Take care of yourself before you take care of others
Put your oxygen mask on first.
Self care is not selfish.

These messages are all over the web, even in my own blog posts. If you want to be the best mom, spouse, friend, first take care of yourself. Move your body. Get the sleep you need. Eat food that fuels your body. These are all true yet true wellbeing and living a life of greatness involves more than that. The truth of what makes us who we are, act how we are, and do what we do, lies inside our head: Which beliefs do we have and why do we do what we do?

If you’ve ever worked with me, one of the first things we do is learn a bit about the brain. We talk about how we have 60-80,000 thoughts a day and that thoughts are sentences in our mind. They’re not necessarily true or false but often we act like they’re truth. What do I mean? Well, what are you thinking right now? That your mom was annoying on the phone this morning? That your kids are disrespectful? That you are so busy?

These are all your thoughts, sentences in your mind. The difference between a thought and a fact? A fact is provable in a court of law. There are no opinions in facts and everyone can agree that the fact is true. You asked your husband to be home at 5 PM. You can both agree to that and if someone had a recording of your phone conversation, it would be provable in a court of law. Your husband didn’t get home until 5:30? Fact. He was too busy to get home at 5? Thought. He doesn’t prioritize his family? Thought. He doesn’t care about you? Thought. His work is important, he needs to prioritize it and you’re being unreasonable? Thought, thought, and thought.  Once we can tell the difference between a fact and a thought we can begin to question why we’re thinking the thoughts we are thinking. Let’s look at the earlier examples. 

->Thought: My kids are disrespectful. Are your kids disrespectful? Compared to what? Other 13-year olds or compared to that picture on Facebook? Is it helping me to think my kids are disrespectful? How might my day be different if I chose a different thought? 

->Thought: My mom was annoying on the phone this morning. Really? What did she say that you’re labeling as annoying? Would a stranger listening to your conversation think she was annoying also? Would you think she was annoying on a different day? How does thinking she’s annoying make you feel? How does feeling that way make you act? Do you want to feel or act that way?

->Thought: I am so busy. Are you really? Busy with what?  Busy compared to whom? How much of it is stuff you’re choosing to do? Why are you choosing to do it? How would your day be different if you chose the thought “my day is full” instead of the thought “I’m so busy”? 

The point of my blog today is to encourage you to examine the thoughts you’re choosing to think. The thoughts we think create the feelings we feel. When we feel a certain way, we act in certain ways. If we think our kids are disrespectful, we might feel resentful and be quicker to yell or lose our temper. Stopping to think “What am I thinking?” or “Which thoughts am I focusing on?” is is the key to living less reactively. When we realize we are feeing a certain way because of the thoughts we’re choosing to focus on, we gain power. When we move through our day unaware of what we’re thinking and reacting to life based on how we feel, we have no power. We give other people and events power over our days. Is this how you want to live? It is how I lived for many years but not how I live now.

If we think our mom is so annoying, we will view her actions, no matter how innocent, through that lens. If she offers us a snack, we might think:, “Really Mom? You’re going to offer me a scone when you know I’m cutting carbs?”. Or, “Geez Mom, why are you offering me an apple? Is it because you think I need to lose weight?”  We have no way of knowing what our mom (or anyone else) is thinking without asking them so why not choose to think a thought that doesn’t leave us feeling like crap? Like, “Gee that’s nice she is offering me a snack”  Drop the Drama. For you, for her, for everyone around you.

If we think our kids are disrespectful, it’s up to us to examine why we’re thinking that thought. Usually when we think our kids are disrespectful, it’s because of something that happened. What did they do that got us to think that? Did they leave plates in the sink (fact) and you are choosing to think that if they respected you, they would’ve washed them? How is that thought making you feel? I often ask myself: “What am I making this mean?”. In this case, pausing to ask myself: “what am I making the dishes in the sink mean?”. That helps me step back from the situation in order to separate the fact from my thought about the situation. Why am I making dishes in a sink mean that I’m disrespected? Why am I making the offer of a scone mean that my mom is annoying?  

Yes, it’s my job to put my oxygen mask on first. It’s my job to get the sleep I need. It’s my job to feed my body healthy food. It’s also my job to manage my mind. It’s my job to see when I’m creating drama in my life and why.  Emotional maturity is when we take responsibility for the thoughts we’re thinking and how they’re making us feel. Sure it would be easier to blame someone or something else but in the end, I choose the freedom of controlling my feelings and actions. How about you? How do you show up for yourself?