  Because those minutes, that time, it’s actually adding time to our dayIt’s lessening the overwhelm.  It’s guiding us back toward neutral.  It’s helping us that day, and every day after.

Wishing you a few moments of clarity amidst the chaos,

Anne English signature Anne

How can you take care of yourself today? Can you take five deep breaths? Can you call a friend you’ve neglect to connect with? Can you schedule some time for a walk? Let’s make time for ourselves! I’d love to hear from you — leave me a message below or send me an email!

8 Responses

  1. Avatar
    4 February 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m trying to practice this kind of self-care by prioritizing sleep (what I need most right now). But the point was also driven home last weekend when I took the time, spontaneously, to go to a dance class. It put a bounce in my step for two days – and made everything else a lot easier.

  2. Avatar
    4 February 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Taking care of ourselves is so important, especially on the days where we feel like we don’t have control over things. It’s the one thing we can control, and that really resonated with me! I’m so happy you’re able to live in the moment and really enjoy those little moments of pure joy!

  3. Avatar
    Moriah Joy @ Our Table for Two
    4 February 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Exercise is such a huge benefit when it comes to managing my stress. I walk during my lunch break to decompress from work and recharge for the next half of it.

  4. Avatar
    4 February 2019 at 6:51 pm

    This was really helpful for me to read. I think sometimes I forget to take care of myself – or I quite *literally* have to schedule it into my calendar, and that doesn’t feel great either. Thanks for the reminder to just breathe and be kind to myself. It’ll help so much with the stress!

  5. Avatar
    4 February 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Self-care is so important. It’s so easy for our to-do list to overwhelm us and that really does affect every area of our lives! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Avatar
    Indya | The Small Adventurer
    5 February 2019 at 1:27 am

    Stressing used to be second nature to me, like breathing, but it really does have a huge affect on your overall life. It started triggering my epilepsy and that’s when I knew I had to work on it, because it was putting me in danger, simply because I allowed things to get to me when they shouldn’t have. I am much better at handling tough situations now, and I know my brain and heart are thanking me for it!

  7. Avatar
    Becky @ Disney in your Day
    5 February 2019 at 11:10 am

    I’m with you. I’ve realized that when I take the time to lessen stress it helps enormously. It can feel overwhelming, but I ask “what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t do these things on my to-do list?” And usually there are only one or two things that NEED to be done. Not putting so much pressure on myself is huge.

  8. Avatar
    Rachel R Ritlop
    5 February 2019 at 11:37 am

    awe i love this! it reminds me of a few years ago when i was feeling really stressed out too. i started to re-structure my daily to-do list to only have 3 items. Once those 3 items got done, i was free to give myself space to do whatever i felt like! it ensured that self care was always prioritized this way and i started feeling so much better!

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