Is self-care something you practice based on how well you have behaved or performed lately or how much you have left to do? If so, you run the risk of running out of gas in the middle of the night on a deserted highway.

The image is vivid, yet it can still be difficult to care for ourselves and for each other when we are caught in a frantic pattern of busy-ness. It can even be hard to get enough perspective to acknowledge that we are running in circles and on empty.

I’m no stranger to these difficulties, and I have good news. Even the most frenetic busybody can learn to treat herself at least as well as she would treat her car.

1. Make a list of things that fill your tank, without which you cannot expect to function as a loving human being. For example: Exercise; eating well; prayer and meditation; petting the cat; eight hours of sleep. If you are really stuck in busy-ness, ask a friend to gently point out what you are overlooking.

Keeping gas in the tank is a non-negotiable precondition to being able to drive. It needs to be tended to every day. Take a few minutes to fully appreciate that when you skip these things you are running on fumes. With this in mind, make the decision that these tank-filling activities are the functional equivalent of work and will no longer be treated as optional extras or self indulgence.

2. Make a list of things that are akin to getting the oil changed in your car. These do not need to be tended to as often, yet, when you are honest with yourself, you will find that know what the appropriate intervals are. Schedule them into your calendar and keep your commitments. Breaking these commitments reduces the life of your engine! Examples might include getting a bi-weekly massage or having your teeth cleaned every six months.

3. List those things that are the equivalent of getting a car wash. Strictly speaking, these items may not have a direct effect on your car’s performance, but it sure seems to run better and it is definitely more fun to drive. (In my family, we call a good car wash the poor man’s tune-up.) For me, a visit to the hot tubs, a pedicure or a haircut fall into this category.

The above examples are of personal self care. How about doing this exercise with your mate or with the whole family as the basis for setting priorities for the coming year?

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